Sustainability Action Blog


NUS Sustainability Roundtable: celebrating progress, spurring on to more

By Julia Kendal |


On the 18th June around 100 students and Students’ Union and university staff gathered in Manchester for the annual NUS Sustainability Programmes Roundtable. Simon Kemp and I were able to join this day celebrating a year’s activity and providing inspiration and ideas for action going forward.

The parallel sessions were streamed to help people tailor their learning to their current progress towards sustainability (ideal for new organisations; maintaining momentum and spreading the word; looking forward). In the morning I joined the ‘looking forward’ stream, hearing from Jo Kemp about the wide reach of Green Impact in helping diverse organisations to improve their environmental impact. This was followed by a discussion led by the team from the University of Central Lancashire Students’ Union about fostering better partnerships with Students’ Unions, recognising that collaboration is critical to sustainability.

The delicious (vegetarian of course!) lunch was followed by keynotes Haleh Moravej (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Chris Willmore (University of Bristol) and the awards ceremony for NUS programmes, including the new Responsible Futures. It was inspiring to see a packed room celebrating the achievements of colleagues over the past year. This was followed by more parallel sessions; I joined others exploring how to engage students with the international climate change discussions taking place in Paris in December.


Simon Kemp and I presented on Blackout, an energy-saving event bringing together hundreds of students and staff on one night to switch off all electrical equipment unnecessarily left on. Blackout has engaged hundreds of students and staff at Southampton since 2012. We are working with NUS to support other Unions and universities in running Blackout in their institutions. In 2015/16 12 institutions took part in Blackout, with 563 students and 193 staff members switching off a total of 16,935 appliances, and saving an average of 8.9% in electricity consumption over the Blackout weekend. Find out more here.


We also had a chance to talk with other university and union staff about the opportunity to get involved in the BEES (Business Ethics and Environment Students) Programme. BEES won funding from the NUS Students’ Green Fund to train students to work with local organisations to help them improve their ethical and environmental practice and will support other Unions in running it in their cities.

As the academic year ends, the roundtable was a welcome opportunity to gather to reflect on and recognise the achievements of the year gone and get inspired for the next one.  My highlight of the day was Haleh Moravej from our hosts Manchester Metropolitan University, an incredibly engaging and inspiring speaker and founder of MetMUnch, an innovative student-led social enterprise focused on sustainable and healthy food. Haleh encouraged us to continue to be passionately curious; this is the drive for what we do, for continuing on the journey towards sustainability.