Higher Education Funding Council for England

It started with free ice cream...

Wednesday 13-05-2015 - 16:40

Second year law student Adela Simonova from the University of Bristol tells us how she went from eating ice cream, to hosting her own conference on education for sustainable development.

It all started with free ice cream

I know that this probably doesn’t scream ‘sustainability’ but actually, it was ice cream that led to my involvement with green issues around the university.

I came to uni last year, excited that I will finally be able to find like-minded people thinking about recycling and energy saving in the same way as I do and I was looking for a society that would enable me to do that. And then one day, my roommate came in and said, ‘We can win free ice cream if we sign up to this!’ So we did, and we won!

But for me, it wasn’t just about the ice cream in the end. I looked into the scheme that we’ve signed up to and found out that its whole aim is to encourage students to recycle and save energy and overall make them think about their actions in a more sustainable way through giving them incentives like ice cream. Maybe you’ve guessed what it was but in case not, it was the Student Switch Off. And through this project I got to meet some incredible people and make a change through Bristol SU Get Green.

Starting by door-knocking on rooms of very confused students who struggled to understand why are we trying to make them take a picture with a light switch, through posing with recycling bins, hosting a candle-lit concert and dancing around campus in a giant heart costume all to raise awareness about various sustainable projects like Switch Off or Bristol Big Give.

Soon, I got involved in the educational aspect of sustainability and helped to organise a conference about sustainability.

We called it ‘A Student’s Guide to Sustainability’ and that’s precisely what it was about. We wanted to show students that sustainability is not a foreign concept that you only hear about in abstract. We wanted to show that sustainability can be studied in law as well as in computer science, in art as well as in medicine.

We wanted to shift the idea from sustainability being only about recycling and climate change to make people realise that actually, it’s a great inter-disciplinary concept that we all have probably engaged with but didn’t recognise it as sustainability. And that’s why we invited students from different subjects and carrying out research in different areas to come and share their outtakes on sustainability and show that it’s not only about one thing that only the ‘green’ people engage in but about things that we see in our courses and lives on daily basis, such as using the internet.

In the end, the most important thing about sustainability is to let people know about what it actually means and take away that fear of the word that no one can really define. In this sense, the curriculums can make a great impact on students. They can show people that sustainability is not a scary concept but rather a thing that they engage with anyway but never know that those little or big modules in their courses are a part of it.

One of the most interesting things that I found through my engagement in sustainability is that the more you get engaged with it, the more your view as to what it actually means changes and the definition in your mind broadens beyond the stereotype of it being the thing that ‘green’ people do.

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