Q&A: Sustainability and the student movement

Thursday 15-12-2016 - 15:34

Adela Simonova is a fourth year law student at the University of Bristol and chairs Bristol SU’s Sustainability Executive. Having recently attended the NUS’ 2016 Student Sustainability Summit (and writing a blog about it), she joined us to talk about sustainability and the student movement.

Tell us about your experience of the Student Sustainability Summit. What were your key takeaways?

I thought that the Summit was a really interesting way of meeting people from other universities and colleges that are interested and engaged in the same area. I really enjoyed the diversity of people and talking about all the different opportunities and projects available elsewhere. It was a really inspirational day and I think the key takeaway was probably the fact that there are a lot of opportunities relating to the sustainability movement. The summit really highlighted the importance of cooperation between students on their own campus, but also nationally across all the universities and colleges. I believe that summits and conferences like this are key for inspiration, and a sharing platform in order to ensure that sustainability is always on the agenda.

How does Green Impact support your union’s sustainability work?

I see Green Impact as a great starting point and an incentive for students’ unions, their institutions and local organisations to work together effectively on various issues surrounding sustainability. I believe that organisations need to work together to see any change happening, and Green Impact promotes the collaboration that I already mentioned as a key takeaway from the Summit.

What’s the single action you’re most proud of at your union?

This is an extremely difficult question! I have been involved in a lot of sustainability-related projects at our union and if I could, I would say that I am most proud of all that we’ve achieved! The NUS-funded Bristol SU Get Green programme has funded paid positions in the sustainability team, and has had a great impact on impact on student recycling and energy saving in halls. The Bristol Big Give has raised so much money for charity and prevented lots of waste from going to landfill. Not to mention all of the projects and initiatives that developed in the past few years concerning food, bike rental schemes, or even the partnership for Bristol Green Capital and the development of Bristol Futures. There are too many to choose from. But if I have to choose one, I’ll say that I’m most proud of a project really close to my heart - our student-led research conference. We started the conference 3 years ago with just two students and a staff support member, and it’s been growing ever since. It aims to get students together to showcase their research, and to raise awareness about sustainability beyond the environmental context. I’ve recently learned that it has been replicated in other universities, which especially proud that we started it.

How would you like to see the student-led sustainability movement develop over the next ten years?

I’d like to see more collaboration and more awareness-raising about sustainability issues beyond the informal curriculum, ensuring that all areas of sustainability are covered as opposed to only focusing on the environmental aspects. Embedding sustainability into curriculums is key, to ensure that every graduate is exposed to it. I would like to see more focus on the curriculum and the areas that are marginalised within sustainability. These would include liberation issues, education issues and mental health issues. A lot of people actually do engage in sustainability but are not necessarily aware of it. The student-led sustainability movement should work on ensuring that sustainability is not a concept that alienates people but rather brings them together – everyone, from all disciplines and perspectives, should feel included.

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green impact,q&a,student sustainability summit,student movement,sustainability curriculum

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