What I’ve learned as a Halls Environment Rep

This week our blog is written by one of our Environment Hall Rep’s from Albany Park Hall, Fiona Blackwood! Fiona has worked hard at Albany Park Hall this past academic year and we are very thankful for her continued efforts and enthusiasm to make the university a more sustainable place and increase awareness within her hall of all that is going on on our campus. Take a read to see what she has been up to this past year, and if you would like to learn more about the role of Environment Hall Rep please email environment@st-andrews.ac.uk!

First of all, my name is Fiona, and I’m coming to the end of a year as the Environments Rep for Albany Park. It’s been a challenging but fun role that has helped me to become more aware not only of some of the difficulties in promoting sustainability within halls, but also some of the fantastic things going on around St Andrews around sustainability and the environment. Halls are the first time away from home for many students, and especially in self-catered halls such as Albany where food is a more prominent issue, it can provide a really great opportunity to encourage environmentally-conscious habits. On top of that, having such a diversity of students in the university as a whole can enable amazing discussions around sustainability, and halls are a great venue for this.

Image from the Cycling in St Andrews facebook page

However, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed with deadlines, exams, maintaining a social life, and the pressure to become somewhat employable that it can often become hard to act in a more environmentally conscious way. Personally, I think the two main perceived barriers to this are time and cost. In terms of time, having hall environments reps makes it easier to try and improve things like recycling and encouraging cycling by hopefully providing another liaison between the students, residential services and various other groups within St Andrews such as Bike Pool.

Image from The Tree facebook page

And then there’s the cost element, which can be discouraging when money is tight and it can seem difficult to find sustainable food and household products at an affordable price. However, The Tree is a fantastic project run by Transition which aims to make it easier and more affordable to buy local, Fairtrade and organic produce, and this year we set up a new drop-off point in Albany, which has hopefully made residents more aware of the initiative and encouraged its use. And from affordable food to completely free, Albany is also lucky enough to boast its own Edible Campus garden, where several events have been held, making residents more aware of the space.

I’ve learned that the ridiculous seems to work better when it comes to raising awareness, as shown by the Fairtrade banana costume that some of the hall reps donned to spread the news of St Andrews as a Fairtrade university. The smoothie bike also made an appearance in Albany for Fairtrade Fortnight, and events like pumpkin carving where people made some amazing food from the leftovers went down well.

So, while in many respects the year has flown by and there’s still so much more I had wanted to achieve, I think the best thing about being a hall Environments rep has been seeing how many projects are already going on around the university and trying to get the hall involved in them in some way. I think hall reps are a great way in general to try and make environmental things easier and more fun, and I hope this can continue!

 

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