University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union
The University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union aims to provide students with life changing opportunities. We firmly believe that our students need to learn and develop knowledge of sustainability that enables them to add real value to society when they graduate from our University. We work in partnership with our institution to develop campaigns and awareness events, we develop various opportunities and activities all designed to increase engagement amongst our students with sustainability issues whilst allowing them to develop a rich and varied practical understanding of sustainability concepts.
About the projects
Our Greener Gloucestershire project is looking to bring sustainability firmly into the student experience. We don’t want it to be on the periphery and something ‘extra’ we do, so we took the decision as an organisation to embed sustainability in everything we do.
We have developed various social enterprise initiatives to provide students with practical learning destinations, to develop employability skills whilst furthering social causes. We aim to develop innovation in this area amongst our students and have worked with our institution to embed social enterprise in our University business planning competitions. We provide workshops on social enterprise encouraging our students to become social entrepreneurs and we provide practical advice and guidance along with funding for staff and student enterprises through a student led funding panel.
We are working with our local enterprise partnership, Gfirst, to deliver and facilitate the NUS Green Impact Workbook in local businesses. We aim to help support sustainable business growth in Gloucestershire and create opportunities for student development through student auditing and project assistant roles. We have developed a website to engage business and our community with sustainability. Developed by students, this site aims to foster a community of sustainability in Gloucestershire whilst providing practical tools for businesses to ‘green’ their organisation. The website acts as a platform for our Green Impact Workbook but also hosts articles and information relevant to businesses who are looking to improve their sustainable practices.
We have worked to engage students with sustainability through sport. We have established our ‘Global Athletes’ initiative which champions sustainability in sport providing advice, guidance and awareness raising of sustainability issues for students. We have worked closely with the NUS to develop a Green Impact Workbook for our own student led sports clubs. This sees the combining of sport and sustainability and will be delivered in Union sport by our club committees for the first time this year. The workbook will engage students with issues from ethically sourced food and kit to the promotion of sustainable travel to matches.
We have developed our little green shop which allows our students to recycle and upcycle their goods and sell them in our retail spaces on campuses. This shop space provides a physical space for our projects and is a very visual engagement tool.
These initiatives are enabling more students to engage with sustainability on campus. Our focus on combining sustainability with our existing sport and employability initiatives means everything we provide as a SU has a sustainability focus. This has seen a real increase in student’s awareness but through their involvement it is also impacting their practical learning and is enabling a variety of experiences which hopefully is helping to support our institutional aim of developing sustainability literate employable graduates.
Promoting, branding and engaging with staff and students
We have focused on utilising our existing Students’ Union communication channels and have focused on social media activity. We have been keen to ensure our social enterprise activity has been student led. Our branding for all of our social enterprises has been solely designed by students. This has created real work for students and we have been careful to showcase the fact that the branding is done by students. This has meant that our students know immediately from the branding that these initiatives are for them to grow and develop skills. We communicate our successes regularly and we work closely with our institution and partner organisations to make sure our news is also promoted through their channels. We have made sure our elected student officers have been part of our projects from the outset. Elected officers are very influential amongst the student body and having them on-board and enthusiastic is essential. They have been great at engaging students with our initiatives and this is a really important tool we use to increase awareness and involvement.
Opportunities and difficulties
The cyclic nature of student engagement is always a challenge. To negate this we have implemented very prominent marketing of our opportunities and activities. We have launched a reward system for our students for when they engage with any SU activity for certain numbers of hours. We ensure our projects have a very heavy presence at early year engagement events especially in the welcome week. Our projects are promoted heavily in our communications to new university students prior to their arrival and we are focussing also on open days for prospective students so they know early on about the unique projects they can become involved with.
What to do differently
We would look at working more with academics. We are aiming this year to try and embed activity within academic courses. Barriers to engagement with extra-curricular activity can often be down to lack of free time on the students part. By embedding our project activity in courses we hope to see more students able to be part of our initiatives.
What's in store for the future
We are looking at securing more funding to be able to support more student entrepreneurs with their business ideas. We are aiming to host in partnership with our University a one day conference focusing on equipping students across Gloucestershire with practical skills for enterprise with a real focus on ethical business and social enterprise. We are keen to work closely with other organisations on the sustainability in sport agenda. We feel passionately this is a really great way to engage a large proportion of students with sustainability, many of who are yet to engage with the agenda.
Linking outside the SU
We have a very good relationship with our institution and in particular our sustainability team, where we work collaboratively on our initiatives. A really important link has been with the NUS. They have provided expert advice and guidance throughout our projects and it is a reflection on the important work our National Union has been doing on sustainability for the past decade. Our institution works in partnership with Gfirst LEP and we have found this a very important relationship for engaging businesses in our community.
Recognition and rewards
The Union has won four consecutive Gold Green Impact awards and a Green Impact Excellence award for our work on our Cheltenham Chilli Company initiative in 2012. We were nominated last year for the staff and student engagement at the Green Gown Awards and our projects have been nominated again this year in the enterprise category. Our hard work on social enterprise was rewarded with us winning a NUS Award for Innovation and enterprise in 2014.
Utilising EAUC Membership
We have taken full advantage of being an EAUC member. Our staff who are delivering sustainability initiatives are able to network and share best practice with other institutions in the sector, this provides us with new ideas and approaches which we have found really helpful. We have utilised the EAUC webinar programme and are finding the EAUC’s work on bringing together case studies to showcase really valuable.
Main Contact Name: Rachel Purdon
Main Contact Email & Telephone: firstname.lastname@example.org and 01242714679
Further information/website: www.yourstudentsunion.com
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