How students are helping local organisations go green

Climate Action Bristol (CAB) is an innovative project placing University of Bristol student volunteers with local organisations to develop and implement Climate Action Plans.  

The volunteers help assess the sustainability of an organisation with the aid of the University’s bespoke on-line tool, supporting organisations to explore their impacts and therefore set out a wide range of actions, from energy use through to advocacy, to take climate action. The project, led by Bristol Hub and the University Sustainability Department, began in October 2021. The initial phase focused on developing action plans, before moving on to delivery.  

So far, students have partnered with a range of Bristol-based organisations including Boomsatsuma, Unique Voice, St Peters Hospice, Voscur, Acta Theatre, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, Beyond the Bean, Watershed and Wecil.  

The first cohort of Climate Action Bristol volunteers are now coming to the end of their projects and recently reflected on their learnings and achievements through a showcase event, organised by BristolHub.  

Izzey Bowker is a student volunteer working closely with creative education center, Boomsatsuma. Izzey and teammates Madleen Grohganz and Daniel Walsh found conducting a travel survey to be the best starting point.  “We wanted to find out what improvements could be made to make it more sustainable to get between their numerous locations,” Izzey explained. “We uncovered students are unable to access student discounts on bus tickets and are put off cycling by a lack of facilities, which are things that Boomsatsuma can now address.” 

When trying to reduce an organisation’s emissions, the energy efficiency of the building is often paramount. Shivali Agrawal, along with teammates Poppy Pearce and Christabel Hamer, worked with local independent cinema and social enterprise, Watershed, to explore the potential costs of the changes required to make the building more energy efficient.  

“We looked at things like the windows and insultation, and assessed the impact and costs, to include the infnormation in an application for a Green Business Grant through West of England Combined Authority” Shivali shared. 

Some students discovered that developing a greener pathway is often not so straightforward due to financial or property constrictions.  “Unique Voice has the challenge of being situated in a rented office, with little control over things like lighting and heating,” Alice Brion, student volunteer, highlighted. “Our recommendations focused on creating learning opportunities for staff, publishing their climate action plans and building their local network to share best practice.” 

Working with independent living charity, Wecil, Hannah Munro discovered the importance of making sustainability inclusive.  “Our focus was on engagement. We brought employees on the journey, as well as looking at community engagement through workshops and publishing of the sustainability report. We also reviewed and expanded their ‘Green Team’ objectives, making its statement and goals inclusive for everyone.” 

Oliver Jones, Director at Acta Community Theatre, said the process of working with students enabled the Theatre to work more strategically.  “We weren’t sure at first what we wanted the students to focus on, other than improving what we do doing around the environment to support with funding applications. After the student’s audit, we developed a plan that includes short term and long-term actions around electricity, water, heating consumption and our website content. Dan, Syndy and Gillian each focused on distinct aspects of the plan, depending on their areas of interest, which worked really well.”  

Martin Wiles, Head of Sustainability at University of Bristol reflected on the showcase event, explaining that sustainability is not an easy path to follow.  “Learning to work around the obstacles you uncover is really valuable. Challenges will arise whether it’s a big, small or rich organisation. It’s not an easy path to follow, but it is essential to meet the City’s 2030 net zero carbon target.” 

 

If you are a student interested in working with a local organisation to help develop its Climate Action Plan register your interest for 2022/23 volunteering here.  

If you’re a local business looking for support with writing a Carbon/Climate Action Plan, please email Sorcha Young at manager@bristolhub.org. 

 

Thanks to the following volunteer teams: 

Watershed 

  • Shivali Agrawal 
  • Poppy Pearce 
  • Christabel Hamer 

BoomSatsuma 

  • Izzie Bowker 
  • Madleen Grohganz 
  • Daniel Walsh 

South Gloucestershire and Stroud College 

  • Mitchell Norey 
  • Zara Shilakis 
  • Eliza Joynson 

Acta Theatre 

  • Dan Green 
  • Gillian Capen
  • Syndy Liew 

WECIL 

  • Hannah Munro 
  • Holly MacDonald 
  • Tayyab Jawed 

Unique Voice 

  • Alice Brion 
  • George Mayenga 

Voscur 

  • Ahra Nam 
  • Oliwia Kuden 
  • Miles Fenner 

St Peters Hospice 

  • Holly Ward 
  • Micol Greta Giannelli 
  • Rowan Browning 

Beyond the Bean 

  • Amy Cotterell 
  • Stephen Pearson 

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