This week, Manchester Metropolitan University held a Sustainability Fair and ‘Tell Us’ talks in their brand new Students’ Union building, part of the university’s ‘Climate Week’. The Fair and ‘Tell Us’ are part of the NUS Responsible Futures Project, which aims to embed sustainability in the formal and informal curriculum through a whole institution approach. This project is runs in partnership with the students’ Union, is sponsored by Penny Renwick Pro-Vice Chancellor for students and led by Valeria Vargas, Education for Sustainable Development Co-ordinator.
Packed with lots of interactive and fun activities, the fair gave students the opportunity to find out more about the university’s Sustainability Agenda and related projects from across Manchester, raising awareness of issues such as food waste and recycling. As Sarah-Beth Cooper, MMU’s Community Officer, told Humanity Hallows, ‘The fair is an opportunity to make the Sustainability Agenda more accessible to students, giving them the chance to become involved in the many existing sustainability projects.’ Stallholders included the MMU VegSoc, raising awareness of the global water crisis, The Black Fish project, who train volunteers to monitor the illegal fishing industry, and MMU’s Big Impact campaign, who handed out free plant pots and seeds in order to encourage students to start growing their own food. Also attending were volunteers from the Manchester branch of Friends of the Earth, promoting their campaign to bring government-funded solar power to the majority of the UK’s primary schools as well as their ‘Bee-cause’ project.
Offering food advice on the day was Richard Fox of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign who, in a live cooking demonstration, showed students how to make a vegetable biryani and pizza. Richard also gave advice on how to properly reheat leftovers and how to adapt recipes with store-cupboard ingredients, saying, ‘If you remember the principles of cooking, you can adapt the recipe by using what you already have in. If you don’t have an ingredient, always ask yourself, what can I use instead?’ Student reaction to the live cooking demonstrations and to the fair itself was positive, Paul, a final year Events Management student, saying, ‘I’ve learnt a lot today. I’ve learnt that vegan sweets can be delicious and also how to store ingredients, such as fresh herbs, so that they last longer.’
Fun activities at the event included the Big Carbon Balloon Game run by the Carbon Literacy Project who teach students how to reduce their carbon emissions and the opportunity to make a smoothie by pedal power with Dominic Moon of the Transport for Greater Manchester cycling branch, who encourage interest in cycling with their interactive roadshows. Students also had the chance to swap their unwanted clothes and books at the fair’s Pop Swap stall and to find out more about the MMU Connect project which, from the 5th to 21st March, is connecting students and staff from four universities around the world to encourage international discussion about sustainable fashion.
Overall, the fair was a success, Ayma Haider, organiser and MMU Futures Co-ordinator, told us, ‘It has been great way to get students to connect with things they might already be doing towards sustainability and help them become aware of the positive impact these activities have on the environment.’
Also on the day, students and staff had the opportunity to attend the ‘Manchester: A Certain Future’ Event which involved a series of five-minute presentations regarding projects that raise awareness of sustainability and climate change. Numerous speakers at the event included MMU graduate and founder of ‘Conscious Confections’, Claire Neilson who discussed the work of grow-your-own community projects such as the Moss Side Community Allotment and the Incredible Edibles Community Garden in Levenshulme, and MMU Senior Nutritional Sciences lecturer, Haleh Moravej, founder of the university’s MetMUnch project which encourages students to engage with healthy and sustainable shopping, cooking and eating habits and which was recently awarded an EAUC Green Gown Award. Also talking was Vincent Walsh, founder and CEO of the Biospheric Foundation, who discussed the dangers of modern-day mass food production.
Jacqueline Grima is a mum of three, a (somewhat reluctant) dog owner and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at MMU. She is also sending her novel ‘Coming Second’ out to publishers. Her novel was shortlisted for the 2014 Luke Bitmead bursary. Find her blog here www.grimajgrima.blogspot.co.uk