The Unviversity of Southampton has just become one of the eight  universities to become a part of the Green Academy scheme run by the NUS. Here Sophie Van Eetvelt takes a look at what it’s all about.

The Green Academy is an initiative founded by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). Its principal aim is to embed sustainability in every aspect of universities. Southampton is one of only 8 Higher Education Institutions in the UK to become a Green Academy. As University of Southampton students, we are at the centre of the move toward sustainability. With over 20,000 of us studying across all campuses we have great potential to drive and make a real change for the better.

When we think of the word ‘sustainability’ many people associate it with solely the physical environment – so it may come as a surprise to many to find that sustainability actually incorporates a wide range of topics; democracy, governance, equality and economics amongst many more. Therefore sustainability is relevant to every single one of us in one way or another.

The Green Academy initiative is helping the University to become sustainable at its CORE; that’s Curriculum, Operations, Research and Experience. Making these four areas sustainable involves everything from offering Curriculum Innovation modules in sustainability to reducing the University’s carbon emissions, from acting as a Fairtrade University and ensuring our research contributes to making Southampton globally responsible. This view of sustainability takes us far beyond just recycling and switching lights off (though these are important too!).

You may be aware that you should try to minimise your impact on the environment but don’t know where to start or what is ‘in it for you.’ Being  at university provides the perfect opportunity to start making more sustainable choices in everyday life.  Our lifestyle habits have not yet become ingrained; we enjoy the flexibility of being a student and life on a student loan means we have a truly vested interest in saving money and being efficient. The Green Academy aims to help students become aware of what they can do and why they should do it.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor recognises the importance of developing graduates who are literate in issues surrounding sustainability, equipped for the emerging the green economy and are globally aware. More and more graduate employers desire employees who are ‘sustainability-literate’ and over 80% of first-year UK higher education students (your future competitors) view sustainability skills as important to future employers.

Engaging with sustainability whilst at university will benefit you personally, as well as contributing to others around you on an international scale. You can help Southampton become more responsible globally, reduce your impact on the planet, become an active member of society and improve your employability. This is what sustainability means to us at the University of Southampton.

To find out more about what the Green Academy do and how you can get involved visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/susdev/green_academy/ or email Sophie Van Eetvelt, Green Academy Student Engagement Officer (sve1g10@soton.ac.uk)

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