NUS Responsible Futures Accreditation

DMU has been focusing its efforts on becoming more sustainable; with a large emphasis on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring the campus is eco-friendly, DMU are striving towards achieving the NUS ESD (education for sustainable development) accreditation this year.

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NUS Responsible Futures is a framework which assists universities in educating staff and students about the responsibilities of living sustainably. Its aim is to ensure students leave higher education with an understanding of how to ‘lead society to a more just and sustainable future’, and helps staff understand how to embed this into their teaching. They aim to establish a stronger relationship between the university and the Students Union, allowing the university to communicate with its staff and students more efficiently.

The NUS Responsible Futures partner with universities who wish to gain accreditation for becoming a sustainable institution. Each institution will undergo an audit, and if successful they will gain accreditation. Our Responsible Futures frontrunners Charlotte and Kaie are working hard gathering evidence to highlight how De Montfort are including ESD in our formal and informal curriculum for our upcoming audit on the 20th-21st March. The audit shall be held by a group of student volunteers which will determine whether the university either gain the accreditation or be given a ‘working towards’ accreditation. Student auditors will be fully trained in auditing by the NUS, which is a valuable skill to have on a CV, will be supported by the NUS throughout the 2 day audit, and will get the hours they spend volunteering for us put into their HEAR report when they graduate!

The NUS Responsible futures organise environmental campaigns such as reusable coffee cups (like our DMU Mugs), Student Switch Off within halls of residence, and ‘The Last Straw’, which tackles replacing plastic straws on campus with cardboard straws. They help ensure that universities such as DMU are doing the absolute maximum in order to help the environment, and we fully support the movement to becoming more ecological.

Charlotte has highlighted how it’s been a pleasure to discover all the different things that De Montfort do regarding education for sustainable development, and how she has felt proud to be working and studying at DMU. Initiatives such as ‘Choose to Reuse’, DMU’s Square Mile, DMU Global and DMU Local are amongst only some of the pieces of evidence that she has rounded up to prove that our university cares about including sustainable development within formal and informal curriculum. Evidences from DMU’s 24 SDG event and their recent trip to the UN is also being audited.

De Montfort has taken sustainability to the heart of everything it does; with the NUS SDG training implemented for staff to include sustainable teaching in the heart of their course, students are able to learn about how to live a sustainable lifestyle and understand that sustainable development is key in any way of life.

Universities are required to recruit 6-10 students to partake in the audit. The auditor’s role involves evidence reviews, interviews and assessment and reflection. The NUS will help prep and support student throughout the audit. If you are interested in taking part in the audit and helping the university gain accreditation or want to learn more, then please e-mail sustainability@dmu.ac.uk.

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SDG Teach-In 18th–22nd February 2019

Next week is the Sustainable Development Goal Teach-In! The week is in aid of catalysing the United Nations Global Goals being ‘at the heart of further and higher education’ in order to encourage sustainable living for the future years to come.

NUS simply encourage academics to pledge themselves to include the SDG goals in their teaching, learning, and assessment on their course/s during the week of the 18th-22nd. The SDG’s are 17 goals set by the United Nations which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and achieve prosperity for all by 2030.

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Today’s current climate situation is devastating, but still reversible. This is something which needs our attention in every way possible, starting with educating young students on how they can live more sustainably. NUS have discovered through their six year research how 60% of students want to learn more about sustainability, 85% of students consistently agree or strongly agree that “sustainable development is something which universities and colleges should actively incorporate and promote”, 70% of students consistently agree or strongly agree that “sustainable development is something which university and college courses should actively incorporate and promote” and 60% of students consistently agree or strongly agree that “sustainable development is something which I would like to learn more about”.

NUS hope that the Teach-In not only raises awareness of the importance of sustainable development, but catalyses curriculum reform and test new ideas with sustainable education in mind. Achieving sustainability is a social responsibility, therefore it is vital that students are educated in order to tackle 21st century issues. It is vital that future generations are prepared to deal with the issues such as global warming, poverty and gender inequality in a way never before; therefore the NUS SDG Teach-In is a small way in which we can educate students on how to be more aware and prepared.

The SDG Teach-In urges all academics to pledge themselves to incorporate the SDG goals into their courses for the week. Start the conversation about sustainable living with students, plant the seed for students to grow their own consciousness about creating a just and fair future.

If you have any more questions please contact either DMU at sustainability@dmu.ac.uk, or the NUS at sustainability@nus.org.uk.

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO PLEDGE https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/sdgteachin/pledge

NUS RESOURCES HERE: https://sustainability.nus.org.uk/sdgteachin/resources

The 365 Day Challenge

The 365 day challenge is the ultimate test for those who wish to cut down their plastic consumption. The world as we know it is in a state of crisis and needs people, now more than ever, to make a conscious effort to think twice about single use plastic and where their plastic waste is going. For 365 days, you are encouraged to reduce your plastic waste in any way possible. The challenge is a nice way to test the waters, test your limits, and learn more about just how much plastic we use in our day to day lives. You don’t have to do it for a year; even a week or a month of pure dedication could help not only the environment, but help reduce your carbon footprint and become more sustainable in the future.

I interviewed Gemma Andrews, Executive Personal Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, about her experience with the 365 day challenge. She created a blog about her trials and tribulations to inspire friends and family to take on the challenge, and to help process her thoughts on plastic waste. I asked her a few questions regarding the challenge to learn more;

  • How have you enjoyed the 365-day challenge?

 

When I first started the challenge, it was a rollercoaster. I have always had awareness of plastic waste and the environment, so starting the challenge was important to me. There were times throughout the challenge where I felt really proud of what I was doing, and other times when I felt that there was no way I was making a difference; at these times I thought that there was no way we could beat the race against time. The thing is, you can’t shut your eyes once they’re open. That is why I wrote the blog; to help open closed eyes. At first I got mixed feedback; never bad feedback, but I was told there was no point. As I went on, the feedback became positive as people realised that you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter where you start or how big you start, as long as you actually start. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

  • Which aspect did you enjoy the most?

 

I think I have enjoyed the eye opening factor of the whole challenge. I have learnt the scale of which we have all been hoodwinked into consumerism. We all use plastic as if in a dream without even thinking about it twice. It was nice to wake up to reality and really start being productive.

  • What did you find the most difficult?

 

I found it hard to go shopping for loose vegetables! If you want to buy loose vegetables then you need some additional funding behind you. For example, packaged leeks of 3, pre-cut and ready to eat are approximately 65p, whereas loose leeks which are damaged stand at around 80p per leek. Peppers are the same. You’re obviously drawn to the cheaper option. However, this is something that supermarkets need to address, too, as it would be nice to have the support of those you’re purchasing from. The most customers can do is protest by not buying from said store anymore or write to them asking for change. I now go to Leicester food market to buy loose veg, and occasionally drive to Loughborough food market at weekends. If people want fair prices with no plastic, they need to put pressure on those above us.

  • Have you been shocked by the amount of plastic used every day? Did you notice it before?

 

I’m still shocked! As much we try to cut down, it’s amazing how much we still use without even realising. I have even tried to stop eating crisps and cereal bars due to the plastic packaging, but it’s not always easy finding plastic free alternatives. Not a lot of people think about that kind of packaging. Walkers have created a recycling scheme where you wash the packet and send it back, but then recycling becomes more of a time issue than anything else. Large families or those who have a demanding job may not have the time to wash a crisp packet. This is where companies should offer more help, or rewards to those who take the time to make a conscious effort.

  • From doing the challenge, what is the easiest thing you think people could do every day to reduce their plastic waste?

 

I think there are three things which people could do with ease; bring re-usable bags to the supermarket, invest in a re-usable mug, and a reusable water bottle. Most people are starting to integrate this into their daily lives which is a good step in the right direction. Bringing your own lunch to the office/university would also be another thing I’d recommend; it’s healthier and uses much less plastic than a meal deal would.

  • How has the 365-day impacted the way you live? Will you continue to live as plastic free as possible?

 

In 2010 my New Year’s Resolution was to reuse bags in supermarket and I stuck to it; I’ve always been environmentally aware and have understood we had to make a change. Doing this challenge has really clarified and solidified that I can do it permanently and consistently. The media in recent years has highlighted the issue more and more which has been encouraging, but doing the challenge has given me a purpose. The blog was my consistency factor, and the challenge was my motivation to see it through.

  • What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start the 365-day challenge?

 

Don’t put pressure on yourself to change immediately. Do an audit of your life and really consider what you need to do. Think about things you throw away, things you use regularly, things you don’t necessarily need, and start to build an idea of what you need to reduce. If you dive right in, your efforts won’t be sustainable and you’ll cave and fall back into old habits. Build up your knowledge, and make tactful efforts you can be proud of. Eventually, it will become a part of your everyday life, and you won’t want to revert back! It is impossible to live entirely without plastic as some are useful and necessary, but the things you can change you need to, for the good of the environment.

Have a read of Gemma’s blog (https://alifewithlessplast.wixsite.com/alifewithlessplastic/home/) to learn more and try taking the challenge on yourself this year. You can also follow Gemma’s inspiring Instagram page at @a_life_with_less_plastic. If you need support, try signing up to the Marine Conservation Plastic Challenge; it is the same challenge as the 365 day challenge but only for a month. They have a great community forum where people share tips on how to reduce plastic waste and keep you motivated! You can sign up for free and get a starter pack so give it a go; https://www.mcsuk.org/plastic-challenge/

Big Garden Birdwatch 26th-28th Jan

The decline of species can happen right outside our back doors; it occurs closer to home than many may realise, particularly with birds. The UK has lost more than half of its house sparrows and three quarters of starlings (just to name a few species that have suffered under the radar). The RSPB created the Big Garden Birdwatch to involve the local community in logging the different species of birds they see in their garden for data analysis. For 40 years this data has kept professionals in the loop about how our national birds are doing. Almost half a million people take part; it’s a fun way to spend quality time with family and friends all whilst learning about the local wildlife. It takes place over three days, giving you plenty of time to spot as many birds as you can!

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We want to encourage you to sing up (for free) via the RSPB website and help spot as many birds as possible! You can also list any other animas spotted, such as rabbits, badgers, and hedgehogs for additional data. Since the RSPB birdwatching scheme began, Blue Tit numbers increased by 20% and the woodpigeon population increased by an astonishing 800%. It really does make a difference; raising awareness helps create a consciousness surrounding UK bird population decline and reservation. When you sign up you can either opt for a free postal pack including all the necessary documents and guidelines, or take part online and receive additional articles, downloads and celebrity interviews! If you don’t have a back garden, have no fear! You can head over to Castle Gardens or any other woodland area, small or large. Sign up using the link below!

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

 

 

2019; The Year of Sustainability

Happy New Year! It’s that time again; a new year, a new year’s resolution. However, this upcoming year is in desperate need of our environmental focus. A global effort needs to be made to reduce climate change and prevent irreversible damage. So, what better way to kick start your year than with a new year’s resolution that will help not only yourself, but the environment?

If you’re still struggling for resolution ideas, here are six we’ve come up with!

Grow your own vegetables

If you’re looking for a new hobby, or something active to see through the year, then why not start growing your own vegetables? Growing your own veg is an incentive to eat organic foods, which you know haven’t been sprayed with damaging pesticides or treated carelessly. You aren’t paying for food miles, and it gives you quality time outdoors, keeping you active. Most importantly, home grown veg tastes ten times nicer! Have a read about DMU’s herb garden to better understand some of the benefits from growing your own veg; https://sustainabledmu.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/139-steps-to-sustainability/.

Cook from scratch

It may be a good idea to revolutionise the way you eat with your cooking. This may sound easy, but it is definitely a challenge worth taking on. Buying processed food not only uses single-use plastic, but it most likely doesn’t give you the nutrients you need. Cooking from scratch, and knowing what goes into your food, is a routine which your body and mind will thank you for. Purchasing locally sourced produce (if you don’t fancy growing your own) limits food miles and pumps money into local businesses; big co-operations won’t miss you, but local companies appreciate your custom. You are also limiting plastic waste as plastic microwave meals often go unrecycled. Finally, cooking can be fun! It can be an activity to do with the family, or it can allow you to experiment and test yourself. You may find yourself unwinding and enjoying the process of cooking, and you can discover a whole new palette when you stray from what you know.

Eat quality meat and eat less of it

Meat such as chicken and beef have become prevalent in the majority of peoples meals, and is definitely a go-to for most of us. However, eating high quantities of processed meat can cause serious health risks such as heart disease, obesity and cancer. Cutting out some meat during your weekly diet and replacing it with plant alternatives can not only prevent these health risks, but they can help the environment too. The meat industry is responsible for carbon emissions more so than all transport in the world put together. Therefore, cutting meat from your diet may be a great option for your resolution. The RSPCA approve certain farmed animals to assure you that your meat is coming from a farm which cares for its animal’s welfare. If you don’t want to cut out meat entirely, try looking out for the ‘RSPCA Assured’ label on products. Click the link for more information https://www.berspcaassured.org.uk/benefits-to-your-business/the-rspca-brand/.

Take public transport/cycle/walk

It may seem cliché, but opting to use public transport or to cycle/walk in the New Year could make all the difference. Check local bus timetables, invest in a second hand bike or simply delete the Uber app and walk to your destination as a pledge to relieve the world of its carbon threat. It doesn’t only reduce carbon emissions, but it is healthy for the body and mind. Getting that extra bit of exercise in before and after work/university/school can improve your focus, energy and attitude for the day. Also, it cuts down on fuel spending saving you money! If you’re a student or staff member and want to learn more about what services DMU supplies for greener transport, follow this link: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/transport.

Recycle

Pledging to recycle more is an easy yet effective resolution. It’s a concept which everyone is familiar with, but often forget to do! Plastic waste littering our oceans and streets is turning into a serious crisis that will become our permanent reality if we don’t make a change now. To put the plastic crisis into context, ‘The Garbage Patch’ is an island of rubbish situated in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California. It is referred to as a trash vortex, thought to be the size of Texas; this is global waste which has washed out into the oceans disrupting marine wildlife. It is an issue that is only going to grow, and we will see the catastrophic consequences in our lifetime unless we make an effort to stop it. If you want to make an extra effort to prevent plastic waste, don’t purchase single-use plastics such as water bottles, and purchase a thermal mug or a reusable bottle.

Fairtrade only

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Making a conscious effort to purchase Fairtrade products can help people across the globe. Whilst conventional trade often leaves hard workers in LEDC’s with less than they deserve, Fairtrade gives you and workers the certification that all employees have a decent living wage, life support, and the freedom to make their own choices. With this, Fairtrade always keep the environment in mind. They ensure that they don’t destruct wildlife, reduce their greenhouse consumption and avoid toxic pesticides. By helping to support Fairtrade, you are paying for quality products and food which are grown and distributed sustainably. It’s a win win! Look out for the Fairtrade mark on products from Jan 1st onwards and enjoy knowing you’re not only buying for yourself, but other people who need it. Follow this link to learn more about what Fairtrade do and how you can get involved; https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/.

139 Steps to Sustainability

 

Fresh, locally sourced ingredients often go unnoticed in daily meals. Here at De Montfort University, we take great pride in our Trinity House herb garden, where vegetables and herbs are grown throughout the year and cooked up on campus for students and staff; our salad bar is full of vegetables picked as early as that morning, the tomato sauce spread on pizza is handmade from freshly picked tomatoes, and slow cooked meat is garnished with herbs grown just a stones-throw away.

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Daniel Kirk, Trinity House gardens’ incredible caretaker and gardener, discussed the possibility of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchens with former head Chef James Hart and executive Chef Aaron Latham in 2015, who were thrilled with the possibility of having access to locally grown ingredients. Daniel sourced the seeds from an organic heritage to compliment the heritage of the area, and began to give the garden the love and care it needed to reach its full potential.

 

 

Now, between May to September, Daniel harvests vegetables approximately 3 times a week!

 

The area is truly impressive; Dan ensures that everything is kept in great condition all year round. With this, the area has been praised by many for allowing full access to students who are looking for a place to unwind and relax. It is also used for Mindfulness sessions, a programme to help improve student’s wellbeing.

Now-head Chef Aaron Latham took the time to discuss the impact the herb garden has had on the campus cafeteria.

He explains that he uses the herbs and vegetables in every day meals on campus, and even creates his own sauces such as salad dressing, pesto, and purees. Near the end of the academic year, many herbs and vegetables are in season which makes “perfect timing” for big events such as graduation and award evenings. Many vegetables are also put to use late September for freshers week, such as the butternut squash which produced over 800 bowls of soup for newcomers this academic year.

Graduation Vegan Korean Pancake (approx. 60% made with Trinity House herb garden ingredients)

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But how does the herb garden help reduce the universities carbon footprint? Aaron emphasised how incredibly easy it is to go and pick the ingredients he needs fresh from the soil, calling it a luxury for him and his team. “Knowing that the ingredients haven’t be sprayed with pesticides, tightly packaged in bulk, shipped from who knows where, covered in excessive plastic, and most likely damaged along the way makes the kitchens extremely pleased to collect their vegetables and herbs by foot”. The herb garden prevents unnecessary use of plastic and fuel to transport goods; Aaron has counted that it takes just 139 steps to get his supplies from the garden! 

 

 

Aaron also expressed how it is not only cost-effective, but it reduces waste significantly. Aaron can walk and pick exactly the right amount of herbs or vegetables that he needs instead of buying in bulk, which saves money and the liklhood of vegetables going off and being thrown away.  Big events within the university need specific requirements, and both Aaron and Daniel work together throughout the year to produce the right amount of herbs and vegetables at the right time. Aaron can also be as specific as to pick the exact size herb leaf he requires, for example, and expressed his love for having full control over what he uses and when.

  The Trinity House herb garden is DMUs not-so-secret key to producing fresher, more organic dishes whilst considering the impact it has on the environment. It is truly a remarkable asset to the university.

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Trinity House Herb Garden plants:


Swiss Chard (rainbow mix red yellow and green), Pink Passion Chard (bright pink, heritage), Chiogga Beetroot (red and white circles), Yellow and Red Beetroot, Outdoor Girl Tomato , Scarlet Knight Tomato (heritage seed), Aida Gold Dwarf Yellow Bean (Heritage Seed), Cherokee Climbing French Bean (heritage seed), Radish (unusual colours), Cucamelon (vine with grape like cucumber), Summer Crookneck Bent Summer Squash , Red and Yellow Shallots, Broad Beans, Aquadulce Mixed leaves, Mizuna, Mibuna, Sorrel, Mixed Spicy Leaves, Edible Flowers, Bread Seed Poppies, Chilli Variety Serrano, Habanero, Anaheim and Inferno, Aubergine Black Beauty, Tagetes Minuta, Apple Marigold , Pink Fir Apple (heritage potato), Basil, Parsley, Chives, Rosemary, Garden Mint, Apple Mint, Sage, Tarragon, Dill, Fennel, Chamomile, and Sweet Cicely.

Meet the Team!

Our new intake of Frontrunners have arrived in the sustainability team! Passionate, eager and focused, our interns are ready to promote sustainability throughout campus, and make a real difference to how students and staff alike understand and tackle environmental issues.

About the programme;

The Frontrunners scheme offers you the opportunity to apply for paid internships at the university working on real tasks, with current DMU employees. Internships in the past have varied from administration roles and social media work to supporting the Vice-Chancellor’s Office and project work within faculties and DMU’s professional services departments, as well as some lab-based opportunities.

The Sustainability team’s frontrunners are working on a range of different sustainability projects at DMU including communicating what the uni is doing on these important issues. Projects include Student Switch Off, which an energy saving competition between halls of residence, encourages more sustainable travel habits, measuring and reporting DMU’s carbon footprint and delivering the Responsible Futures programme. This is an NUS programme focused on putting sustainability at the heart of higher education formal and informal learning. Its overall aim is to help students gain the knowledge, skills and experiences needed to thrive as global citizens.

Scroll down to get to know each new frontrunner and their role within the DMU sustainability team!

Green Behaviour Change Frontrunner (Social Media and Communications) – Molly Manley

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Molly is a third year student studying Media and Communications at DMU. Her role in the Responsible Futures programme is to utilise social media to promote events around the university linked to sustainability, and keep students and staff updated with how they can get involved with helping environmental issues. Alongside this, she will be writing relevant blogs (such as this one!) shedding light on important and fun topics.

Molly has had previous experience with social media and blogging in an internship with a Media Web Design company; here she learnt how to optimise social media in order to promote content efficiently. With this, Molly has a general passion for helping the environment and becoming a more active member of the community through this. She has volunteered abroad in LEDC’s such as Thailand, teaching English to underprivileged school, and has taken part in DMUGlobal trips and volunteered there too. Molly holds personal importance over the UN Development Goals, and wishes to enter a media orientated career within a charity to ensure that these UN Goals are met.

Molly wants to share her passion to make a difference in society, and becoming a frontrunner has given her an opportunity in doing just this.

Responsible Futures Frontrunner – Kaie Small-Warner

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Kaie is a doctoral researcher on strategic sustainable development in the built environment at DMU’s Leicester School of Architecture. Kaie completed her BSc. at Florida Institute of Technology and then started her career as an engineer in the oil & gas industry. It is working within this industry that increased her awareness of global climate change challenges and advanced her interest in alternative solutions. She moved on to complete a MSc. in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship at University of Nottingham. Her thesis reviewed main barriers to renewable energy diffusion and investigated business models that could help accelerate deployment. She then worked with a solar energy start up on the design, installation and monitoring of residential and commercial solar PV systems. One of the highlights from this experience was helping clients understand their electricity consumption and the impact of generating their own electricity. She is now continuing research on how science and business models can help increase awareness and accelerate sustainable development. Her passion is to work with organizations committed to the fight against poverty, inequality and climate change. Within this Frontrunner role, she hopes to contribute to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Responsible Futures by facilitating forums, workshops and awareness campaigns across the university.

Green Behaviour Change Frontrunner – Charlotte Lingham

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Charlotte is a 20 year old Media and Communication student at DMU from a small town near Loughborough. She spends a lot of time playing with makeup and learning new skills, which she often puts on her own blog. Charlotte has always been actively involved with political movements and campaigns, from being involved with Amnesty International at the age of 11, to going on DSU’s consent march last year. Therefore this frontrunner position shall enable her to be involved in more important campaigns during her time at university. She has always been conscious of environmental and sustainability problems and how we all can all help as individuals in the fight to save the planet. Until about a year ago, her main involvement in sustainable behaviour was the usual turning off the lights, turning down the heating, recycling type, and then she discovered reusable sanitary products, which has made her more conscious about waste in general and how she can do my bit to reduce it.

Her specific role as a Green Behaviour Change Frontrunner involves staff and student engagement. This means working at events and online to get students involved in thinking and living more sustainably. Charlotte will be working on a number of projects and campaigns throughout the year, including the NUS Student Switch Off and NUS Green Impact. The goal is to get more students engaging in DMUs events and activities, so that everyone has the knowledge and skills to help to create a more sustainable planet.

You can find out about the work of the sustainability Frontrunners through our social media channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and through this blog.