The past week has been eventful to say the least. Being volunteers for the environment team at University of Leicester has meant working hard in a friendly, committed team of staff. Helping to bring out the message of their 10 year commitment to cutting our carbon level 60% by 2020 through a ‘Big Green Week’.
The week encompassed a range of social, interactive and informative events in the attempt to bring the message to people through different forms. The more popular events included a Climate Change debate on whether climate change is affected by human activity. Even though the sceptics provided a more focused argument on the actual debate, the vote before and after the debate went from 73% to 76% believing that humans had some affect. I had the ‘enjoyment’ of taking MEP Roger Helmer back to his car who mentioned that the environment sector at the moment is growing, but is just a fad and will collapse. Maybe if I was more of an argumentative type I would have stood my position on this, but maybe this is what he wanted me to. He also informed me he was looking forward to driving down the motorway to Birmingham Airport. What a nice man!
For the past 3 weeks the university has played host to the Hard Rain photographic exhibition. On the Wednesday of Big Green Week Mark Edwards came and did a thought-provoking presentation based on the exhibition. It helped make clearer how we as individuals can have an impact on the future. It’s not too late!
What particularly has emerged through this week, is the enthusiasm volunteers have to help bring together the fluidity of the week, from early starts to eventful evenings. Particularly noticeable is how much international volunteers have a stronger presence in the opportunities opened up to them through volunteering.
A common question which emerged throughout the week was how much it was all costing – one student commented ‘why are my student fees being spent on this? ’ and another ‘what damage the team was doing by putting on the event’. First of all, without sponsors a lot wouldn’t have been possible. Secondly, the environment team are going to work out the carbon footprint of the event and in particular the Carbon Cube structure which made the news through new social media, tv and radio. The criticisms are nothing compared to what effect this week will have on the community, not just the university.
Throughout the week we’ve been trying to get as many students and staff to work out their carbon footprint. Being able to relate their scores to the size of the Big Carbon Cube has meant people have been able to simply picture how much carbon they produce (average 9-15 cubes’ worth), with University of Leicester producing a shocking 33,000 of these in 2004/2005. For the University to reach its 60% cut by 2020 target this will need to be cut to 19,800 tonnes! At the last count we had managed to get 1335 people to do their footprint, apparently the biggest student engagement at the university (although ‘keep the cap’ debates sure will engage a lot more students!)
Time will tell whether this week was worth it. From a personal perspective, students and staff will not be able to forget the impact the team had over one week. Even though some events proved not so popular, at least the events with the strongest message of Leicester becoming greener were.