7th November 2018

Summing up the Sustainability Summit

By Lauren Holmes and Megan McCarthy

The NUS Sustainability Summit took place on Wednesday 31st October. Lauren Holmes and Megan McCarthy, from the Seaborne Library and Riverside Library Green Impact teams respectively, attended the event. An overiview of their highlights is detailed below

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, spoke about the power of the student movement, and how important universities are to create and sustain movements. He pledged that Greater Manchester would be carbon neutral by 2040, and said that universities can lead the way in sustainability, producing students who will go on to change the world.

Andy was followed by Tony Juniper, Executive Director for Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF. Tony explained that biological diversity has declined by 60% since 1970, mostly through deforestation and our current food systems. He spoke about a coalition of environmental groups across the UK called Greener UK, and their campaign, #FightForNature. A short video of the campaign can be seen here – and Tony urged delegates at the Summit to organise an event at Universities or within their local community. Tony’s talk has already inspired a new LIS campaign to join the Fight for Nature – details to follow!

We presented at the Sustainability Showcase, a series of talks given by students, staff and sustainability officers from Universities across the UK (and some from mainland Europe). Our talk was about ‘Greening the Libraries’, and explained how we engage with staff, students and the local community. We focused on some of our bigger campaigns, such as the Caring Cups, the Palm Oil workshops, the Big Stitch and the Patch Challenge, and the Big Pawprint. We explained how collaboration across LIS teams creates cohesion across the nine sites and lends more support and power to each initiative. We were speaking to a full room, and had plenty of queries afterwards. People asked to see the Caring Cups, asked about our coffee cup Christmas tree, and asked how we dealt with Starbucks and if they helped us with our recycling scheme at all. We were also asked how we get students and staff to engage with sustainability issues without seeming to forceful, and how we successfully encouraged people to attend our events, as they have seen such high footfall (over 700 people over the last two years). A student from the University of Utrecht suggested that we could look into default power settings on our PCs to help with our energy usage – he knew that other Universities had set power to 60% (which could be easily changed by students once logged in), and that it saved money as well as energy. He is currently trying to work with his University library to introduce something similar.

Our talk was followed by a talk from a student and a Students’ Union SABB officer  at Roehampton University, who organised The Little Green Festival – a week-long festival taking place at the student’s union. They held a diverse range of events, from a birdfeeder’s workshop, yoga, upcycling workshops, to learning how to grow food and making sustainable period pads. The festival took place the week before development week, to get the maximum footfall. This project was made possible by a scheme Roehampton Student’s Union has in place, where students can approach the SU with ideas and receive assistance and funding. The student found event planning stressful, and advised that sharing the load and narrowing aims were essential to events planning. He plans to carry out the festival next year.

The next talk was by Keele University, about Student Voice Representatives. As well as the traditional student representatives, Keele spearheaded a Sustainability Representative programme for students to feedback to the Faculty about sustainability issues in the curriculum. This ranged from things like arranging field trips for Environmental Sciences students, to reporting on concerns about PC usage. The Sustainability STAR programme has been popular with uptake across Faculties, not just within Environmental programmes. Sustainability STARs are able to use the opportunity to enhance their CV and add to any volunteering hours.

‘Know your impact’ was a workshop put on by the NUS, and explained ways that we can measure the impact we’re having and use that to inform future campaigns. We were provided a project planning template and were asked to fill in this template for an existing project. We worked with a delegate from the University of Lancaster who are starting a campaign aimed at reducing plastic pollution by recycling donated plastic into other resources, for example benches (more information here).

We also attended a panel session entitled ‘Understanding climate change as a race issue.’ The panel spoke about how the difference can be recognised even in London, where the poorest communities (often made of ethnic minorities) communities suffer bad air pollution due to airports or motorways. The panel introduced the idea of the Global North (the richer communities, and policy makers) and the Global South – the communities who suffer the worst consequences of climate change. They also discussed  the importance of intersectionality, while also speaking about the issues of race and power within the climate change movement (more can be read about an incident at the 2015 March here).

We were also proud to attend the announcements of the winners of the national NUS awards, including The Big Pawprint, organised by our team mate Yvonne Ankers in collaboration with the Modern Languages department.