Students aim for a sustainable future

This year, we attended the Australian Student Environment Network Training Camp at Caloola Farm, in the Australian Capital Territory. This is an annual event put on by the network of student environment collectives comprising five days of information sessions, workshops, skill-shares and planning sessions for the coming year. The aim of the camp is to build links between students throughout Australia and give them the skills and knowledge to run campaigns and events at their home universities.

Anna and ErinThe atmosphere of the camp is inspiring in itself – a five day hot-house of energetic, knowledgeable, committed and passionate individuals sharing stories of successes and ideas for future endeavours. The information sessions covered some of the biggest environmental issues facing Australia from climate change to the Kimberley Gas Hub and everything in between. Intersecting issues such as Indigenous land rights and welfare were also discussed.

The workshops were powerful lessons to provide the skills necessary to really make positive changes in the world. These covered everything from the beginnings of a collective, through encouraging involvement and maintaining momentum to successful event management, facilitating workshops, running campaigns and avoiding burn-out. Upon completing these classes we felt energised and capable of facing the challenges of environmental action and building environmental consciousness of the La Trobe community.

We were also able to work with a wide group of people developing plans for the Students of Sustainability Conference, to be held in July 2012 at La Trobe University’s Bendigo Campus. This is ASEN’s major annual event showcasing the skills and knowledge of student environmentalists and enabling the growth and development of future generations of environmentally aware citizens.

The Equality, Sustainability and Peace student group at La Trobe has big plans for 2012 with the general goal of creating a more sustainable university. We feel that as a university La Trobe has a duty to lead by example on environmental issues, particularly given that climate change is the biggest issue facing our generation today. La Trobe is in the privileged position of being able to promote change and foster an environmental consciousness both amongst the student and staff bodies. As such we would like to see widespread action on issues of waste on campus and La Trobe's energy consumption.

ESP will be continuing to support the Ban the Bottle campaign on campus, targeting the presence of bottled water, as well as looking at the use of disposable takeaway coffee cups and recycling and waste minimisation possibilities for students. An ongoing challenge is the lack of awareness amongst students as well as the ever-present issue of cost for those students wishing to change their behaviour. The University is well placed to provide information on these issues and to facilitate behavioural changes of students and staff by providing free or subsidised reusable water bottles and coffee cups.

ESP is keen to work with both the University and retailers on campus to encourage members of the La Trobe community to consider the wider impacts of their choices. We are also looking at longer term goals of working with the University to begin the transition to 100% renewable energy on all its campuses. This is clearly a necessary step for La Trobe to take in light of the growing threat of climate change as well as being an opportunity for the university to become a model for the future.

Overall, the ASEN Training Camp was an amazing experience and we will take the many lessons learned to further develop the Equality, Sustainability and Peace collective we are a part of at La Trobe Bundoora.

Anna Boddenberg and Erin Pelly

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