Environmental Campaigning – Officer Report for GUCU AGM 2020

Environmental Campaigning – Ros Gray and Jason Hickel, Environment Officers, 29 June 2020

This year we have mainly focused on ensuring that the College pursues its commitments to the GND that were agreed in August 2019, including:

  • achieving net carbon neutrality by 2025
  • divestment
  • making vegetarian and vegan meals more available on campus outlets and dropping the most carbon intensive foods (ie beef) from college menus
  • reducing single-use plastics
  • stopping the use of glyphosphates (ie Roundup)
  • supporting better biodiversity on campus
  • embedding climate justice in curriculums and research practice

The GND steering committee was formed, with representatives from the SU, Unison, GUCU and GREG. For the purpose of achieving the aims of the GND, 5 staff-student workstreams were formed: Research, Curriculum, IT, Carbon Reduction + Waste Mangement and Environmental Enhancement.

Here is a summary of progress so far:

  • August 2019 – Goldsmiths commits to being carbon neutral by 2025
  • September 2019 – All beef products removed from sale in campus outlets. Cafeteria in PSH switches to offering vegetarian meals.
  • September 2019 – 10p levy introduced on bottled water and single use plastic cups on campus as proposed by the SU
  • November 2019 – Staff and student workstreams established to coordinate College’s response to climate emergency
  • December 2019 – Goldsmiths’ endowment fund divested from companies making more than 10% of their profits from the extraction of fossil fuels
  • February 2020 – GUCU and SU fight off threat from SMT and Comms to change name of GND. It is agreed that the College will acknowledge that the GND began as a student and staff campaign, include a timeline and improve communication through the Goldsmiths website
  • February 2020 – Environmental Enhancement co-chairs Selena Bolingbroke and Ros Gray liaise with St James Hatcham primary school to campaign for the removal of the Goldsmiths-owned car park that exacerbates children’s exposure to air pollution
  • February 2020 – Pigment and dye garden initiated by the Print and Dye workshop
  • March 2020 – Goldsmiths becomes a pick-up point for local affordable organic vegetable bag scheme run by Lewisham non-profit organisation Lee Greens
  • June 2020 – Initial Biodiversity audit delivered. It reveals that there is much that can be done to improve support for wildlife and increase sustainable and biodiverse planting, using green corridors to connect to local nature reserves and supporting species that are present on campus, such as hedgehogs. GUCU, Unison and GREG reps working together to push accessibility and participation
  • July 2020 – PLAN25 carbon reduction plan to be launched

Issues of concern looking forwards:

1.While there has been progress on a number of fronts with the GND over the last year, there is a real danger of some aspects such as embedding climate justice in curriculums being derailed through the drive to increase college income via the creation of more short courses, etc rather than genuine transformative work of centring on cultivating environmental responsibility, building understanding of environmental racism, and so on. Though parts of the GND involve minimal costs or even reductions in cost, we must remain vigilant that other key elements, such as better waste management and recycling, do not fall foul of drives to cut costs.

2.The College has a history of using the announcements of green policies as a greenwashing tactic, and we need to ensure that their commitments to carbon emission reduction are carried out and communicated in ways that are transparent, non-appropriative and effective in terms of accessibility and increasing participation.

3.We note that since the departure of Nicola Hogan, Goldsmiths has no Sustainability Officer. This has led to GUCU Environment Officers doing an excessive amount of work to make sure that services such as having Bike Doctor on campus and liaison between SU, the Allotment and other green activities are maintained. This is not a sustainable situation and we will continue to raise this issue as there seems to be a lack of understanding of the scope of the Sustainability Officer’s role, especially in terms of student outreach and participation.