> Impact and benefits
As current President of the Melbourne University Surfriders club, and previous Secretary and General Member, Ruby has been making a concerted effort to introduce a culture of sustainability and environmental awareness and action in the clubs running. Alongside a 12-member committee, Ruby leads the approximately 350 member student club, with an alumni community of around 4,900 members. Since the beginning of her presidency in 2021, the club has introduced a sustainable camps policy, incorporating advice from the university sustainability team and their ‘Sustainable Events Guide’. The club runs seven weekend-long surf camps each year with approximately 70 participating students at each, and further social and educational events, and subsequently represents a valuable opportunity for student engagement and practice-changing. As part of this policy, the club participates in the ‘Choose to Reuse’ plate program for each of its meals provided on camps, utilising borrowable ceramic crockery and cutlery as opposed to the previous practice of single-use plastic disposable crockery, and bringing portable food waste bins on camps to capture food waste, which is then transported back to the university’s Parkville campus to create compost for the university gardens. Using ceramic crockery will this year alone allow the club to divert 5,040 single-use items from landfill. Similarly, all food provided at club events is now Vegetarian, in line with goals of lowering carbon emissions for the club. Further, the club has appointed its inaugural Sustainability Officer to the committee, which in future will now be a permanent addition to the committee roles. This enshrines sustainability as a facet of all club activities, and creates a level of responsibility as a club to follow through on the club’s sustainability goals and commitments. This year the club is also participating in the university’s Green Impact program for the first time and was their first student club in Green Impact to participate, through which the club completes tangible sustainability actions from a tasks toolkit, including for example recognition and acknowledgement of country at each event the club runs. Importantly, as a surf club that is reliant on outdoor environments to run, Ruby recognises the inherent importance of natural landscapes to sport, recreation, and mental health. Under Ruby’s presidency, the club engages with local and state-level activist groups aiming to keep fossil fuel and gas development off of the Great Ocean Road and Eastern coastlines, in particular the Surfers for Climate and Surfriders Foundation groups. Through club forums, committee members share information around how surfers can become involved in environmental protection on their local coastlines, and participate in ‘paddle-outs’ for climate action. As part of the Fight for the Bight campaign, we provided free surfboard loans for any members who wanted to participate in paddle-outs for climate action.
As one of two coordinators of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Bike Cooperative since 2019, Ruby has supported and facilitated the provision of a free service to accessible to all University of Melbourne students, and creating sustainable behaviour-change in students. Focussed on supporting students to engage with bike-riding as a sustainable and affordable mode of transport in Melbourne the Bike Cooperative operates through the UMSU Environment Department as a physical space where tools and skills are provided to repair and maintain bikes. Since 2019 (though made challenging during Melbourne’s 2020 lockdowns), Ruby helps run monthly skills workshops for around 30 participants, focussing on topics such as ‘choosing a second-hand bike’, ‘common problem areas on bikes’, and ‘how to repair your bike at home’. Ruby also holds Bike Cooperative weekly ‘opening hours’ across two days, where students with bike issues are welcome to drop in with their bikes for an assessment, or to use the space and tools themselves. A bike mechanic was also engaged on a fortnightly basis to provide repairs and skill-workshops for students, where students were taught necessary skills to repair bikes at home, and keep bikes out of landfill. In collaboration with the sustainability team, the Bike Cooperative also runs a ride-to-uni day each year, with free sustainable and healthy breakfasts.
As a representative of the University of Melbourne at the 2020 Global University Climate Forum (run out of the Yale Office of Sustainability) in the ‘GreenerMe’ team, Ruby developed a conceptual five-star green rating tool aimed at providing a food sustainability measure for consumers in supermarkets, similar to Australia’s five-star health rating tool. In collaboration with academics and researchers from various University of Melbourne faculties, and support from sustainability officers and academics at Yale University and Harvard University, the team created a sustainable food guide for Union House food vendors, which was circulated to students. The team’s finished concept was submitted to the Global University Climate Forum, and will now be submitted in a publication to the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021. The GreenerMe team was the only completed project from an Australian university. Our future aims for the project include collaboration with the Union House Development on campus to include a sustainability rating on vending-machine food, and continuation of a social-media campaign aimed at behaviour change amongst university students.
As Head Non-Fiction Editor of Ablaze magazine, Ruby produced around 170 print copies of a fully funded, A5 print zine of 90 pages, including graphic work, art pieces, and fiction and non-fiction writing on issues of the climate crisis. The online magazine was accessed over 200 times. Similarly, her podcast episode on the Djab Wurrung Heritage Embassy was played on community radio station 3CR on the show Done By Law in early 2019. Through these processes, Ruby engaged with over 30 student writers on climate action, and hundreds of student-readers to inspire climate action.