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Teaming Up for a "Green Impact"

INTERVIEW | NEWS

Written by Nabeelah Khan (she/her) | @nabeelahkhann | Contributing Writer


Do you ever miss the days of being a youngster learning about sustainability? Being a kid wearing gardening gloves too big for your hands and spending your time in a veggie patch? Do you reminisce about being in primary school and learning about the threes R’s for the first time? It’s okay if you answer no, I don’t think many people do.


Regardless of whether you fancied yourself a nature god, channelling your inner David Attenborough or Steve Irwin, we can all recall a time when sustainability was more at the forefront of our minds than it currently is.


This is why initiatives like AUT’s Green Impact help busy students implement more sustainability on campus, in the whare and in day-to-day life.


Green Impact is a sustainability programme and a fun competition all in one. Teams form together to complete a range of actions such as reducing the use of single-use plastic products to developing energy reduction campaigns for buildings around campus.


I had a kōrero with the Green Impact team, Sustainability Graduate, Amelia Adams and Head of Sustainability, Lucy McKenzie, to learn more about the programme.


What is Green Impact and what exactly do you guys do?


AA: Green Impact is a sustainability programme for students and staff who want to implement sustainability actions on campus and at home. It’s a free, fun competition where you form teams and complete a range of sustainability actions in your own time.


You can either complete predefined actions or create your own. Your actions earn you points, and at the end of the competition, teams get awards based on the points they’ve acquired.


Green Impact Express consists of 10 achievable actions students or staff can implement to reduce their carbon footprint considerably. A certificate of completion is sent to people who have completed all ten actions.


What are Green Impact’s goals for sustainability on campus and beyond?


AA: We aim to raise awareness about sustainability issues and encourage staff and students to incorporate sustainability actions into their everyday lives.


AUT has committed to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and has a sustainability plan, which includes several sustainability targets. These include targets around halving waste to landfill, reducing water consumption by 20 percent, and halving CO2e emissions, all by 2025.


How does having teams and points in this programme add to motivating people to be more sustainable?


AA: The problems that we’re dealing with climate change can’t be solved by individuals alone. Collective action will make a meaningful impact on the health of our environment and people. That's where Green Impact comes in – it's all about rallying staff and students to team up and take on actions that no single person could handle alone.


The competitiveness aspect of Green Impact encourages friendly rivalry between teams. Becoming the overall Green Impact winner at AUT motivates teams to incorporate more sustainable actions into their work, study and personal lives. Students who complete Green Impact or Green Impact Express receive a digital certificate and can incorporate this achievement into their CV.


What are some of the tasks that members have to do?


AA: The actions in the toolkit range from simple actions like reducing how many single-use plastic products you use, such as disposable coffee cups, choosing sustainable travel modes and growing your own herbs. There are also bigger projects that can effect wider change, such as working with the sustainability team to develop an energy reduction campaign for a campus building.


What are some proactive approaches that Debate readers can apply to be more sustainable?


LM: Use sustainable travel to access AUT’s campuses! Travel to campus by students and staff is our biggest source of CO2 emissions and one of the ways you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Once the 50 percent discount on public transport finishes this year tertiary students can apply for a HOP card concession and receive at least 20 percent off the fare.


Other actions are easy and when done by many, they have a significant impact. These include:

  • Unplugging your devices once fully charged

  • Using reusable plates and coffee cups at cafes

  • Using a reusable drink bottle rather than purchasing water

  • Turning off your laptop or device when you’ve finished using it


What can Green Impact hope for the future of sustainability within AUT?


LM: A key sustainability target is to halve our CO2e emissions by 2025. AUT’s draft strategy has been released and it highlights AUT’s aspiration to be a net zero-carbon university by 2030. Early CO2e emissions data indicates that AUT saw a 36% decrease in CO2e emissions in 2023 compared to our baseline in 2018.


Midway through 2023 we began a new approach to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, which involves sorting items in the bins to ensure we are recycling and composting the greatest amount possible. Work to expand this approach across all three campuses is progressing and we expect it will enable AUT to meet another sustainability target, which is halving the amount of waste we send to landfill by 2025.


What is AUT’s biggest problem regarding sustainability?


LM: Factors that make sustainability difficult include being based in a geographically spread city where there has been insufficient investment in public transport to support sustainable travel for our staff and students. Global factors include operating in an international market which means we must engage and contribute internationally, and attract international students, staff and partners.


Students, staff and nature gods alike can register at Green Impact by creating or joining a team. Teams can consist of three to ten people, and once registered you can start completing actions by logging progress to the toolkit.


For more info, get in touch with the sustainability team: sustainability@aut.ac.nz


Alternatively, you can register for Green Impact Express, the programme tailored for individuals. The express programme features 10 simple actions designed that incorporate sustainability into your life and shrink your carbon footprint.


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