Last Wednesday my day starts at 4.45am, yes, around five in the morning. The plan was to take the train from Leicester to Leeds at 6.15. Why?! Well, it was for a right cause, as a Frontrunner I had the chance to join the Environmenta Association of University & Colleges (EAUC) Annual Conference with the university’s Environmental & Sustainability Officer, Karl Letten. The train took me to my destination, from the station I walked through the beautigul city centre towards the University of Leeds. Here, after a brief registration, I got the delegate badge. Having a badge with your name, always make you feel important! By the way, it was time to start. But first of all, me and Karl indulged in a cup of Fairtrade coffe and tea, and cake of course.
The daily programme was quite busy. The day was full of short exchange sessions and longer workshop sessions, so you had the choice to attend the ones you prefer. We chose “Linking activity in Europe”, which gave me few ideas about enhancing the partnerships of the DMU sustainability office with other University in Europe. Then, we assisted to the workshop “Selling sustainability to students”, where a Professor from Nottingham University explained how she created a successful ‘online sustainability course’ for both staff and students.
At this point it was already time for luch. Everything in the amazing buffet was a Gold Accreditated Menu, which met the Soil Association “Food for Life” Gold standard. This means that the food was as sustainable and organic as possible. It goes without saying, it was unbelievably delicious. During the fabulous lunch, I went to the “Love Food Hate Waste” exchange, where it was outlined how prevent wasting food is good for the environment, as well as for our budget. It follows the “Electronics Watch” exchange about the value in responsible procurement. Afterward, a french business professor talked about the development of a certificate to ensure a sustainability literacy among graduates arounde the globe.
The next big workshop was held by the sustainability manager ofUniversity of Leeds, which explained their sustainability strategy, where key points are the collaboration with the community and the involvement of students, that can become ‘Architects of possibility’. Should I mention again that at this point we got more cake, more Fairtrade teas, more Fairtrade bananas and organic apples? Well, it happened. We took also a tour within the stands at the exhibition hall. There were stalls promoting funny penguin-shaped bins for recycling, “Snakes and Ladders” game with eco-friendly behaviour rules and me and Karl competed in a game, whose aim was guessing which product have the bigger carbon footprint. The game was based on a book by Mike Berners-Lee called ‘How bad are bananas?’. It was a draw. We discovered that carbon footprint of a kilo of tomatoes is bigger than the one of a pair of jeans. For each correct answer, we got mini Fairtrade milk chocolates.
Last workshop regarded embedding student initiatives into University structures. Two girls from the Glasgow University spoke about GUEST, the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team, where an enthusiastic team were working to catalyse improvements to the environmental practice of the university.
The day was full of inspiring ideas and it gave me an understanding of how many possibilities and ways there are to face the issue for a sustainable university.
Fedora Agosti (Green Behaviour Change Frontrunner)