Nearly 30 teams making a green impact across campuses

July 17 / 195

The University of Melbourne is the first Australian organisation to sign up teams for the UK-initiated Green Impact program, which aims to bring people together and empower them to make meaningful changes in sustainability.

Since its launch by the Sustainability team in March over 230 people have signed up in different teams across the University.

Sustainability Engagement Co-ordinator Sue Hopkins says the program was originally created by UK based student unions who then decided to get university staff involved.  

The program has a 10-year history in the UK and since being born out of academia, has been implemented in hundreds of organisations worldwide. It consists of three award levels, bronze, silver and gold, which each contain approximately 30 actions. Teams, made up of colleagues in a workplace, must complete 15 of the 30 actions to reach accreditation. Once earning an award, they may then progress onto the next level.

“We worked with the UK team to create tailored actions for the University of Melbourne,” Sue says. “We’ve created a workbook of lots of different actions which are broken down into different subsections: engagement, waste, energy, biodiversity, etc.”

The actions range from those as simple as having a procedure for reporting dripping taps or other water wastage, to more complex ones such as ensuring that 100 per cent of stationery bought in the last 6 months meets positive environmental standards. 

“It’s about engaging people who otherwise wouldn’t be doing something in the sustainability space, or don’t feel empowered to make changes in their workplace, giving them a framework to help channel their efforts,” says Sustainability Officer Sam Williams.

Dr Helen Duckham participates in her workplace’s team at the Office for Environmental Programs, which is currently at the top of the leader board for the University’s teams. 

“As you might expect we were already doing many of the Green Impact actions: cycling or walking to work, composting our kitchen scraps, and using fair trade products, but the program has really encouraged us to go further,” she says.

“We’ve supplied staff with Keep Cups and reusable food containers to reduce our use of takeaway lunch and coffee packaging, and are working with the farmers market to supply fresh, seasonal fruit for events. It’s also been inspiring working with our student helper and hearing about the changes being made by other University teams.”

Other teams have been having fun with their names and some of the more inventive ones include ‘One Tree MELB’, ‘Office of the Rice-Chancellor’, ‘Greener Relations’ and ‘Old Greenology’. 

“It’s supposed to be fun…the main aim is to get people to try things in their departments, and to obviously change their behaviours and raise awareness in the process,” Sue says.

Students are also engaged in Green Impact through supporting roles. They are trained to be assistants to the teams, helping them implement actions in their workplace, as well as to be auditors, who later in the year will visit the teams and ensure they have completed the actions they’ve ticked off.

Being the pilot year, the Sustainability team hopes to continue to develop and tailor the program to the University so it will become a permanent fixture of the University workplace for many years to come. 

Story by Anna Maddison.

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