> The initiative
The UQ Green Ambassador Program empowers students, supported by staff, to bring to life diverse sustainability ideas. It is a unique digital and real-world network, with a student council at its centre, that facilitates projects and provides resources to nurture as many different grassroots initiatives as possible. Staff contribute expertise and lend a guiding hand as requested; however, the Green Ambassador Program is run by students, for students. The program exists because students recognised the importance of sustainability action and advocacy to their own futures. Students stood up and said: we want to be part of the solution.
The Green Ambassador Program aims to embed sustainable thinking into every level of the UQ student community. It strives to ensure the leaders of tomorrow leave university with a solid understanding of sustainability principles, and the ability and ingenuity to apply those principles innovatively and impactfully – regardless of industry, sector or profession. The program encourages everyone interested in sustainability to become involved at their preferred level, whether that is nominating for one of six leadership positions on the Sustainability Council, volunteering at working bees or UQ events, or simply joining the 600+ followers the program has amassed on social media to observe and learn.
The program seeks to further the goals of the UQ Sustainability Strategy and improve sustainability performance using the STARS framework. With one of the council’s leadership roles dedicated to managing alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the program also works to increase general awareness of the SDGs. As part of the Green Ambassador Program, the student Sustainability Council has also become an advisory body to the UQ Sustainability office. The council are tasked with gathering and reporting on the priorities of their peers, formally giving students a voice in the University’s sustainability action plan. After just 18 months in operation, the Green Ambassador Program has implemented more than 10 new sustainability initiatives across the University and beyond. Having launched just months before the first COVID lockdown in 2020, the program impressively maintained momentum throughout even the strictest of restrictions.
Students committed to creating an online community that would offer support and connection during the pandemic, while achieving its goals of education and advocacy from the get-go. Initiatives implemented so far through the Green Ambassador Program include:
- online elections held for the inaugural student Sustainability Council (and ongoing leadership structure determined);
- student council meetings x 23 hosted by end-May 2021 – the first eight of which were held via Zoom;
- a virtual trivia night to educate participants around the UN SDGs;
- social media campaign to also educate on the SDGs;
- social media campaign ‘Wildlife Wednesdays’ to profile wildlife found on UQ campuses (including competitions for student-contributed photos);
- online Pictionary event as part of UQ Sustainability Week 2020;
- the first ever UQ Environment Forum for students, hosted online with a keynote address from UQ academic Dr Nina Lansbury Hall + guest speakers from the UQ Sustainability office;
- in-person movie night in the UQ Great Court, showing the environmental documentary, 2040;
- coordinated community volunteering activity with local bush care group, weeding and planting;
- implemented a new recycling station on campus for staff and students to drop off their ‘difficult recyclables’ such as laptops, phones, batteries and more; and
- organised volunteers to assist with international student tours of UQ’s flagship Warwick Solar Farm. This initiative was partly about energy education and partly about providing outreach to UQ’s international students who were ‘stuck’ here in Australia without their families when COVID first struck.
The breadth and depth of all the initiatives completed even in the first year demonstrate the power and potential of the student-led Green Ambassador Program, which continues to go from strength to strength in the second half of 2021. Read the 2020 program summary. Read about the program’s inception in 2019.
To see the depth and diversity of the program, and to truly appreciate its potential for wider societal impact, please do visit the Green Ambassador Program Facebook page, which is a lively and active online community that any member of the public can join here.