Sustainability & Education: OPUS Feature

Sharing a feature on the fundamental value of integrating sustainability into the education agenda. As published via The Portsmouth Grammar School.

The importance of sustainability

Sustainability, as defined by the United Nations in 1987, can be determined as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The issue at hand surpasses plastic bags or straws – as we approach a new decade, sustainability is becoming more than a trend, it is a paradigm shift in how the world operates to secure sustainable development for the needs of current and future generations.

With some of the hottest years on record, accelerating greenhouse gas emissions as well as the increasing frequency of natural disasters and rising levels of global inequality, time is now a precious commodity in our battle to combat climate change. The International Panel for Climate Change declare that by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees which is essential to avoid irreparable harm to the planet, we must adhere to integrating the United Nations 17 2030 Sustainable Development Goals into institutional and everyday activities. This will be pivotal in order to reduce our emissions by at least 55% by 2030, and thus the appetite to address sustainability only grows.

What sparked your interest in sustainability?

My time at PGS, growing up in a school environment which fosters an ethos of responsibility, collaboration and stewardship sowed the seeds in my current passion for sustainability and all that it encompasses.

Much to my dismay, we were a few years too early for the Schools Strike for Climate Movement that takes place every Friday but with the spirit of Greta Thunberg, the symbol of the movement, it is encouraging to see children engaged so strongly on this topic.

Although I have always been mindful and environmentally conscious, during my school years I would not have labelled myself an avid eco-warrior and would never have considered veganism when faced with the choice of a Six Form Centre sausage baguette!

After graduating with a BA in History from the University of Nottingham and spending time working in communications in the luxury retail industry, I decided to take a sabbatical to pursue an MSc in International Business & Management which involved studying at Bocconi in Milan, Italy’s leading business school. My course specialised in Green Management & Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, Global Supply Chains as well as Fashion & Luxury Management all of which are intrinsically linked. The fundamental business case for companies to alter their values and operational business models to become sustainable ties in with all the foundational learnings in history, economics, politics and science undertaken during my time at PGS.

Encouraged further by my extensive research into fashion global value chains and how retail giants gain value across their production cycles at the expense of the environment and social communities – I recognised the need to saliently confront and share the current trajectory. 

Sustainable & Social

Sustainable & Social was created with the intention to provide a platform to those who are curious about the contemporary issues surrounding sustainability.

It deconstructs both opportunities and challenges related to the environment, eco systems and biodiversity, human rights and business.

Content spans corporate responsibility features, green economics, climate science, apparel, beauty design, media, food and everything in between! Some weeks I deconstruct carbon trade policies to offset emissions or socially responsible investing, on others I may uncover the circularity practices of our most beloved brands or simply review an eco-hotel or delicious dining establishment with a sustainable and socially responsible ethos.

Whilst balancing this with full time employment, the sole objective is to spark conversations and to contextualise the facts through a positive solution driven lens as sustainability can often be full to the brim of daunting apocalyptic rhetoric.

A sustainable network

There is a large tribe of likeminded organisations championing sustainable causes and Sustainable & Social has enabled me to connect with such groups.

I am a regular contributor to Fashion Roundtable, an organisation that focuses on policy and bridges the gap between the fashion front row and the Parliamentary front bench. It brings sustainable fashion issues to the forefront of the UK’s political agenda.  In addition to being the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion, we drive awareness of the reputation and power of the fashion industry.

Published articles include how Brexit impacts the sustainability agenda, the urgent requirement for a circular economy, the Government’s rejection of key environmental policies, greenwashing, why innovation is a prerequisite for sustainability and how to crack our war on waste. 

Events hosted by this organisation including Democratising Fashion Sustainability bring likeminded individuals together to connect over the complex issues to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and definitely utilises my debating skills gained from classroom activities at school such as Model United Nations!

Touching on networks, my belief in the power of technology as a force for good led to my recent selection as a founding member of The Nu Wardrobe, an app that is pioneering and championing the shared economy to promote sustainable fashion. We work to connect a group of women with style to share and borrow their wardrobes to access a revolving wardrobe, save their pennies whilst mitigating the environmental and social impacts of purchasing new clothes time and time again!

5 key actions we can all incorporate into our lives to live more sustainably

Embarking on sustainable actions may seem daunting but here are five easy adoptable ways to live more sustainably.

  • Purchase with purpose – research, investigate, explore the options and support local!
  • Lobby and write to your local MP on issues that you feel need to be urgently addressed, whether it be lack of recycling infrastructure, emissions regulation or local farming systems
  • Adopt environmental journalist Lucy Siegel’s 8 R’s and apply it to everything; Record, Reduce, Replace, Refuse, Reuse, Refill, Rethink, Recycle
  • When upgrading your wardrobe, consider purchasing second hand through platforms including Ebay & Depop. You can even rent or borrow clothes via sites including renttherunway.com. If the only option is new, contemplate the #30wearschallenge. Will you wear this item 30 times?
  • Fight food waste – love your left overs, befriend your freezer and plan ahead!

The integration of sustainability into the education agenda

The burgeoning appetite for integrating sustainability into the education agenda is reassuring.  It is wonderful to see the uptake within the PGS community with the introduction of initiatives including Meat Free Monday and the drive to go plastic free with the Big Fish Project, minimise paper usage and drive beach cleans. The UK Government is currently reviewing how to inject topics surrounding climate science and planetary responsibility into the National Curriculum.

At a global level, the United Nations has addressed this sector with its Higher Education Sustainability Initiative developing the higher education efforts to aid the flourishment of sustainable leaders.

As an outstanding example of sustainability within secondary education, on a trip to Bali last year I had the opportunity to visit Green School Bali, the world’s greenest school. Here, I witnessed first-hand how traditional curriculums can be combined with subjects on social enterprise, permaculture farming, green innovation as well as a holistic approach with yoga studios, mandatory mindfulness and mud wrestling!

Stepping into the real world, the demand from organisations for graduates educated in environmental sciences, management and policy as well as the application of engineering and economics for the long-term benefits of society is expanding rapidly. This should provide a platform of hope for those attracted to pursuing a career in sustainability.  

I firmly believe children’s limitless imagination is a key to the innovation the world needs to secure sustainable development.

Final thoughts

The enormity of embarking on the road to sustainability can often be daunting with negative rhetoric flooded through communication channels. As individuals, as a collective and as a school community, breaking down the complex challenges into bite size pieces and combatting this with all of our incremental changes as humans, consumers and voters will consolidate into something powerful in the pursuit of real and lasting change!

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