Sustainable behaviour-change programme “Green Impact” celebrates its 10th anniversary

30 November 2017

The National Union of Students (NUS) of the United Kingdom, a key partner of the UNESCO Global Action Programme on ESD (GAP), celebrated the 10th anniversary of its “Green Impact” programme on 27 November with a reception at the British Houses of Parliament. “Green Impact” had won NUS the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development in 2016.

“Green Impact is NUS' sustainability accreditation scheme – which now operates in students' unions, universities, colleges, hospitals, fire stations and other institutions, not only in the UK, but abroad too! 

The reception at the Houses of Parliament gathered an array of over 200 of Green Impact's stakeholders and supporters – from students' union staff advocates, to NUS officers past and present, to sponsors and university staff. ... Invitees listened to a series of both interesting and entertaining speeches; outlining the history of Green Impact, its place in the wider student and environmental movements, and the evolution of NUS' sustainability work overall.   

First up was Baroness Jenny Jones - the first Green Party life peer in the House of Lords - who spoke about the inextricable links between sustainability and social justice. "Control over resource-use is not fairly distributed," she said, "and neither is the way that environmental impacts are felt." Jenny highlighted that injustice relating to environmental and climate change is felt within generations, as well as between them. Addressing those in the room, she said: "Our generations have benefitted from the huge upsides of rampant consumerism, but the price of buying happiness today is unhappiness for the next generation." She ended on a positive note: "The younger generation have a greater sense of this than most who have gone before them. NUS has an important role to play to play by coming up with the positive and practical ways that students can make a difference," she concluded. …

Next spoke Julia Heiss from UNESCO. Julia opened with an optimistic analysis of the House of Commons' aesthetic. "This seems an appropriate location," she said, "as green is already the official colour!" Last year, NUS was awarded a UNESCO-Japan award, and is now one of nine global laureates for Education for Sustainable Development. Julia said that Green Impact was a "unique" nomination, "entirely student-led... [using] simple and scalable ideas, aiming to change people's behaviour towards sustainability." She called the programme "an excellent example of youth leadership," and an example of a long-held UNESCO ethos regarding "the critical importance of youth in bringing about lasting and sustainable environmental changes, to reach the targets of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals." She thanked Green Impact for "empowering change through innovations and actions," and wished the programme a happy birthday – and many more to come! 

The following speaker was of unparalleled importance to Green Impact's success: its founder, Anna D'Arcy! "The reason we’re all here tonight is thanks to the University of Northumbria's rugby team, 2004," she said. She went on to explain that her idea, for Green Impact, arose with her desire to stop the colossal pizza box wastage at the students' union – and that the first obstacle to tackle was the rugby team. "What would it take to get them not just engaged," she asked, "but actively wanting to care and get involved?" She came up with "an annual environmental competition for students' unions with a glamorous awards ceremony attached." At the time, there was little-to-no precedent for such a scheme, so Anna approached NUS for backing - which she very much received. "My experience with NUS has been invaluable," said Anna, "it's given me the confidence to carry out the environmental work I'm doing now. I was very fortunate that NUS is a dynamic place, where students can turn up with an idea and be listened to." …

Green Impact has worked with over 470 institutions to date, clocking up 300,000 sustainability actions. NUS President, Shakira Martin closed the event by stating her pride that the NUS was "equipping students to tackle the world's greatest challenges" through "sustainability with inclusivity and liberation at its core." ”

Click here to read the full article on the NUS website