Piers Telemacque has been NUS’ vice president for society and citizenship for the last two years. Part of his remit has been leading our sustainability work, including Green Impact.
Before coming to NUS, Piers was president of Bradford College Students’ Union where he led incredibly inspiring campaigns against cuts to youth services. He was elected as vice president of NUS in 2013, and was re-elected in 2014.
Now in the final days of his maximum two-year term in office, we invite Piers to reflect on his time working on sustainability and Green Impact at NUS.
What did you think about Green Impact before you became vice president of NUS?
To be totally honest with you, I wasn’t where I should have been on sustainability before I came into post at NUS. But Green Impact helped me develop the understanding and passion I now have on this agenda.
Obviously, I knew that Green Impact was NUS’ flagship sustainability and behaviour change programme, and I knew that Green Impact awards were really massive achievements for organisations – but I didn’t have any direct involvement with the scheme at my union.
What that means is that, over the last two years, I’ve had the same experience of Green Impact as many of our participants. I’ve been able to see first-hand how effectively Green Impact can introduce you to the idea of sustainability, make it seem relevant to your life, and empower you to take action.
Today, I totally understand how sustainability fits into my vision of a fairer and more prosperous society, and I know that Green Impact has had a similarly transformational effect on individuals and organisations around the world.
When people ask you about it now, what do you tell people about Green Impact?
Green Impact does some of NUS’ most important work on student engagement, and that’s one of the key things that makes me so proud to have been helping to drive it over the last two years.
I think that’s what a lot of people don’t see about NUS’ sustainability work – just how many hundreds, if not thousands, of students it engages with their union who otherwise wouldn’t have had anything to do with the student movement.
And from there, the strength of the partnerships these students build with their institutions and civic society is so incredible. The skills and experiences they pick up taking part in this, and share across the rest of society, is fantastic – and that goes right to the heart of my passion for youth engagement and youth services.
It’s about so much more than just using recycled paper, or switching the lights off. Green Impact has a far reaching, beneficial influence on people which goes way beyond the carbon we save.
Green Impact turned 10 this year. Where do you see it going next?
We’ve seen Green Impact take the student movement on a really powerful journey over the last ten years, and I think it’ll have a key role to play over the ten years to come.
When NUS started Green Impact, it was about helping students’ unions to get their own facilities and estates in order. It was about saving energy, cutting waste, using less – that sort of thing. Since then, it’s been an enabling platform for a huge raft of proactive work from educational reform to political campaigning – all based around doing more good, rather than just doing less bad. That’s what I want to see more of.
Today, sustainability is at the heart of the student movement, and it’s Green Impact which helped put it there. Over the next ten years, I want to see it even more strongly embedded into the core purpose of our education system, while helping students ramp up their ambitions off-campus as well as within universities and colleges.
Engaging a broad base of support across all of civic society is always going to be a critical part of action on sustainability, and nothing does that better than Green Impact. I can’t wait to see how it develops.