How Responsible Futures can get officers excited about sustainability

Tuesday 14-07-2015 - 09:15

We speak to outgoing president of University of Plymouth Students' Union Sarah Bowman about how Responsible Futures took her from having no idea what to do on sustainability to it becoming one of the favourite parts of her role.

When you became president of your students’ union, how high was sustainability up your agenda?

It was at the beginning of my second year as President that sustainability was moved over to my role from one of the VP positions and I initially had no idea what to do.

Plymouth University was ranked 2nd in the Green League (2013) and UPSU had just been awarded the Green Impact Gold Excellence award, (2013) so I knew it was an important area of work and something I wanted to get to grips with pretty early on.
 
What made you take part in Responsible Futures, and how did you find getting into it?

Our Director of Membership Development and I were initially approached about Responsible Futures by our university's Sustainability Manager. We were really keen to get involved as we thought it would be a great opportunity to further enhance our partnership with the university and develop new sustainability initiatives!

I was quite anxious about getting involved in RF as I thought you'd need a background in Environmental Science, (or something similar) to have a thorough understanding of sustainability, but after our first meeting with the uni and NUS my eyes were opened to a whole new side of sustainability that I didn't initially know about and I was excited to get more involved.
 
At the end of the year, what has Responsible Futures helped you to achieve?

We were able to introduce lots of new and exciting initiatives at UPSU and Plymouth Uni with the Centre for Sustainable Futures and NUS. We collaborated on a Fairtrade Fortnight campaign as well as activities for Bike and Green Week. Working with our Environment and Sustainability Forum we also started to plan a campaign to lobby for more green space on campus.
 
As well as this I worked with Professor Stephen Stirling (Professor of Sustainable Education) to develop a presentation on the importance of sustainability to deliver to our Board of Governors and with Dr Paul Warwick (Research Fellow /Academic Developer) to present to our Board of Trustees.  Furthermore, we delivered sustainability workshops for our staff, Club and Society Committees and our Course and School Reps.
 
There's so much more that we can achieve and I'm looking forward to seeing how our staff and students continue to develop our work around sustainable education.

What would you say to incoming presidents who don’t feel they know much about sustainability, or think it’s not part of their remit?

Admittedly, when sustainability first moved into my role I wasn't that excited but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job and I was able to meet some extraordinary people in the process.

Students were already running their own incredible projects, (Uni Cycle, Growing Futures, RELAYS, Green Team, ICONS and Wild Patch) and I believe we've made huge strides to raise the awareness of these and the importance of sustainable education, social, environmental and economic responsibility.

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