November saw the return of the annual NUS Student Eats conference and the Sustainability Summit; two exciting events for environmental sustainability in higher education and further education. They involved guest speakers, interactive workshops, networking and all the food served was 100% vegan (and delicious). This year they were hosted by Coventry University, who were able to show off the incredible work they do on campus for sustainability, like growing flowers and veg in the middle of campus and they even have their own bees.
Day 1 - Student Eats Conference
On Tuesday we took a group of students to the Student Eats conference, to learn all about food enterprises and growing food on campus. There was a variety of workshops to attend that were very insightful. Sam went to a workshop about enterprise planning to help with an upcoming market project and how to build better relationships with the local community and stallholders. Tash went to one which debated the need for expensive fertilisers, and introduced some thoughtful alternatives like used coffee and nettle tea. They also talked about the power of joining university staff and students together when helping unions push for projects like building communal spaces for multi-seasonal growing. Mark attended a talk from the Student Eats team at NUS who advertised their 'scale up fund'; offering £17,000 to invest in a student-led food enterprise project.
There were some fab speakers at the event, some of whom were in sucessful businesses because of the Student Eats investment. The speakers included founders of 'Get Wonky Juice'; a range of juice made from misshapen produce that would otherwise go to waste, and 'Toast Ale'; beer that is brewed with unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers. The talks were very inspiring and it was amazing to see the difference they are making on our environment.
Check out their websites for more info: http://www.getwonky.co/ https://www.toastale.com/
Day 2 - Sustainability Summit
On Wednesday, Sam and Mark attended the NUS Sustainability Summit, which was heavily attended by officers and union staff from all over the country. The event was an busy day of learning, engaging and collaborating with unions, FE colleges and NUS to build an understanding around a wide variety of environmental issues. This was also the event where NUS unveiled their upcoming campaigns, including 'The Last Straw', which encourages students to reduce the use of plastic straws, and a 'Coffee Cup' campaign, urging students to bring their reusable cups to the campus cafe instead of buying a paper one, which will prevent it from reaching landfill.
Mark's workshops involved lots of planning for ways in which the coffee cup campaign can be implemented successfully on campus, and another debating why universities should be deinvesting in fossil fuels.
Sam's focussed on effective campaign planning and how to make a positive impact to students within a year, and also brainstormed a 1/3/5/10 year plan for embedding sustainability into the academic curriculum. They even got creative and mapped it all out to present it to other groups. NUS will be supporting Unions achieve this with their 'Sustainable Development Goals Teach In' campaign, which gets the lecturers to ask the university to help add sustainability into their course. Find out more here: https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/articles/5-reasons-to-ask-your-lecturers-to-take-part-in-the-sdg-teach-in
Both events were very enjoyable and it was great to see that our students wanted to get involved in sustainable learning. While we learnt so much and had an awful lot of fun, the work has only just begun. The officers and Mark all brought back pages of notes and have already started working collaboratively to bring the same enthusiasm for sustainability that was at the event to Staffs.
We are always looking for volunteers to help with projects and campaigns! If you are interested about anything you've read, then pop in to the union to have a chat, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give Sam an email at email@example.com.