Last week saw the National Union of Students hold a parliamentary reception at the House of Lords to celebrate the positive impacts of its Students’ Green Fund across the movement.

 

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, Lord Redesdale, and Steve Egan, Deputy Chief executive for HEFCE all attended the event, showcasing the creativity, diversity, green credentials and business acumen of students’ unions across the country.

 

Using £5million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), NUS has helped 25 students’ unions from across England to develop proposals for ambitious green projects, leading to step-changes in pro-environmental behaviour across higher education.

 

Representatives from each of the 25 projects over 26 students’ unions, including the University of Southampton and the University of Southampton’s Student Union (SUSU) on behalf of the BEES project, attended the reception. Over its first two years, Students’ Green Fund will engage over 50,000 students across the country, improving institutions’ standing in the Green League, and saving 4,000 tonnes of CO2.

 

NUS has supported initiatives ranging from greening student homes, to creating growing spaces on campuses; from up-cycling cafes, to developing sustainable transport for physically disabled students.

 

Embedding sustainability into the core purpose of higher education, Students’ Green Fund has empowered graduates to leave their time in education as part of the solution to society’s environmental challenges.

 

Students’ Green Fund brings a host of wider benefits to students’ and wider society, ranging from providing valuable employability skills, to strengthening community cohesion, to enhancing academic performance. All of these are core priorities not only for NUS, but for government as well.

 

The joint project between the University of Southampton and SUSU, BEES was created as a student-lead auditing programme, aiming to improve the ethical and environmental practices of local organisations and businesses. The sustainability scheme is based on auditing, interaction and education, and has already received a range of positive feedback at its student launch and business launch earlier this year.

 

Talking about the day at the House of Lords, SUSU VP Welfare said:

 

“I had a wonderful time at the House of Lords celebrating the impact of the HEFCE/ NUS green-fund projects! It was great to be part of the group of students, VC’s and MP’s all in the same room, with a shared passion for sustainability, and making positive sustainable change!”

 

Toni Pearce, NUS President, continued:

 

“We knew that the opportunity to be awarded £300,000 to drive greening projects would be extremely popular because students and students’ unions have long been dedicated to doing what they can to adopt pro-environmental behaviours, and to be part of a wider movement towards global sustainability.

 

“I’m so proud of everyone that has taken part in this programme. The 25 projects which we have supported over the last two years are truly transformative initiatives; projects which will put English higher education on the map for its world-leading sustainability credentials.

 

Steve Egan, Deputy Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

 

“Students’ Green Fund has come at the right time, with universities and students eager to engage in meeting this truly global challenge. This initiative follows more than a decade of work by the sector to improve its sustainability performance. The emphasis on “students at the heart of the system” gave us the stimulus to engage with NUS to harness the drive, creativity and energy of students by introducing the student green fund. It has been a true collective effort, with students at the heart of the endeavour.”

 

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