The Saint’s Andreea Nemes sat down with Hanna Plant, the University’s Sustainability Officer. Plant graduated last year with a degree in Sustainable Development and now works for the University’s Environment Team. On Wednesday, 26 March her work as Sustainability Officer was recognised when she was awarded 6th place on the Young Scottish Green List.
AN: First of all, congratulations! Tell me about the Young Scottish Green List.
HP: Thank you! The Young Scottish Green List is an initiative run by the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland (as one of their final projects before devolution next month) and sponsored by organisations such as People & Planet, Forum for the Future, Young Scot, Stop Climate Chaos and NUS. This initiative follows on from the Scottish Greens List featuring established leaders in the field such as Dr. Jan Bebbington and Dr. Rehema White, both professors of the SD degree in St Andrews. The Young Scottish Greens list consists of a list of young people between the age of 11 and 25, recognising exemplary leadership for the environment and sustainability in Scotland.
AN: What have you been working on as Sustainability Officer?
HP: I’ve been working on strengthening the sustainability agenda in the University and focusing on outreach and engagement with staff and students to produce positive behaviour change. I also worked on the first ever University of St Andrews Guide to Sustainability. I’ve been trying to strengthen the sustainable food agenda in St Andrews, running courses such as Carbon Conversations and ensuring the involvement of St Andrews in local and national sustainability networks.
AN: What role do you think sustainability has in the context of the University?
HP: The University of St Andrews is a unique and challenging environment for promoting and enhancing action and initiative for sustainable development. The growing success and presence of the Sustainable Development degree course has attracted a lot of attention to St Andrews but the interest and awareness of the wider student and staff community appears to be less than one would anticipate. In a context of so many different cultures and nationalities, this will always be a challenge but one I hope the role of Sustainability Officer will be able to remedy!
The trick is to tap into what is important to students and get people understanding what is at stake. At the end of the day the concept of sustainability is about ‘sustaining’ our level of enjoyment and appreciation of life, whilst leaving a world in which our future generations can do the same. With this in mind, I think the most important step any student can make for the sustainability movement is to start understanding the systems and processes which go behind establishing and maintaining life in St Andrews.
AN: What do you think is the future of the role of Sustainability Officer?
HP: I hope the role of sustainability officer will continue to support students in environmental and sustainability related initiatives whilst also ensuring attention and action from the University governance and staff. It is important the sustainability movement be well networked, holistic and shared. Otherwise- what community are we working to protect?
The future of the University of St Andrews in the current economic and environmental climate is somewhat uncertain but I hope through the continuous education and empowerment of students on these issues, the agenda will continue to grow, and action continue to be positive. Other forces may suggest otherwise, but- for fear of sounding utterly clichéd- the future is in our hands! In times of hardship which are most likely to come, a shared community consciousness is vital.
AN: What’s next for you in you?
HP: I’m currently working on projects such as the Kenly wind farm project, where we’re establishing six wind turbines outside St Andrews, the Carbon Management Programme, the Sustainable Travel Plan and possibly a new Biomass energy centre at Guardbridge!