I spoke to Sustainability Officer at the University of Suffolk Justine Oakes to learn about sustainability and what it means to the university. Since I had the pleasure of speaking to her and being able to use her knowledge in this piece, it only feels right to introduce you to her. Justine is a sustainability professional, but it means so much more to her than a career choice. She lives a conscious life and here is just a small fraction of her sustainable life choices: she turns off the boiler when not in use, charges her household’s phones by a small solar panel that charges a battery system in her garden and if something breaks she will fix it!
To a university student this can seem daunting and certainly expensive, but Justine has been a professional for over 25 years. To start your sustainability journey, you can read a couple of blogs here on small steps you can take to improve sustainability:
Justine and I started the interview and she explained to me why sustainability is so important to the university, I was intrigued by every word and I think Justine’s own words and years of knowledge are the best to describe what sustainable development is and its importance.
“At the heart of the challenge lies population growth and consumption - coupled with scientific understanding and technological innovations, all of which shape economic growth and cultural and societal progress. Unfortunately, much of this comes at the expense of uneven development that impacts globally on people’s health and well-being and more alarmingly the earths’ natural ecological systems that we require for continued human species survival.
Our basic needs and our infinite product manufacturing all take away from finite natural resources, damaging the environment through pollution and multiple waste streams. The climate crisis, biodiversity and habitat loss are the best-known examples of this interrelationship, with many planetary boundaries now approaching critical ‘tipping points’ which can only be tackled by governments, organisations and individuals changing their behaviour, production and infrastructure norms and operational/personal day to day activities.
Sustainable development seeks to address these issues by focusing on how we move forward in a way that prohibits environmental damage, protects resources and regenerates/restores ecosystems in a way that is equitable and fair to all, whilst still maintaining stable economic growth.”
After the interesting chat about sustainable development, I understood that the University of Suffolk acknowledges the dangers of our role in todays’ environment and after this acknowledgement, it was decided that the university would play a pivotal role in accelerating the pathway towards sustainable development. But this led to the next question, what is the university doing to achieve this?
Justine highlighted that the University of Suffolk is focusing on three key areas:
- Campus: the development of strategies and roll out of activities that focus on resource efficient, pollution eliminating, low carbon campus operations.
- Curriculum: the curriculum role in educating a new generation of professionals to address sustainable development and influence behaviour change, including post-doctoral/business research collaborations.
- Community: wider leadership with the external community and partner organisations.
Whilst three areas may seem small at first glance, the university uses a strategic approach to help keep them on track and positively move forward with sustainability improvements. Justine states “our overarching sustainability message is embedded in our Sustainability Policy within which we are committed to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 Global Goals and their underpinning indicators are the worlds call to action on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing humanity and the natural world. They guide our operations, learning, research and partnership activities.” It is clear, the University cares about sustainability and wishes to improve the environment and lives of the students.