A decade of Green Impact participants celebrate UNESCO win

Tuesday 27-09-2016 - 10:01

Over the last ten years, we’ve run Green Impact in 84 universities and colleges. This is equivalent to over 300 institutional years of student-led sustainability work.

Earlier this month, we were honoured to win an award from UNESCO recognising our decade-long commitment to behaviour change and education for sustainability.

To celebrate, we got in touch with some key figures from over the last ten years of Green Impact to see what they had to say about this amazing award win.

Anna D’Arcy

Anna founded Green Impact while she was a student. After running a campaign on waste at her students’ union, she approached NUS about creating an accreditation framework for sustainability across the student movement.

This prize represents the student movement at its best; innovative, creative and forward thinking.

I am humbled at the love and energy that students, staff, sponsors and funders have put behind this, how it keeps evolving and is still going after all this time. It was what I dreamed of and more.

To all those campaigners out there, this is a message to show that it is always worth persevering.

If I reflect back on what has made Green Impact such a great programme it is down to ownership, competitiveness and support. Each annual intake of officers truly takes Green Impact on as their own, improving it and handing it on to the next intake. The competitive nature of students' unions and their desire to improve plays out in both their drive to exceed their own previous year’s performance and their performance as benchmarked against other unions, this has been a huge driver. Lastly, whilst competitive, it is a kindly sort of competition, full of education, awareness and support; those involved learn from each other and support one another to progress.

The greatest legacy of Green Impact is those millions of students who have been exposed to the pro environmental actions in their unions and take the experience into their future lives.

Martin Wiles

As head of sustainability at the University of Bristol, Martin was a key part of taking Green Impact into universities, helping us to run the first ever pilot at his institution.

Winning the UNESCO award is an amazing achievement, showing that the sector is at the forefront of change for good. It also shows partnership working at its best, staff, students, sustainability professionals and NUS all contributing to make the scheme successful. 

Green Impact has not only helped on-the-ground sustainable impact whether in an office, lab or dental practice (!), but it has created a culture to help support wider sustainability action, create learning opportunities for students, reached out into the communities institutions sit in and started the sustainability careers of many people.  

Green Impact is something we can all be rightly proud of. I know I am.

Colin Baines

Working with the Co-operative Group, Colin was an early champion of Green Impact, providing crucial funding to help us expand our ambitions and reach.

As a supporter of Green Impact for many years from its inspired inception 10 years ago, I have constantly been impressed with the leaps in sustainability being achieved thanks to the passion and hard work of NUS, students’ unions and students themselves.

As well as effecting real change in bringing about the green and sustainable future we so desperately need, Green Impact has uniquely influenced a generation, raising awareness and changing behaviour. Climate change and sustainability are key issues of inter-generational equity and our young people are currently being failed, but NUS and students have responded by becoming the change they wish to see in wider society.

Huge congratulations to NUS and everyone who has been involved over the years, this recognition from UNESCO is much deserved.  

Marissa Watts

Change Agents UK have been a key part of the Green Impact journey, helping recent graduates get jobs in universities, colleges and students’ unions to drive institutional sustainability – often including Green Impact. Marissa is their chief executive.

Change Agents UK would like to congratulate the NUS on their success with the UNESCO prize for sustainability education. Over the last 10 years, Change Agents UK has helped to recruit over 80 graduate Sustainability Projects Assistants (SPAs), to deliver Green Impact in universities, colleges and off campus organisations across the UK.

Not only has this partnership helped organisations to achieve results well beyond what they could have achieved alone; it has helped numerous, passionate graduates make their first real steps in their sustainability careers. Our case studies are testimony to many success stories, and we look forward to the next 10 years of supporting sustainability education.”

Emily Holiday

Emily is one of dozens of student officers who have engaged with Green Impact over the last ten years, helping put sustainability at the heart of the student movement. Emily was an officer at the University of Sussex Students’ Union.

I'm really pleased that Green Impact has won this award. It's an amazing scheme that pulls together varied unions from across the country and gets them all educating students on the most pressing issue of our time.

It has allowed us to make sure we're operating in a sustainable way while encouraging others to do so, and to share best practice with other students' unions so that future generations are well equipped with knowledge on how to operate sustainably before they move into the working world

We've launched a revamped Green Impact Students' Unions for 2016/17, and we've come up with a new scheme specifically for further education. Best of all, we're giving you a bunch of our prize money! It's going to be another good ten years.

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