Campaigning in Action: My Experiences of the NUS Sustainability Summit


The NUS Sustainability and Student Eats Conferences taught me about a range of Sustainability issues, with each day focused on different key areas. I was joined by passionate delegates from universities across the UK to listen to an inspiring series of speakers.  I left the conference feeling much more positive and knowledgeable about sustainability, this was truly a once in a lifetime experience for everyone that went. Each day the conference began with a welcome talk, keynote speech by a guest speaker, and followed by three rounds of workshops that participants were free to choose according to their own interests. The time spent here gave the delegates opportunities to share, discuss and receive feedback about their green ideas and sustainability projects within their respective Students’ Unions.


This conference taught me about the complexity of sustainable food in our contemporary society; from growing, purchasing, consuming, to setting up and operating a sustainable food enterprise. The keynote speech was delivered by the founders of the UK’s first and only organic pub; Geetie Singh and Guy Watson from Riverford Organic Farmers. It covered their 30 years of principles, belligerence, occasional compromise, and sometimes profit of running sustainable enterprise. After being amazed by their devoirs and relevance to our universities sustainability practices, I decided to attend Guy Singh’s workshop titled: Making Principles Work in the Real World.  There, I learned about how he managed to integrate his principles with a business scheme, his strategy for increasing the sustainable food consumption, and how Brexit would affect our food and farming policy in UK. The second and third workshops I attended were ‘Making Videos on a Smart Phone’, and ‘Purchasing Sustainably’. The sustainable purchasing workshop in particular was very useful as The Students’ Union at UWE is planning to sell zero waste products in their Shop. I will look forward to bringing back the teachings of this to the SU as there are many things to consider when making sustainable and ethical purchases.


The Summit showcased and delivered a range of workshops on sustainability topics such as fossil fuel divestment, race and climate change, inclusivity in sustainability campaigns, and a narrative on migration. These topics substantiate that sustainability work is so much wider than just recycling and reducing plastic bag consumption. It began with a welcome speech by the Mayor of the Greater Manchester on their plan to go Carbon Neutral by at least a decade to 2040, similar to Bristol’s target by 2030. The event then followed by an impactful presentation by WWF’s Executive Director for Advocacy and Campaigns; Tony Jupiter on raising our awareness of ending single use plastic, climate change and its negative impact on nature and biodiversity loss. As Ciaran (Sustainability Officer 2018/2019) joined me for this conference, we decided to go on different workshops to maximise our learnings. At the first workshop; Student Opportunities and Sustainably, we watched a student’s presentation about sustainable campaigning and student engagement around Meat Free Monday, campus made products, native tree planting, and edible campus, which we could relate to our projects in UWE. The second workshop was about knowing our impact in the world and intensifying our carbon footprint responsibilities. The talk about Understanding Climate Change as Racial Issue startled me as it was something I have never thought about, and because of that I chose to attend the ‘Race and Climate Change’ workshop.


Throughout these two days of NUS conference, there has been a lot to observe and learn about the breadth of Sustainability. The learning process did not only come from the talks and workshops but from the conversations I had with passionate delegates from other universities, and the great vegan food served on both days. The other attendees have increased my awareness of the endless possibilities, creative ideas, and unconventional ways to engage our fellow students, especially about Meat Free Campaign that run by Plymouth University in conjunction with Friends of The Earth. This will be useful for our sustainability committee’s Plant Based Planet campaign. Furthermore, the community garden and rooftop projects done by University of Warwick and Leeds gave me a lot of hope about the future of UWE’s community garden. The workshops made me realise that there are actually a lot of opportunities for students to get involved in making our world more sustainable. These valuable learnings could be integrated into The Students’ Union at UWE’s projects!


This article supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals