News & Blogs

The value of engaging college staff in sustainability

Thu 11th August 2022 - Blog Posts, Further and Higher Education, News

(This blog post was originally shared on the College Development Network website on 11 August 2022.)

In this latest blog post, Betsy King from LfS Scotland and Lucy Patterson from EAUC Scotland share the value of engaging college staff in sustainability and announce the exciting launch of a new online module ‘Introducing Action for Sustainability’, which will take place at CDN College Expo on Tuesday 23 August 2022.

Why engage with sustainability?

We live in a world that, increasingly, faces multiple challenges. Climate change, poverty, inequality, and biodiversity loss – to name but a few – pose grave risks to the wellbeing of people and planet: environmentally, socially, and economically. Immediate action to champion sustainability and tackle these challenges is required. An intimidating ask of individuals, but when we think of the roles that we can play as individuals within a larger organisation united toward a common goal, the task seems less daunting.

Colleges have a uniquely impactful role to play in the transformational journey towards a more sustainable future, including:

  • Education

All college lecturers are expected to embed sustainability in their practice to meet the standards as laid out by CDN and GTC Scotland. When educators embed sustainability values, skills and knowledge in the content that they teach, their students become aware of the relevance their area of study has in achieving this shift to a more sustainable world and can feel more confident and enabled to take the action needed in their careers and personal lives to support sustainability.

  • Estates

Colleges are resource-intensive in terms of space, energy, and materials. Staff responsible for these areas can amplify the efforts of all staff and students to make a positive impact by ensuring facilities are as sustainable as possible. Examples of approaches include retrofitting buildings, swapping to greener energy providers, updating heat networks, procuring sustainably-sourced materials/equipment and providing/actively promoting locally-sourced, seasonal and ethically-produced food in their catering offerings.

  • Leadership and management

Feeling part of a community is a powerful driver for change. Leaders have the power to co-design strategic priorities with their teams, so they feel supported in making sustainable changes.

  • Pastoral

Support staff can often have a great deal of influence on a student’s long-term attitudes towards many things and sustainability is no different. This could include sustainability-related careers support or fostering skills to maintain wellbeing and resilience in the face of an increasingly uncertain future.

Aligning sustainability as a priority across the many individuals and functions within colleges is one of the first steps towards embedding a whole-setting approach to sustainability across the college and the wider community it sits in through its outreach activities. In order, however, to ensure that staff are supported to co-create and implement this transformational shift, it’s imperative that they are able to access professional learning that will provide them with an introduction to sustainability: what it is, why it’s important, and what actions individuals can take to make a difference. The new ‘Introducing Action for Sustainability’ course, developed for the College Development Network by Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfSS) and the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC Scotland), hosted on Learn Online, aims to do just that.

How do we engage with sustainability?

There are already many inspiring examples, large and small, of colleges taking action on sustainability; including embedding sustainable development principles in plans for buildings, waste, water, energy, travel, and procurement; and in day-to-day teaching and learning.
Our new ‘Introducing Action for Sustainability’ self-guided online course is designed as a first step in supporting everyone working in Scotland’s colleges to understand the importance of sustainability and consider how they can play their part in making it a reality.

Using a straightforward, enjoyable and interactive approach, the introductory course intends to be a useful introduction for making sustainability part of the everyday in our personal lives as well as the workplace. Taking around 30-45 minutes to complete, the course is split into four sections, each including a series of learning elements. Videos, activities, links to interesting case studies and action toolkits are available for participants to engage with, and there are links to additional information and activities for those that want to take a ‘deeper dive’.

As well as aiming to develop an understanding of sustainability, the course provides an opportunity for participants to both celebrate existing actions and consider how to get further involved with sustainability processes and projects in their college.

“This will be appropriate for everyone including the Principal.”

“‘Introducing Action for Sustainability’ is a good primer – punchy and visual as well as interactive.”

College Practitioners Testing Group, June 2022

‘Introducing Action for Sustainability’ will be launched on 23 August at Virtual CollegeExpo22 (book your place here) and will then be available on CDN Learn Online. At a time of immense challenges to social, environmental and economic sustainability – locally and globally – there’s never been a more important time to engage in this new opportunity to inspire and enable action for a sustainable future in our Colleges.