Tag: student action

Green Week is on its way!

Join the Students’ Association Green Week team and your societies in a wide range of exciting and innovating events, from cycle powered movie screenings to tours of ‘Hamish’ the composter and our Community Fayre. For more details see this page: https://www.facebook.com/greenweek2012



For the full schedule click here.

Eco tip Competition top tips!


So last week we ran a competition on Facebook and Twitter to find the best eco tips for students and the winner (as chosen by us) won a beautiful Eco Kettle and Kitchen Caddy set.

The winner was Emily Stratton an SD Undergrad student who came up with this easy to do tip which has the potential to save lots of paper, and carbon:

“If you have to print lecture slides, on the print menu select ‘handouts’ in the ‘print what’ section, and print six to a page. You can then print this on the duplex printer in the library, condensing what would be twelve pages of printouts to just one :)

We had a helpful suggestion to post the rest of the tips as they were all great, so here they all are for your delight!

  • “Get good at freezing/drying food for waste reduction and money saving! My personal favs are dried herbs like parsley and thyme (good reduced counter purchases) and frozen cheese and breads =)”
  • “Sell your car and buy a bicycle and a good quality lock. St Andrews now has great provision for bikes and it will improve if we increase demand. Help turn overcrowded car parks into spacious cycle parks!”
  • “Turn off the radiators in rooms you don’t use. Put an extra Duvet on your bed. Inflate your car/bike tyres to the correct pressures, cook together…”
  • “Instead of buying birthday cards- make them instead! You’ll always have spare card lying around- and even if your creative and drawing skills aren’t exactly Picaso (you can always print off a fav photo)- your friends are more likely to treasure and keep them than throw them out like all the other tacky cards they’ve received. Plus you’ll be saving £2 each time and the CO2 produced in making it.”
  • “Every time you receive mail- especially junk mail- don’t chuck it out. Save it! Often companies will print their mail on one side only- so if you’re not fussy- turn it round and use the other side for printer paper. And with a bit of care, you can save the letter too and re-use it…meaning that you’ll probably never have to buy envelopes again. “
  • “Get involved with the food co-op. Buy your food in bulk- saving you endless trips to the supermarket, money and unnecessary amounts of packaging. One bag of 10kg of pasta instead of 20 x 500g packets.”
  • “My tip (which also masquerades as a study tip) is stop drinking tea/coffee on the move, instead actually stop and have a proper coffee break, drinking it out a mug and talking to friends. Not only do you reduce the consumption of plastic lids and cups but you are also likely to be more effective when your return to your studies. Venki Ramakrishnan who won the nobel prize for chemistry in 2009 attributed a lot of his department’s success to their lunchtime and coffee break chats: so its not time wasted!”
  •  Eco tip: Make more right turns! http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/ups-turns-save-gas.html
All the tips are totally fantastic and we will be doing more competitions like this so keep your eyes peeled!!

Taking on the Tar Sands

My inspiration

While at a protest outside RBS in April 2010, a member of the Rain Forest Action Network and Native Canadian, Ariel Deranger, spokeabout how the Tar Sands were affecting the lives of many First Nation communities, and it was this personal story that really moved me. This was why, when given the chance, I applied to go to Alberta, Canada with People and Planet – to hear personal stories so I could help put a humanitarian angle on the Tar Sands campaign, rather than it being about square kilometres and tonnes of carbon.

All I knew about the Tar Sands originally, was that the oil extraction was the size of England and Wales and that you could see the toxic tailings ponds from the moon. I also kept repeating the phrase ‘it’s the most destructive industry on the planet’ which was getting monotonous, and I needed to find out more about how this was actually affecting people on a daily basis instead of reverting to a wide and predictable angle. I felt the need to understand the complexity of what’s at stake and to have had communication with those I was representing

The trip

With just one weekend of getting to know each other we set off to stay with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, who lived in close proximity to the Tar Sands in Northern Alberta; eight students, two People and Planet staff, two independent documentary makers (all relative strangers at this point) and Colin Baines, a staff member from the Co-operative Bank.

On arriving in Edmonton there were a few things we found difficult to digest other than the airplane food:

  1. There were a hockey team called The Oilers.
  2. The cars were huge and no one was walking, even short distances that could be walked easily.
  3. Our driver, a First Nation Canadian, worked as security for an oil company as, he explained, all the jobs in the area were linked to the oil industry.

Throughout the trip there was a great contrast between the low moments and the high. We would spend some days driving through the extraction sites, having to be constantly aware of security and making sure the tapes were safe – a few interviews were shot and we would hurry away, usually sleeping in the trucks once the adrenaline wore off and the exhaustion kicked in. The Tar Sands were even more disgusting than I imagined – I stepped outside to take a photograph and was caught off guard by the smell and the fumes and the sound of sonic booms piercing the air. These noises that sounded like gun cracks were meant to deter birds from landing on the tailings ponds and dying instantly.

We also spent some days getting to know the Beaver Lake Cree Community and getting involved in their annual Powwow, a cultural festival of dance and celebration. We were introduced as their environmental managers and included in their grand entry ceremony which was a huge privilege. It was here that we made connections with community members and began to learn more about how the oil industry was affecting their community. We heard many personal accounts of how the animals, traditionally hunted, were contaminated and becoming extinct and how the water sources are being polluted by toxic chemicals.

On the final day in Canada we staged a protest outside the Alberta Environment Agency in Edmonton. We had been told by Suncor representatives that there were regulations given to them by the Alberta Environment, so they were being corporately responsible. We were angered by this response, and felt that the Environment Agency must be blind to allow so much contamination of their country. Our banner read “Alberta, Don’t turn a Blind Eye to the Tar Sands” and had banners and information about four different issues; contaminated fish, poisoned water, caribou extinction and runaway climate change.

Thoughts after the trip

The trip, although upsetting, was a incredibly beneficial to the Tar Sands campaign in many ways.

We learned that some of the Native people feel like they have become ‘economic hostages’ to the Oil Industry, so having us there would have been encouraging for the Community in their Legal Case against the oil companies and governments undermining of their Indigenous Treaty Rights. As this stance is often the most difficult one to take.

Furthermore, we have come up with a Tar Sands Free campaign in which we will be lobbying universities to remove all their financial investments from the Tar Sands. OneWorld society, the St Andrews People and Planet branch, will be lobbying the University to swap from the Royal Bank of Scotland (who have given $7.5 billion to oil companies working in the area to date) to a more ethical bank. The eight of us that went on the trip will also be doing a number of speaker events at Universities around the country – and will also be speaking at Shared Planet, when we are going to be hosting some of the Beaver Lake Cree Youth in the UK to allow them the opportunity to get their voices heard and so we can combine campaign strategies.

If you would like to hear more about my experiences in Alberta, or ask any questions about the campaign then feel free to email oneworldsoc@st-andrews.ac.uk. We have regular meetings, film screenings and campaign planning too which we would love you to join.  We are currently having weekly Tar Sands Campaign meetings on Mondays at 5pm in the Mansfield Scheillion room so please come along to that if you can.

Watch out for Taking on Tarmageddon, which is the documentary made while we were in Alberta, coming out early 2012!


Useful links

My mission statement: http://www.smk.org.uk/environment-2011/

Tar Sands Free website: http://peopleandplanet.org/tarsands

Campaign Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/People-Planets-Beaver-Lake-Tar-Sands-Youth-Solidarity-Exchange/209567545750060?ref=ts

OneWorld Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/groups/35775563516/

Shared Planet: http://peopleandplanet.org/shared-planet-2011

Taking on Tarmageddon short films:http://vimeo.com/tarmageddon



World Resources Forum

Long have the sustainably minded called for international collaboration and knowledge exchange on world issues, and the World Resources Forum represented a platform for doing just that. Yet like so many conferences, of its kind, many we’re left wondering at the end, whether it was worth attending at all!

As a young student fortunate enough to take part in a Youth Encounter on Sustainability course this summer in Davos, Switzerland, it seemed like a once in a lifetime experience to attend the conference. Sitting in the midst of some of the worlds greatest minds, Nobel peace prize winners that casually shrugged off the accolade, and undoubtedly some of the young leaders of the future, there was no doubt in my mind that something great could happen. But then the presentations began.

One by one, men and women in sharp suits with well-rehearsed speeches took to the floor and spoke with a level of monotony that took my breath away. For such a pressing matter in the international area, the manor with which they tackled the issues of world resource management did more to infuriate than inspire. Presentation after presentation started with the obligatory first slide that ‘defined’ the issue, yet the rest of the words did nothing to address, challenge or work towards solving it. And so, at the end of the 3-day conference everyone clapped loudly to celebrate quite simply, nothing.

As part of a 32 strong student collective sitting in the audience, representing 25 different countries we did our best to challenge the speakers and bring to the surface those issues that nobody cared to address, to little avail. We held workshops on our work; café style discussions designed to facilitate discussion and even created art as an alternative mechanism of presentation, but nobody took notice.

But what does this mean? We’ll to me this demonstrates a lot. The ‘youth’ are yet to be recognised for the powerful and creative body that they undoubtedly represent. We are the leaders of the future, but we’re unable to strike up a dialogue with those that ought to teach and inform us. Additionally, current leaders seem constrained by their professional image, institutional representations and are quite simply, too unwilling to shake things up. Finally, it is a sign of a missed opportunity. At a stage in our lives where time is so precious, we must discover a way to make these events as great as they can potentially be. But how can we change this? By making more noise, shaking off professional shackles and continually pressing the buttons of those with power?

The answer I think comes down to each and everyone of us, as to use a classic saying, we have to ‘be the change that want to see in the world’.

For more details on how to get involved with the YES and its umbrella body ACTIS (Activating Talent in Sustainability) please go to:http://www.actis-education.ch/ or contact: kj84@st-andrews.ac.uk

Kirsten Jenkins, 4th year Sustainable Development student and YES alumni.