9 July 2015 09:29

A revolutionary partnership designed to encourage eco-friendly lifestyles has won Lancaster University Students’ Union a prestigious national award.

LUSU received the National Union of Students’ Green Impact Excellence Award – and was one of a handful of unions to receive the top grade of ‘outstanding’ – for its work with Lancaster University to launch the Green Lancaster Behaviour Change Group.

LUSU President Will Hedley said: “Helping students and staff to learn what they can do to reduce their impact on the environment and working with the university on eco-friendly projects is one of the most important things we can do as a students’ union. The future of the planet is in everyone’s hands, and this collaboration is a big step forward in making sure everyone at Lancaster does their bit.”

The group’s mission is to drive all staff and students to adopt eco-friendly habits like eating locally-grown food, cycling, walking or using public transport instead of driving, recycling as much as possible and being mindful of energy efficiency. The group is working to embed environmental responsibility in the curriculum with the goal of making Lancaster an international leader in higher education sustainability.

LUSU Innovation and Development Initiatives Manager Joe Bourne, who co-ordinated the creation of the group, said: “The group enables us to really collaborate on what’s working and do more of it and also to have a more joined-up approach to behaviour change. It’s an approach to behaviour change that is more than just a poster campaign – it goes to the heart of the culture here on campus.”

LUSU’s idea received top-level backing from the university when Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sharon Huttly agreed to chair the new Behaviour Change Group.

Professor Huttly said: “I am delighted that LUSU’s efforts have been recognised with this award. The group is an exciting and productive collaboration between staff from across the university and students and demonstrates what can be achieved in working together on an agenda that is important to so many and to so much of what we do.”

Making the award, judges from the Green Impact scheme said: “This new group means that the union now has a solid foundation for influencing the university’s decision making on sustainability, allowing them to actively channel student ideas into the university’s strategy. A wonderful achievement!”

Key successes and targets

Since its launch, the Behaviour Change Group has had a number of successes, including:

  • Increasing the profile of ‘Green Lancaster’, a university-wide series of initiatives designed to promote sustainable living
  • The launch of Green Lancaster Week, a major awareness campaign targeting all students and staff
  • Hosting a guest lecture from University of British Columbia Associate Provost John Robinson, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainability in education
  • Opening of discussions between LUSU and the university on ethical investment
  • 1,000 students and staff a year to be consulted on eco-friendly behaviour
  • Creation of a Behaviour-Change Action Plan covering the whole university

Case study: The Exodus Project

Students have been using a 100% electric van to collect and recycle tonnes of unwanted possessions left behind in Lancaster University’s student halls at the end of term.

Each summer Lancaster University Students’ Union works in partnership with the university Facilities Department on ‘Exodus’, an eco-friendly project designed to reduce waste through recycling or donating. The project is part of Green Lancaster, the university-wide collaboration designed to encourage all students and staff to live sustainably.

And this year the Green Lancaster partners hired the special eco-friendly vehicle to make the Exodus project even kinder to the environment.

Student Joshua Sendall is working as one of two Exodus Project Co-ordinators this year. He said: “The van ties in really well with the Green Lancaster ethos in general, and that’s being mindful about how our actions affect the environment and those who receive our bequest – our children and our children's children. I think it’s really important that we have a vehicle that’s representative of the values that Green Lancaster has.”

Each year Exodus collects a huge amount of property from Lancaster’s student accommodation. The team collects mountains of duvets, box after box of crockery and glassware, hundreds of unwanted electrical items and a huge amount of spare food.

It’s collected from drop-off points in each college, sorted by student staff and then given to charities in the Lancaster area to be reused.

Joshua said: “Exodus is a hugely beneficial project. The aim is to intercept items that would otherwise be thrown away and potentially end up in landfill. You name it, anything that you can imagine gets donated to the project. We’ve had everything from pots and pans to iPads, televisions, an array of printers, furniture, anything under the sun.

“The thing that I like most about the project is the fact that it’s entirely value-centric. Hopefully the project instils values of sustainability in the minds of students, so that in later life people are a bit more mindful about whether or not things are just being thrown away or whether or or not they can be reused and be of some benefit to people who need a helping hand.”

Last year the Exodus project collected more than 45 tonnes of unwanted items from the campus.