Last week at De Montfort University (DMU), it was the SDGs Teach-In week, an initiative run by the Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) that calls upon educators from across all stages of education to pledge to include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their teaching. The SOS has developed this project with the aim to raise awareness of why the Sustainable Development Goals should be at the heart of further and higher education, and help catalyse the change needed to make this happen.
At DMU almost 40 academics have decided to dedicate their lectures throughout the week to educate their students on the importance of sustainability and how the SGDs can be embedded within their formal, informal and hidden curricula. This has resulted in students from all the departments having a chance to view theit field of study under a different perspective, as well as to gain skills and knowledge that will help them once they graduate. According to SOS latest figures, between all universities that have taken part in the programme, DMU has placed itself first by percentage of students reached and second by the number of academic who have pledged.
Our Sustainability Team went along to some of the lectures, seminars and workshops that took place during the #SDGsTeachIn and found them all incredibly interesting and engaging. The students who attended them seemed to gain a lot of knowledge and opened up to new ways of thinking about sustainability.
Nikki, our Sustainability Communication Frontrunner, joined two sessions from the Contour Fashion module. The first one on Wednesday afternoon was run by Mik Pieniazek, a senior lecturer in Product Design, and co-hosted by Rachel Toner, Programme leader for Contour Fashion and Contour Fashion Communications. The session was all about how design students can drive sustainable circular economy. The thought-provoking introduction mainly focused on the recent global climate crisis and the current “linear economy”, concept based on the use of resources as they were unlimited. The three key strategies towards a “circular economy” were then introduced. Cyclical usability, resource conservation, and slower consumption all link to the Sustainable Development Goals and the practical 18 circular innovation sub-principles embedded were also explained. As designers, students can mitigate the negative impact of the textiles industry, which is currently expected to drastically increase by 2050. By the end of the session, useful materials and resources were provided to students for further study and to empower them in pursuing a more sustainable design approach.
Moving to the second session on Friday afternoon, Rachel Higginbottom delivered an insightful topic: “Creativity in circular economy: What is the role of designers?”. The key pillars of circular design are developed around sustainability as follows:
- Design Approach: Zero waste, Garment Lifecycle, Modular Design, Digitisation
- Materials: Recyclable, Non-toxic process, Reduce microplastic, Bio-based
- Business Models: Renting, Repairing, Sharing, Subscription
Design companies who have successfully embraced environmentally-friendly practices within their business were also mention. Most importantly, students have learned how, as prospect designers, a compelling story and a convincing proof of concept about sustainability could effectively change the mindsets of the people around them.
Carolina, our Sustainable Development Frontrunner, has explored how the department of Politics and People has committed to embedding the Sustainable Development Goals within its taught curricula for the second year in a row.
The module “Politics in Action”, run by Associate Professor Ros Lishman, presents second year students with the opportunity to scope, develop and implement a project which aims to tackle one or more of the SDGs at a local level. Furthermore, the module perfectly aligns with the University Strategic Plan by working closely with the public engagement team at DMU Local.
Politics in Action aspires to provide students with a vast range of transferable skills and increase their employability level while committing to the realisation of a more sustainable community.
A survey run before and after the module has demonstrated that students had little or no understanding of the SDGs, and that the module has motivate them to undertake further action in the future. Additionally, they have been able to implement the teachings received in order to obtain a placement position or by developing a dissertation around the subject in their last year of studies.
Some of the projects that have been taking place during these two years comprehend the “Zero Waste” project, with the goal to promote awareness around alternative and more sustainable life styles, the “Paper Project”, and the “Hunger Waste” one, which look at reducing the amount of paper used on campus, as well as the food wasted among the catering outlets.
We are extremely pleased about the positive feedback and great number of sign-up to the SDGs Teach-In week this year. Even though the event has now finished, we are thrilled that academics are starting to implement sustainability in their entire modules, rather than during a single week. These activities are designed to raise awareness among our students and allow them to acknowledge how their generation can make a difference when it comes to sustainability related issues. Finally, do not forget to keep up to date with our many upcoming events through our social media channels @SustainableDMU.