Hello and happy Earth day! 

I’m Anesu (Ness), the Students’ Union’s newly elected Welfare and Sustainability officer. I’m currently in my final year of a BA Digital Media and Society degree, and am looking forward to getting stuck into my new role this coming academic year.   

My desire to be part of the change we all want to see in the world paired with a passion for sustainability, both environmentally and socially, drove me to run for the position. From being the Academic Rep Coordinator for the Universities Sustainability Committee (Sustcom), to organising events such as a reusable pad workshop at Sheffield’s local festival ‘Peace in the Park’, this role seemed like the perfect opportunity to enact more positive change in a community that means so much to me.

The pandemic has highlighted our dysfunctional relationship with nature and as we build back, globally and within our university, we have the opportunity to rethink our ways of working, create long-lasting change and do what’s best for people and planet. My priorities for the role include ensuring support for Covid alumni, advancing a student-focused transition to a new normal, and delivering and progressing sustainability in all our courses and outlets. Fittingly, the theme for this Earth Day is ‘Restore our Earth’ and aims to address how we can reduce our impact on the planet as we recover from the pandemic, as well as consider how we might go about repairing the world’s ecosystems.

In regards to my sustainability priorities, I aim to: 

  • Progress sustainability in our outlets: The Students’ Union has been named the best in the UK for four years now, and as we move forward, I hope to progress the sustainability work being done and continue to reduce our impact on the environment. Whilst outlets such as Coffee Revolution have led the way in terms of sustainability by, for example, becoming the first ever coffee shop in the country to stock exclusively Fairtrade coffee, there are still plenty of opportunities for all outlets across the SU and university to continue on this journey. By working alongside the social enterprise team, outlet managers, and SU and University staff I hope to:
    • Prioritise the use of local produce and develop relationships with local businesses
    • Introduce a sustainable and ethical procurement policy to ensure all goods supplied throughout the the university are environmentally and ethically produced
    • Continue work on reducing plastic waste whilst conducting research on life cycles of alternatives 
    • Tackle the universities food waste through signing outlets up to initiatives such as “To Good to Go” or introducing an on-site composter
    • Bring forward a reusable thrift shop/second hand swap shop to address students relationship with clothing waste
  • Deliver sustainability in all our courses: The university has committed to implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) across all departments. This is an amazing opportunity to ensure all students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to bring about solutions to urgent environmental, economic and social challenges. In rolling out such a program, I think it’s key that implementation should not just be from the top down and the student voice must be prioritised. ESD needs to be implemented both within formal curriculum and in students’ wider experience, whilst also encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration. The 5-step framework that the university is using towards achieving this target within the next five years is clear and effective, and I hope to use my position to push this work forward to ensure progress remains ambitious. By working alongside the Sustainability Delivery and Steering Groups, I aim to:   
    • Work with academic reps to implement working groups and sustainability leads in all departments
    • Support both staff and students in having allocated time to work on the implementation of ESD
    • Introduce an interdisciplinary ‘challenge’ related to sustainability
    • Coordinate with careers services to ensure that ESD is implemented within wider student experience as well as in the curriculum 

We have all demonstrated amazing resilience in overcoming the challenges of this past year, and I hope this Earth Day we can harness this drive in our fight to restore our earth.

By Anesu Matanda-Mambingo. Ness is the newly elected 2021/22 Welfare and Sustainability Officer for Sheffield Students’ Union.