Sustainable Development Manager Charmaine Morrell tells us about the Plastic Pledge and Green Rewards – two great initiatives that are building on the feedback of NTU’s students.
“NTU has a fantastic reputation for delivering positive impacts in sustainability, and our students are a really big part of that. It’s been great to see attitudes change over time, because the focus back when I was studying was on making money and materialism – the “yuppie” generation – and ethics didn’t really come into it! But our students have this incredible sense of responsibility now, and a focus on what’s ethically right. How NTU goes about its business really matters to them.
“One initiative we’re particularly proud of – and one that was based specifically on the feedback of our students – is the Plastics Pledge, which came from a survey we conducted in 2018. We asked our students what they thought NTU’s biggest priorities were in terms of sustainability, and 79% identified single-use plastics as the key issue. This was around the time of Blue Planet, so students were very aware of the problem and could connect with it – some of the footage was haunting and incredibly sad. That created a real drive to reduce the amount of single-use plastics on campus.
“The Students’ Union was brilliant: overnight, they banned plastic straws. That really gave us some impetus and leverage, and that’s when we came up with the concept of the Pledge. We’re working hard now to reduce and even completely discontinue single-use items across NTU, such as straws, cutlery, stirrers, plastic bags, binders and report covers. It’s in direct response to our students’ feedback, and the ambitions of the Pledge are only going to grow as we move it forwards.
“Another great initiative is the Green Rewards scheme, which is a wonderful online platform and app. It was initially launched for staff – but following its success and a lot of feedback, we’re now incentivising sustainable and wellbeing behaviours for our students too. Those incentives benefit everyone – the individual, NTU, and the environment. There’s all sorts of behaviours we encourage and reward, whether that’s active travel, hiring one of our bikes instead of driving, volunteering, correctly recycling waste, or even making your own plastic pledge. You get points for it, and points mean prizes!
“NTU students are driving so much of our great work. We’re really keen to walk the talk, because if we didn’t, the reality is they just wouldn’t feel as happy being a part of the University. Some of them might not even be here at all.
“So we welcome our students’ voices. And more than that, we need them.”