More and more students appear to be wanting to get in on the environmental movement, something I have seen first-hand while at university in Bournemouth. Over my three years there I saw how the environmentalist movement went from only 3-5 people, including myself, up to hundreds of people across a whole heap of subject matters and years. The environment went from being the standard buzzword of university and business policy to being at the heart of the university and the student union and their various policies. We now need to think, how do we spread this message to further students and HE institutions?
You may be asking; why do we need to spread these environmental messages in the first place? Well there is the ever-pressing matter of climate change of course, as well as increasing habitat and animal fragmentation across UK environments as well as government seemingly against truly clean and future-proof energy. People always say 'children are our future' so why not use those teenagers going to university to start making true, actual, measurable change? This can sound very cliché and a nice dream, but I have seen it actually happen and it is something that can make great progress. For instance, the Green Taskforce I helped find at my student union put in place a reusable mug scheme for coffee on campus, which when a student used a reusable mug, gave them a 20p discount. In its first year we believe this has decreased coffee mug waste by thousands. In this one instance you can see the waste saved. If we had similar campaigns for every item in canteens, coffee shops and the like, across all HE institutions then waste could be decreased, as well as the key message of environmental protection shared to a whole new range of people.
That is an example of a relatively simple campaign that did and is making real change and could be spread. However, the larger and more inspirational campaigns and projects may be more difficult to plan and put in place, but they pay off in terms that benefit local communities, national communities and the whole world. Again an example from my student union work was a Green March around Bournemouth that the Taskforce helped to plan and put in place. Now although I hate the way we now use the word 'Green' to make anything seem safe and pure, this group and this activity lead to some truly inspirational moments. From seeing young children lead the march calling for increased renewable energy, to students previously not interested in environmental topics not only taking part but coming to multiple different meetings and such afterwards.
What I am trying to highlight is that HE institutions have a great opportunity to take the relatively open-minded students of our generation and not only develop them into greats of their subjects, but also begin to make environmental changes and lead new campaigns and activities in a way to protect our environment, both on campus and across the country and world, into the future. We have a great opportunity here, and one I believe we will take forward, or at least I will try to, and create real effective change.