There are lots of different ways to educate yourself on climate change and issues of sustainability so we have out together a summer watch list of documentaries, series and films for you to enjoy whilst educating yourself on sustainability. This list is by no means comprehensive but is just to give you an idea of some of things you can watch about different issues.
The 13th Sustainable development goal is regarding Climate action, ranging from reducing an individuals carbon footprint to changing a country’s electric supply to renewable sources. Let’s zoom in on easy climate actions you can do from home!
Since joining the Student Green Office in October last year, I have had a large variety of different experiences and job roles. From helping out student societies, to writing blogs, and being a part of wider departmental meetings. There is a wide variety of ways in which you can fulfil your role as an SGO Officer whilst also achieving some of your more personal development goals. This blog will talk about some of the ways in which I have contributed to both the sustainability department and across the university whilst working for the SGO.
Helping Societies and the Students Union
Part of the SGO’s role is to assist in the development and promotion of a wider sustainability driven movement within the university. This is largely done by collaborating with and assisting student societies and the Students Union. The society I was most often in contact with was the Eco Students Society. The Eco Students Society is a society made up of students from all different faculties: their main objectives are to promote a more sustainable way of living, assist the university in becoming more sustainable, and to help clean up the local area. One of the ways that the society achieves their tertiary objective is to arrange regular litter picks both on and off campus. My role in supporting this was twofold: first, I try to help promote the event in the best way that I could, and secondly, I tried to be a part of as many of the events that I could. This is all part of a wider effort to improve connections throughout the university so that we can come together to achieve our common objectives.
As well as volunteering with the Eco Students I have also volunteered some of my time to assist with Chooseday chill: an initiative organised by the Students Union. By volunteering my time with the Students Union I was better able to understand the work that they carry out, which then meant I could find more ways in which we could help each other achieve our goals, many of which overlap. This proved to not only be helpful in my work as an SGO Officer, but also helped me feel as if I was achieving a wider objective of mine: to put more time in to help others and the wider community.
Before I started working for the SGO I considered myself to be pretty aware of most of the environmental and social issues affecting our world: how wrong I was! The time in which I arguably learnt the most whilst working for the SGO was when I was researching material to write about on the SGO blog page. Many of the blogs I have written have been based around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. Because I was writing about a specific subject area, I had to research how each goal applied in the real world. When I started looking into more specific issues I realised how much I didn’t know and how much we do not see in the mainstream media. If you have never written a blog I would recommend doing so: its amazing how much you can learn.
One of the things you are encouraged to do as an SGO Officer is to organise events that help promote sustainability in the university. My favourite event that I organised was my stand at the Student Unions Food and Culture Fayre in February. I based my stand around the idea of sourcing locally from responsible suppliers: I believe strongly in good agricultural practices and how they create much tastier end products. Whilst working at my stand I was able to explore many of the other stands with foods from all over the world. It was wonderful to celebrate the diversity of our university through food & drink and good conversation. We were also treated to some traditional cultural performances: including a traditional Algerian wedding ceremony and joyful Slovakian music.
If you are passionate about sustainability and want to do more to contribute then I would definitely recommend becoming an SGO Officer. You can explore your passion for a more sustainable world, help promote that passion across the university, and help make your local community a better place. If you have any ideas of how to make the university more sustainable the SGO will help make those ideas into a reality. If you want to meet others who are passionate about sustainability the role will provide you with an excellent opportunity to meet and collaborate with people who share your passion. If you want to educate others about the problems facing this world the SGO will give you the means to do so.
In recent years governments and organizations across the world have recognized the threat posed by environmentally irresponsible practices, and the need to change how we work as a society. Whilst this may have been recognized, the world is still largely unsure of how to combat it and create a more sustainable society. At the heart of the issue is our economy: for years the global has been growing at a very rapid pace, this has been facilitated by the unsustainable consumption of the world’s resources. The challenge is figuring out ways of continuing to grow the global economy whilst simultaneously creating a more sustainable world. Below are some of the key areas that need to be addressed, to both stimulate economic growth and improve our environmental impact.
Energy is one of the key foundations that our modern economy is built of, without it our economic, as well as much of our social, progress would have been impossible. However, our ever-growing demand for energy, and its dependence on means of energy generation that are environmentally harmful, has meant that we have been responsible for creating ever more damage to our planet. To remedy this society needs to shift its demand from traditional means of energy production, such as coal and gas, to renewable sources of energy. This will mean that we can meet the ever-growing energy demand of our economy and reduce the harmful effects that our energy consumption has created.
Sustainable Use of Resources
Waste is currently the single most damaging byproduct of strong economies. Our overreliance on disposable packaging and products has created literal mountains of waste. This waste has destroyed habitats on land, killed millions of sea-dwelling creatures and has driven us to the point of environmental disaster. To stop this perpetual growth of waste destroying our world, we need to divert our current business, and living, practices away from a disposable culture to a culture that reuses. In the UK we have seen a start to this already, with business using more sustainable packaging, and changes like our switch from throwing away plastic bags to a more sustainable practice of using the same bags repeatedly. The aggregated effect of more sustainable practices is helping us all live a more sustainable life, but there is still such a long way to go before we can call ourselves a sustainable economy.
Economic growth is facilitated by the means of transporting goods and services from one place to another. A good transport infrastructure is essential for the prosperity of any economy. Our current methods of goods transportation rely on a network of different vehicles that all create damaging environmental effects. To create a sustainable transport network demands the need for vehicles that run of alternative power supplies and are created using less environmentally damaging manufacturing processes. In the Netherlands the supermarket chain Jumbo has started using electric haulage vehicles, created by the company DAF, to deliver supplies from its main distribution centre to local stores. Whilst the new lorries can only drive around 50km on a single charge, and are therefore unable to transport good over long distances, this practice represents the kind of change that economies across the world need to start making if they are going to become more sustainable.
Much of the work that has gone into raising awareness of sustainability related issues has been carried out by organisations that have a strong volunteering base: these include not for profit organisations and charities. These organisations have been essential in the fight against issues such as climate change, conservation and promoting better wellbeing. This blog looks at some of the brilliant projects that are being carried out by the volunteers of these organisations, both domestically and internationally.
United Nations Volunteers
The United Nations runs a strong volunteering programme which tackles a number of issues: from gender inequality to promoting energy efficiency. The 6,000 strong volunteer army has projects based in numerous countries around the world, with a particularly strong presence in Africa and Asia. The volunteering initiatives are based around the Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations developed in 2015 and has a particular emphasis on promoting strong community lead volunteering operations.
Oxfam has been a world leading provider of aid and a passionate campaigner to end poverty for over 75 years. The charity now has network of millions of volunteers worldwide, all of whom take a hands-on approach to helping poorer communities. Oxfam takes a leading approach in providing communities with the essential supplies, and people power, they need to eradicate hunger and sickness. This aid comes in a variety of forms: from dispatching lifesaving packages, to improving community infrastructure and providing educational support in numerous locations worldwide.
Catching Lives is an independent charity operating in Canterbury: its purpose is to support the homeless and vulnerably housed in the city and throughout the East Kent region. They provide essential services such as providing food, laundry services, providing clothes to those who need them, health checks and other support. Their goal is to work towards a society where everyone is included and can make a contribution no matter their background. You can find out to get involved here.
How do I get involved?
If you would like to do you’re part, whether in the local community or abroad, there are numerous ways you can make this happen. A good place to start would be by checking out the volunteering page on the Student Union website: they have a page full of volunteering opportunities that you could be a part of. Alternatively, you can find numerous volunteering opportunities online that take place across the world. If you have a passion to make a difference then there will always be an opportunity out there waiting, all you need to do is reach out and take it.
Sustainability is a leading issue in the current business climate: with public awareness at an all-time high, businesses need to ensure that their business practices are becoming more environmentally and socially responsible. Many businesses are now starting up with their sustainability practices being their USP. So how can businesses become more sustainable whilst remaining competitive?
Recycle & Reuse
In recent years the effects of our reliance on disposable products, and their subsequent damage to the environment, have been ever more present in the public domain. Programs like Blue Planet 2, and work from multiple NGO’s and Charities now means that more people are now aware of the consequences of some of our more reckless business practices. To combat this many businesses, especially food & drink outlets, have encouraged people to reuse products where possible, and have brought in a levy on the use of disposable products. This step away from our disposable culture reduces our environmental footprint and stops needless waste ruining eco systems throughout the world.
Responsibly Sourced Supplies and Traceability
The reason why many poorer people are being economically exploited throughout the world is because businesses throughout the supply chain want to keep costs as low as possible so that they can increase their own profit margins. By reducing their own costs businesses can sell their products at lower prices which subsequently increases sales. This means that the final consumer purchases cheap products often completely unaware that many people across the supply chain are being paid unfair wages and are often being deprived of basic human rights. To combat this many businesses are now more transparent about their supply chains and ensure that everyone who works within them is paid a fair wage and has at least basic working rights. This is often done through recognised schemes like the Rainforest Alliance Certification or the Fairtrade scheme. These schemes often guarantee not only ethical responsibility, but also environmental responsibility throughout the supply chain.
Including Sustainability In The Business Model
There are many decisions that owners face that affect the sustainability of their business. Which supplier should I choose? Which delivery vehicles should I buy? Where should I get my power from? All these decisions give the business an opportunity to become more sustainable, or, to choose what may seem like the more convenient but less responsible option. To ensure that sustainability is a part of the decision-making process owners need to ensure that their responsibility to be more sustainable is a part of their business model and is an advertised part of the businesses operating practices. This will ensure that those who work within the business will make sustainability a part of all decisions made by the business. It will also mean that the business is held to account on their business practices by their customer base and all stakeholders.
The third sustainable development goal that the UN has set out is called ‘Good health and Wellbeing’. The UN states that ‘ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development.’ There are 13 points to Goal 3 but within this post, we will be exploring two of them; 3.1, 3.8.
There are industries that seem to be slower on the uptake than others regarding sustainability, the fast fashion industry being one of them. Another industry that seems to be struggling to fully embrace sustainability is the beauty industry. Whilst there are an increasing number of ‘cruelty-free’ brands, little is known about carbon emissions in the industry and why some products are better than others.
In this post, I am going to briefly explain what the challenges are with the beauty industry and how tackling them is an incredibly complex issue. I will then give you some tips on some plastic-free makeup remover options. Sometimes making a plastic-free swap involves swapping from something cheap and single-use to something that’s more durable, but in turn a lot more expensive. I’m hoping to give you some tips that are inexpensive and can be easily implemented in your routine.
When you think of the word ‘Fairtrade’ what’s the first thing that pops in your head? Is it bananas? Coffee? Tea? Cotton? There are a whole load of products that could be labelled as Fairtrade but when I think about it the first thing that pops into my head is chocolate. Now, this could be because am a serious chocoholic that needs to wean herself off the stuff (At least I think that’s what my arteries would say) but I would like to think its because it’s one of the easier ways for me to support the work that Fairtrade do for farmers across the world.
On 20/02/2020 we ran the first “Hunger Games”.
This session was run for Level 4 Tourism students as part of #SDGTeachin. The focus was on SDG2 Zero Hunger, with inevitable links to SDG1 No Poverty.
We began by splitting the class into three groups, consisting of one (representing the richest 1%), two (representing the remainder of the richest 10%), and The Rest. We then used sweets (Haribo, etc) to reflect the distribution of global wealth. The wealthy 3 students had plenty, while there were not enough left over for the rest of the class to have one each.
A couple of short activities followed, representing the opportunity for social mobility (which, in the event, was only given to the friends of the rich) and the redistribution of wealth. In one case this was given somewhat reluctantly, and was rather meagre, while the second group was seemingly more generous, but in practice were only giving away the sweets that they did not like!
This was followed by an incident that we could not have planned. One of “the rest” decided to keep a large part of the redistributed sweets for himself. This does, of course, have lots of global parallels, and eventually resulted in a mini revolution, and our upstart dictator was overthrown and ended up with nothing!
The second game (top picture) was based on the old TV show “Play Your Cards Right”. In this case, the contestants were presented with one country and the percentage of its population that suffer from hunger. They were then given the name of another country and had to guess whether that country’s hunger rate was higher or lower than the first country. Audience participation, in the form of shouting HIGHER or LOWER was encouraged and to our satisfaction, the room was soon very loud!
As the cards for successive countries were revealed, the actual number of people in that country suffering from hunger was also revealed, emphasising the sad human aspect of this very real problem.
After a short presentation on Hunger, the class split into two for other sustainability related activities.
The first group (above) learned about EcoBricks and were given the opportunity to start making some. This soon turned into clusters of activity, with students cutting up plastic while others frantically stuffed bottles. Some went away promising to make them at home and donate them to the CCCU EcoBrick project. (Please email John.Hills@canterbury.ac.uk for more information).
The second group took part in an activity called Pictures of Success. Adriana led this engaging activity to stimulate discussion about a wide range of sustainability-related issues. Created by a company called Carbonsense, who prior to 2015, worked with companies across the globe as part of a project to engage people in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; the PoS cards contain compelling images and inspiring quotes from real life stories of successful sustainable projects, and are based on the values and ethical principles of the Earth Charter. They are one of a range of engagement tools and games, which are available to borrow from the Sustainability team’s educational resources.
A lot of fun was had by all, we look forward to running this again!