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A snapshot of sustainability at the University of Worcester

On the 28th June 2018, photography student Martha Dunning from the University of the West of England (UWE) visited the sustainability department at the University of Worcester as part of a project documenting office life. The following account outlines her findings and reflections.

During my visit to the University of Worcester I had the opportunity of meeting Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability and Sian Evans, Sustainability Coordinator. During which I got a welcoming insight into the department and the projects that take place inside the University as well as in and around Worcester.

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Talking to Katy and Sian I learnt some of the ways in which they practise sustainability within the University and how they work to involve the students as much as possible. They give out plants such as Spider plants, which take toxins out of the air, Aloe Vera plants which are good for health and well-being and chilli seeds which they harvest and replant. Being in the office I could tell instantly that it was an environment created from the work that they do which involves nature, environmental projects and there were many certificates and awards displayed that they have won as result of such work.

Other ways in which they get students involved is by taking on art students to create sustainability themed art work for them to sell as prints. They also get together with graphics and science students to collaborate on projects where they can create a new eco-friendly product with a suitable logo. For example, there were 50 electric bikes in a scheme called ‘Woo’ and the student who created the logo went on to work for the City Council. spider plants4 Other projects include ‘Unlocking the River Severn’ where they collect scraps and materials for artistic projects including origami. ‘The White Bags’ is a research project where they have been striving to educate students on how to dispose of their waste properly, designing plastic bags and wipe-clean posters with information on what type of waste goes into which bin.

There are two weeks within the University calendar called ‘Go Green Week’. During the first week first year students are asked to design, deliver and evaluate the outcomes of a week of informative and fun activities, themed around their 10 Golden Rules of living sustainably.  This is part of their assessment. During the second week students work with different charities and local businesses to promote sustainability in the city. Working with businesses is also something that the sustainability department like to do, I was told about a long-term project with Worcester Bosch called ‘Energize Worcester’, it’s a project where they aim to work in the interests of both students and landlords to try and tackle some of the discrimination involved in student housing once they leave halls. spider plants3They have been working with the boiler manufacturer to try and improve heating and managing the costs of heating when living off campus. They have given 5 landlords 5 new boilers which come with new smart controls which mean Landlords and students can change their heating and hot water from their phones. So if the heating has been left on by mistake they can control the heating of their rented property if they feel energy is being used whilst the property isn’t. Now there are uncertainties as to whether it is ethical for landlords to be in control of heating which their tenants pay for, however there could be a saving of energy if, for example, over Christmas if the heating is left on whilst the tenants have gone home for the festive period.

At the end of my visit I asked Katy why she personally thinks sustainability is important.

“Sustainability is important because when we teach in higher education there is a responsibility that we have, to give our students the correct skills that they can take further into their life after University. We want to give our students the correct skills and opportunities to develop and work collaboratively. It’s not going to be easy, so everybody’s got to work together and there is a lot of work to do. We love working with students who come up with so many good ideas and we want them to take their sustainability principles into their future jobs. It’s never ending work but immensely fun, as you can tell from our office.”

Many thanks to Martha for her contribution to susthingsout.com!

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