By Rachel Hume
On March 4th, the Students’ Union, ALIVE, the NUI Galway Societies and CUSP held a collaborative workshop with sustainability opportunities and as a way for students to engage in conversations on sustainability and what events they can engage with this semester for sustainability. The summit was a great way to bring like-minded people together to discuss their views, address what they felt were campus challenges surrounding sustainability and to collaborate on the recently updated Sustainability Strategy on campus. The event had many brilliant speakers ranging from the Sustainability Officer on campus to the Energy Society to ALIVE.
The first speaker at the event was NUI Galway’s Sustainability Officer, Michelle O’Dowd. Michelle discussed the Universities Sustainability Strategy 2021-2025, she identified the five areas that will be worked on in the University’s Sustainability Strategy. The five work areas included: Research and Learning, Energy, Nature and Ecosystems, Health and wellbeing, Built Environment, and Governance and Leadership. Within each of these areas, Michelle listed a couple, of many, ideas that the University’s Sustainability Strategy aims to achieve. Within the research and learning area, the strategy hopes to implement: integration of sustainability across all education programmes, co-curricular sustainability experiences for all students, to establish an understanding of funded research projects that are aligned with the SDG’s, and leadership in sustainability innovation and entrepreneurship. The energy, nature and ecosystems area in the sustainability strategy aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 15% based on the 2021 baseline, improve energy efficiency by 45% from 2005 baseline year, and 20% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Michelle next discussed the nature and ecosystems part of the strategy, the ideas that were aimed to be implemented in this section included: a biodiversity plan implemented and monitored for future updates, demonstrated linkages between sustainable management of campus and campus biodiversity, and co-developed community projects in city and county with key partners. In the built environment section of the strategy, the goals that were aimed to be met included: Reducing the total water consumption by 10% from 2019 baseline (metering, water efficient fixtures and fittings, use of alternatives sources of water), the banning of single-use plastic convenience items. A reduction of food wastage by 50% and the establishment of baseline transport carbon footprint by 2021 and reduce year on year.
The last two areas in the strategy that Michelle discussed were health and wellbeing and governance and leadership. The goals for the health and wellbeing section aimed to implement included: Achieving the keep well mark and healthy campus status, the implementation of a smoke free campus, and a reduction to the level of harmful drinking among students year on year. In the governance and leadership section, Michelle discussed the aims they hope to implement on campus. These aims comprise of: Showing year-on-year progress on the achievement of the SDGs, establishing impactful partnerships with community groups to achieve SDGs, making all laboratories green lab certified, achieving a STARS Ranking and to improve upon their award ranking, and aiming to find a pathway towards achieving carbon neutrality.
The Students Union on campus encouraged the students who showed up at the summit to get involved in the SUstainability Working Group. This is a group of like-minded students who meet every second Monday from 6-7pm and discuss different sustainability campaigns to run on the campus. Some of the campaigns that were mentioned that the SUstainability Working Group run consists of: Sustainable Mondays, promoting how to be more sustainable, and submissions to Government on sustainability e.g., Fairtrade. To get involved with the SUstainability Working Group, email Róisín at ‘email@example.com’.
The NUIG Energy Society:
Next, the NUIG Energy Society were on to talk about their previous and upcoming events and their ongoing projects. This society have had a range of projects and fundraisers they have held in the past couple of years, for example last week on March 5th they held a Quiz Night with many spectacular prizes and the proceeds of this fundraiser went towards helping local biodiversification & environmental protection projects. Along with event they have hosted many other fundraisers and social nights including: Wind Farm 5k, a Halloween movie night and a Table Quiz back in 2019! The Society then gave everyone an insight into their most recent projects and events. The society ran an Instagram series before Christmas, on Monday’s called ‘Meatless Monday’s’ and they have also recently held an up-cycled Christmas Tree competition in December. The society are currently working on pedal-powered charging stations that will be put on campus. This project will look at a greener way for students and staff to charge their phones/computers/etc. and aims to make people more aware of their energy consumption, while being physically active! As well as the pedal-powered charging stations, the Energy Society are included in a wide range of projects this semester such as; the Climathon, the National Park City initiative, CUSP and the Green Energy Festival. This Society gets involved with so many sustainable projects and would be a great way for any student interested in sustainability to get involved.
Then Lorraine Tansey in the ALIVE team came on to discuss all the different opportunities for students to get involved with sustainability on campus. Lorraine mentioned the Eco-Café on Wednesday’s at 10am on Microsoft Teams. The Eco-Café is a great way for any student on campus to meet in a safe and non-judgemental environment to discuss their fears/anxieties about the environment/ecological crises. Fiona in the Student Counselling Services is there to help students take positive action to better help themselves and the planet. Another project on campus that is looking at sustainability is the National Park City initiative in Galway. This looks at creating an ecological corridor between all the different parks in Galway for species to move more freely and looks at making Galway a more sustainable city that is more connected to nature. As well as the National Park City initiative, is An Taisce and Eco-UNESCO, these are brilliant opportunities for students to become more involved with sustainability. They investigate environmental conservation and Ireland’s sustainable development and run successful programmes on the environment and sustainability.
Thank so much to all the amazing speakers at the Sustainability Student Summit. There are so many amazing opportunities here on campus for students to get involved with sustainability. Overall, the Sustainability Student Summit was a massive success and allowed many students to come together to express their thoughts on sustainability and the challenges facing a more sustainable campus for everyone.