- / 2011
Students go green at Keele
A group of students from Keele University have decided to break the mould and are going green as part of an exciting new sustainability initiative.
Four students, who are all studying for a BSc in Environment and Sustainability, are working closely with their tutors to establish a ‘sustainable student house’, which they plan to develop over the academic year.
They moved into the 1960s bungalow, which had an original gas boiler, old appliances, little or no insulation and single glazed windows, in September. The university has allowed the students to turn the house into an exemplar project for the campus community. As the students try to reduce their energy use and purchasing costs, they will be ‘living what they are learning’ in their academic course, exploring ideas for living more sustainable lifestyles and passing on their knowledge to other students on campus.
So far the group has begun in the garden, building raised beds to grow their own vegetables, establishing a composter and collecting their vegetable waste, and setting up a laundry line. They are also exploring ways of saving resources and money through cooking and shopping together where possible. Double glazing has been installed, which is expected to save £130 on energy costs , reflective radiator panels have been put up, recycling bins are in place and the students have labelled every household appliance to help calculate how much energy they are using. It is hoped that they might even be able to get a new, more efficient boiler installed, whilst plans to harvest their own rain water for the garden are underway.
One of the students, Scott Reid, 21, explains: “Students aren’t aware of the amount of energy they use, as most of the time they’re not even the ones paying the bills, so there’s no incentive for them to be greener. But when they move off campus, or leave university, it suddenly becomes a big culture shock. It’s therefore important that students learn how much money can be saved and the different ways to save energy, before they live off campus or own and rent their own homes.
“Living sustainably as a student isn’t easy, as we’re finding out! Yet, there are lots of things that students can do to reduce their carbon footprint. We hope that our project will not only help other students learn how they can make changes to be more sustainable, but will also assist the university in its research into sustainable living.
“We’re particularly keen to compare our carbon footprint at the end of the year to similar houses on campus and see the difference.”
As part of the project, the students have opened up their house for other students on campus to come and visit during the day and people interested in the students’ progress will be able to follow their blog and Twitter page - @livegreenkeele.
Dr Sherilyn MacGregor, joint course director, BSc in Environment and Sustainability comments: “Students face many barriers to living sustainably, including campus infrastructure and lack of money and time, so this project is about exploring these issues and finding ways around them. The sustainable student house is completely the students own idea and will be run by them independently with some financial support from the university, and guidance from us and from their other tutors. They will experience first-hand the challenges of sustainable living and we believe that their experience will have a more effective impact on the wider university community as they interact with their peers and pass on their learning to others. ‘
Dr Zoe Robinson, the other joint course director, explains: “Using a range of methods, we will monitor their progress and assess the effects of their project on student and staff perceptions of sustainability. We hope to share the findings of this ‘living experiment’ widely in order to promote it as a model for others interested in embedding sustainability more deeply within university life and we hope that next year the students can pass the house onto another group of willing students to develop and grow year-on-year, and maybe expand the idea to other properties on the University campus.”
Professor Nick Foskett, Vice-Chancellor at Keele University, adds: “The sustainable student house is an important project, not just for the university but for the student body as a whole. Developing a university that is environmentally aware, and has a sustainable outward-facing campus community, is paramount for us here at Keele and we are committed to embedding sustainability into our educational programmes, as well as offering opportunities for students to study sustainability outside their main degree subjects.
“It’s encouraging to see these students take the initiative and lead on a project that will resonate with their peers, as well as providing valuable insight for the university in the future. We will support them throughout project and I look forward to seeing their progress.”
The student house is just one of many sustainability projects being conducted at Keele University at the moment following the launch of a multi-million pound Sustainability Hub, which will provide a focus for the academic institution’s widespread activities around the sustainability agenda.
Keele has been at the forefront in developing a student centred educational environment and is rated in the top 10 in England in both the recent National Student Survey (NSS) and in the Employment statistics.
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