As the Guild’s first ever Vice President of Democracy, Resources and Sustainability,it seems fitting that my first piece of work has been all about the environment.
Before I officially began my Officer role, I will admit that I was worried: my lack of knowledge around green issues made me feel rather nervous about tackling the “sustainability” part of my remit, especially compared with my eco-crusader predecessor, who did a great deal of fantastic work towards making the Guild greener. As a self-confessed elections nerd, Democracy was my area of expertise, and I thought was going to have to really work hard to fill that gap in my environmental knowledge.
Despite my expectations, it turns out that Sustainability is probably the most enjoyable part of my job, and I’ve picked up the ins and outs of caring for Mother Earth pretty quickly.
So, what exactly have I been up to?
It all started last year, when the previous VPDR set up a partnership with a scheme called Energize Worcester, set up at Worcester Students’ Union and funded by HEFCE. The scheme is all about getting students living in private sector accommodation to make sustainable lifestyle choices to reduce household energy consumption, and encouraging landlords to retrofit their properties to make them more environmentally friendly.
This year sees the beginning of Energize Birmingham. Learning lessons from the scheme’s outcomes at Worcester, and in partnership with the Guild and myself, the scheme’s creator, Peng Li, is hoping to create the next generation of eco-warriors at Birmingham.
The scheme’s main tool is an online application where students can register to input their property’s meter readings each month. This would produce a graph that tracks their energy consumption over time, and compares it to the national average. There is also capability for energy use “leader boards” to be created, so students can compete to be the greenest house on the block, with chances to win prizes for being the most sustainable house.
The best part of the scheme, for me, is that it is student led: students at Birmingham have the opportunity to apply to become Energy Advocates and Energy Assessors, and blaze the trail towards a greener Selly Oak.
Energy Assessors will be trained to carry out energy surveys on properties, feeding back to Landlords on how they can improve the energy efficiency of a property. This could be anything from better insulation and double glazing, to smart meters and energy efficient appliances. Each assessor will carry out around 10 assessments, and the skills they pick up they can use to help their friends, family, and even themselves in the future.
left to right: Bethany Dovey (Guild VPRDS), Yu Lu, Ivan Shipulin, Alex Farmer, Joshua Allen (all Birmingham Energy Assessors), Jack Carver (Worcester Energy Advocate), and Peng Li (Energize project manager)
Energy Advocates will be working closely with students to help them with tracking and hopefully lowering their energy consumption. They will help students learn how to take meter readings, give them top tips on how to reduce bills, and will be integral to promoting the scheme to as many students as possible. The Energy Advocates will also receive a City and Guild’s qualification that shows their knowledge of sustainability.
From left to right: Bethany Dovey (Guild VPRDS), Jack Carver (Worcester Energy Advocate), Mahsa Dehghani (Birmingham Energy Advocate), and Peng Li (Energize project manager)
Instilling green values in people is not only better for the planet and local area, it means that strapped for cash students can save loads of money on their energy bills. Over this year, I’m going to be working closely with Peng, the Energy Advocates, and the Energy Assessors to promote the scheme to students. Hopefully, come next August, students (myself included) will have saved loads of money on their energy bills and, of course, done their little bit towards saving the planet.
For more information, please follow us on Energize Birmingham Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/energizebirmingham