Environmentally-friendly Kingston University students have carried off another prestigious award for their efforts encouraging organisations in the borough to do their bit to help save the planet. Their Positive Environment Kingston project, a partnership that has seen volunteers from the Students’ Union work closely with officials from Kingston Council, has been highly commended in the Green Gown Awards. The competition, organised by the Higher Education Environmental Performance Improvement (HEEPI) project, celebrates environmental innovation at universities and colleges across the United Kingdom.
Kingston’s Students’ Union was highly commended in the Green Gown Awards’ student initiative category. The accolade is the second the students have received since setting up a scheme in which they serve as environmental mentors carrying out green audits of companies in the surrounding area. The 13 volunteers include environmental science student Daniel Czako, who has worked with the Kingston Chamber of Commerce to identify ways it could improve waste management. “Staff really wanted to change their ways but, as in most organisations, the biggest problem the chamber faced was finding someone with the time to investigate how that could be done efficiently,” the 24 year old explained. “I was able to make an impact by doing such things as sourcing the best value recycled paper from a local supplier to reduce unnecessary transport and pollution.”
Fellow volunteer Hannah Smith has turned her attention to producing a comprehensive environmental policy for performing arts company MeWe Arts and Education. “Being a small organisation, the prospect of finding information about recycling services and ecologically-conscious contractors seemed quite daunting,” deputy chief executive Werner van Staden said. “Hannah came to our rescue, quickly identifying realistic steps we could take.” Hannah, meanwhile, credits the experience with helping her secure her first job as an assistant on Kingston University’s sustainability team. “By taking part in the project, I gained better communications skills and established good contacts across the business community,” she said.
The students are already the proud holders of an Outstanding Project Award from the Higher Education Active Community Fund which they collected late last year. The Union’s volunteering co-ordinator, Lynette Phillips, said the project had proven the perfect way for students to support the environment and give something back to the community. “Picking up another award shows just what an impact our commitment to environmentally-focused activities is having,” she said. “There have been plenty of other benefits as well - the students gained a considerable amount of knowledge and enhanced their own skills while at the same time helping companies pinpoint ways they could make a real difference and make their workplace more sustainable.”
Kingston University’s sustainability facilitator Nicola Corrigan said the award demonstrated the importance of encouraging students to work in partnership with other organisations to raise awareness about environmental issues. “The students have helped to boost managers’ morale and knowledge by going back to organisations to see which changes have made a big difference and which suggestions need more work,” she said. “By working together with the Council, the student volunteers have proven that it really is possible to change attitudes and encourage the community to adopt more sustainable practices.”
The award will be presented to the Kingston team at the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges conference later this month. Awards organiser Professor Peter James praised all the participants for helping to develop a more sustainable society. “This competition shows how commitment, energy and innovation enable universities and colleges to respond positively to environmental and social challenges,” he said.