When you think about the stereotypical 'student life', I'm guessing several alcohol-related things pop into your head. Perhaps the top 3 student activities; drinking, sleeping and (sometimes) learning.
You know what probably doesn't spring to mind? Climate change, decarbonisation, or sustainability. In fact, I reckon there are very few students across the country that will have sat down and considered how they can help raise climate change awareness.
Let's face it, this is the real world, and in the real world, the closest most of us will have come is moaning about the 5p carrier bag charge.
Sadly, student-to-student, I've got some news for you - if you're oblivious to climate change, you really need to become aware.
Unless you're a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) student, I doubt that your University has even touched on this topic. However, this is no longer the case in Birmingham. Aston University has put together a whopping 5-day event for its students, not only to help improve employability, but simply to tell us; climate change is a real thing that is really it's happening, and it matters.
At the start of November, an entire week for all second-year undergraduates has been dedicated to understanding the challenges involving climate change. After some digging around, it seems to be that Aston is the only University, not just in the UK, but anywhere that are doing this.
That's kind of scary, considering that according to the MSNBC, in 2010 we spat out almost 34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. 34,000,000,000 metric tons in one year, and I bet you didn't know that.
Aside from Year 10 science lessons and making sure I turn the lights off, my knowledge of and contribution to climate change is pretty non-existent. As a second-year English Language student, with dreaded deadlines looming, my initial view of Carbon Week was summed up rather briefly. How is this going to help me? Not business students, not my flatmate studying engineering, but me as an individual; someone who will be looking for graduate employment in the not too distant future.
To begin with, my answer was simple: it isn't. My first thoughts were that this event isn't relevant to my course, I know how to save the planet (no dripping taps, no heating in summer), and really, who's going to care?
After a quick 5 minute Google, it turns out my naïve view of the real-world was about as accurate as iPhone's autocorrect. The fact of the matter is, decreasing their carbon footprint is an integral part of every business. No matter which sector of employment you're aiming to get in to; journalism, healthcare, sales, logistics, teaching, IT, public services or media, every single department looks for efficiency. In layman's terms, companies care about their emissions. A lot.
If you've never heard of it, the Carbon Trust is a worldwide recognised commercial service that works with businesses to accelerate the move into a sustainable, low carbon economy. It has awarded The Carbon Trust Standard to a few companies you may have heard of, such as Sainsbury's, Sky, Marks & Spencer, Greggs and Nationwide.
Imagine going to a graduate interview at M&S. If you think that knowing it's the first retailer to receive all three Carbon Trust Standard Awards won't help you score the job, think again.
As a student, there are certain situations in which ignorance is bliss. For example, ignoring my bank balance after a boozy Friday night is absolutely fine. But, ignoring the fact that climate change is one of the biggest issues in the world today isn't quite as okay. Throw in the fact gaining an insight into it will significantly improve my graduate employability, and we've got a big old bowl of unacceptable.
Go with the simple expectation to leave the event in a much better position than when you arrived, either as a future graduate or just as a student in the city. I can't see anyone being disappointed.
I'll hold my hands up to the fact that I don't know nearly as much about climate change as I should, and it seems I'm not alone. Only around a quarter of students said that they've been given information about how to sustain a low carbon economy. Aston offering this event is a huge, unique opportunity for its students to better equip themselves. I mean, don't we all go to University to increase our knowledge and understanding and to give ourselves the best possible job prospects?
As corny as it may sound, you get out of life what you put into it, and Carbon Week is a great example of this principle. Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 20 years, and offering Carbon Week to students like myself is another way of helping us to increase our awareness and be one step ahead of the game.