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Thursday 19 August 2021 10:29am

The University's sustainability initiatives are finalists in seven Australasian award categories – and are one of only two New Zealand tertiary institutions to make the sustainability Green Gown Awards finals.


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Jesikah Triscott

For making a huge impact across the University and the wider community, our Sustainability Office Kaitakawaenga/Engagement Team Lead Jesikah Triscott is a finalist in the Award of Excellence – Staff category.

While originally employed to run engagement events such as talks and fair-trade stands, the award summary says, Jesikah created a highly successful engagement programme in only two years, to put sustainability into action. The programme includes:

  • Developing and implementing an engagement programme (Green Your Scene)
  • Establishing Tētēkura/Student Leads who the Sustainability Office employs part-time
  • Creating collaborations with wider community groups, such as Dunedin Pride and the Malcam Trust
  • Developing a brand and engagement strategy for student-to-student communications and media
  • Integrating a Treaty of Waitangi-based bicultural approach to sustainability

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Leaders (Student engagement): Current Sustainability Office Tētēkura/Student Leads include Charlotte Berry (holding the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal 3 sign), 'AB' Bryan (12) and Hannah Zwalué (13).

Engaged students

The Tētēkura/Student Leads are finalists in the Student Engagement category, for collaboratively designing sustainability-focused experiences on campus, including events, campaigns, projects, awareness-raisers, and relationship-forgers, the award summary says.

Being a Tētēkura offers students a unique opportunity to invest their passion for sustainability into designing and creating positive changes from the ground up.

The Tētēkura's challenge the norm and think outside the box while being guided by the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals and the University's Sustainability Strategic Framework.

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Charlotte (category – student excellent): Master in Sustainability Student Charlotte Brewer

Individual student

Charlotte Brewer is a finalist in the Award of Excellence – Student. The sustainability champion is everything from president of Students for Environmental Action to a volunteer support worker for people with intellectual disabilities, the award summary says.

Currently doing a Master in Sustainable Business, she still makes time to build and maintain relationships that spark valuable collaborations which would not happen in Dunedin otherwise.

She also regularly brings Dunedin's sustainability community together to foster unity and coordination.

Charlotte earned an internship to create a database that shows what Sustainable Development Goals are being actioned in Dunedin and where, while identifying gaps and overlaps. She also received a scholarship to represent students in a national climate challenge seminar.

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Mindful Mondays (Climate action): Eating mindfully with one of the vegetarian meal options at Arana College are (front, from left) Health Sciences First Year student Carmen Holdaway and second-year Physiotherapy student Donovan Sim. At the servery are (from left) Senior Chef Jason Harding and Dining Room Supervisor Maxine Munro.

Mindful Mondays

The University's 11 residential colleges are finalists in the Climate Action category for introducing meat-free catering on Mondays.

These Mindful Mondays' low carbon, high nutrition meals aim to raise students' awareness of the impact of food consumption on greenhouse gas emissions, along with nutrition, and physical and mental health, the award summary says.

The University public health academics estimate residents going meat-free for one day a week leads to an 11 per cent reduction in emissions from food purchasing across the University, equivalent to a reduction from the 2019 levels of 500 tonnes CO2-equivalent annually (NB: 11 per cent of 4,503 tCO2-e in 2019 = 495 tCO2-e).

The transition was not without opposition, coming close on the heels of the COVID-19 lockdown and with catering expectations already established. But detractors appear to be in the minority in 2021.

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Neighbourhood (Building back better): In our Sustainability Neighbourhood's backyard vegetable garden, with the traps from a City Sanctuary pest management workshop, are student residents (from left) Aleida Powell, Jessie Barron, and Tessa Dalgety-Evans.

Building Back Better

The University's Sustainability Neighbourhood of flats for students is a finalist in the category of Building Back Better.

Many students were clear they wanted the opportunity to live more sustainably but were hampered by lack of support from landlords and their peers, the award summary says.

Then the pandemic-driven drop in international students using the University Flats' accommodation created an opportunity to build a new model of student accommodation that responded to both students' voices and the University's aim to nurture a culture of sustainability. 

UniFlats and the Sustainability office collaborated to develop three neighbouring flats with 20 beds into a Living Lab, where students are supported to live more sustainably while contributing to research and student projects that will inform the wider student community and landlords.

Information gained from the neighbourhood is expected to influence both students' and landlord's behaviour so sustainable living becomes more available, and our University's environmental footprint reduces.

This is also a model of a more resilient and supportive neighbourhood in light of challenges faced during the pandemic.

Waste bins (Circular economy): In his element … Property Services Division Waste and Recycling Manager Graham Musgrave – now retired – was a driving force for pre-cyclers and the waste stations staff empty the pre-cyclers into.

Laying waste to landfill

The University's partnership with Waste Management NZ is a finalist in the category of Leading the Circular Economy.

To achieve the University's target of halving the main campus's waste to landfill, we radically re-thought our waste management contractual arrangements while activating our University's research and learning capabilities to drive circular economies internally and in the wider student community.

The University's contractor, Waste Management NZ, is now incentivised to reduce waste and has a staff member on campus. There is also a joint governance approach.

Together, we are rolling out method bins to make recycling easier, have helped students reduce waste with skip diversion days and bike grabs, and are making composting food waste easier (we put the end results on our gardens and lawns).

The Dunedin campus has gone disposable cup free, and has recycling centres and events for University furniture and students' goods, which student projects promote. The University has now reduced our waste to landfill by 70 per cent from 2012 but are far from finished.

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Unipol (Creating impact): Former Recreation Services Facility Officer Rebecca Kurtovich, Manager Dan Porter, Marketing and Well-being Coordinator Chris MacDonnell, and Sport and Operations Coordinator Liz Campbell.

Sustainable You

The Unipol Recreation team saw the need to re-establish how we feel, act, and play during the pandemic lockdown so took on the challenge of enabling staff, students, and the wider community to remain active and look after their wellbeing.

With limited resources, budget, and time, Unipol sparked wide-spread praise for quickly pivoting online, says the award summary for the Creating Impact awards category.

Then, recognising lockdown seemed to reconnect people with nature and each other, Unipol designed Sustainable You to channel that.

Sustainable You now embeds sustainable practices and Māori values in everyday living, while weaving in movement and wellbeing throughout.

The Unipol team not only models the Sustainable You culture and values, but also empowers everyone by supplying a model to follow, limiting the need for additional resources, time, and budget.

Sustainable You brings social sustainability to the forefront of health and well-being, while also being easy to adapt for other organisations and the future.

Another kiwi

The other New Zealand tertiary institution in the Green Gown Award finals is the Eastern Institute of Technology (Hawke's Bay and the East Coast), in the category of Benefitting society.

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