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Student volunteers support sustainability

Posted on 14 May 2021

Student volunteers at the University have taken huge strides to support sustainability this year.

The new Community Projects knowledge exchange programme aims to address real issues in the City of York by connecting students with local organisations. 

Through the programme, students have volunteered to become Community Sustainability Champions, supporting small businesses and charities in their efforts to be more sustainable by generating bespoke sustainability action plans.

Champions worked in small teams and were trained to use a social impact action planning tool, designed by Net Positive Futures and Stockholm Environment Institute

The tool helped the groups to work through different aspects of sustainability, such as waste, water, food and transport, to help assess where organisations already had good practices and where improvements could be made. 

From this, sustainability action plans were generated, covering a range of issues from Modern Slavery policies, energy usage, waste management and cycling advocacy, to changing practice with more staff working from home. 

The aim of the project was to provide students with work experience and knowledge of sustainability issues in the community and to take action to support the goal from the City of York Council in its Climate Emergency Update for York to be net zero for carbon emissions by 2030.

To date, 48 student volunteers have supported 12 organisations, with a number of future partnerships already in the pipeline.

The project has had fantastic success, with a number of partners reporting that they would take further action. SNAPPY, a partner in the programme, has now introduced mixed recycling on their premises and have completed a Forest Craft activity with natural components.

Phoebe, a Community Sustainability Champion, said of the project: “It was very rewarding to see how enthusiastic they were about our findings and that they were ready to take on board our suggestions to improve their sustainability. It is a brilliant opportunity that enables you to make a difference in the local community.”

Volunteers at the University have consistently worked to support sustainability. In February 2020, student and staff volunteers teamed up with pupils from Badger Hill Primary School, Archbishop Holgate’s School, Lord Deramore’s School and volunteers from the Badger Hill Residents’ Association to plant 1,000 trees in one day as part of One Planet Week.

This initiative was celebrated at the Association of University Directors of Estates Awards in April 2021, receiving Highly commended in the Reaching Higher category, which recognises institutions who have gone above and beyond the usual realm of their institution for the benefit of their local community.