A page for staff and student reflections on our work to ensure that Education for Sustainability is at the heart of Anglia Ruskin University.

Making Connections: Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) conference

Victoria introducing delegates to the conference

On 24 January 2018, Primary Education Studies students from Anglia Ruskin University, PGCE students from Cambridge University, and local primary school teachers came together for a day of learning around how to embed ESE into learning and teaching. Alongisde the education students, we were also joined by two students from the Children's Book Illustration Masters course who captured the keynotes and workshops through a series of wonderful illustrations. Hannah, one of the illustrators, shares some of her thoughts about the day.

Farah and I recorded the Making Connections conference through live drawing, using inks and watercolour. We sat in on the keynote speaker sessions and observed different workshops which were happening simultaneously, using line and colour to capture the main ideas and liveliness of the< event.

A picture of socks during the drama workshop

From an illustrator’s point of view, sketching at a conference can add an extra dimension to how the day is remembered.  When drawing live, you watch people’s facial expressions, noticing where there is enthusiasm, deep concentration and when they are challenged by new ideas. Colour and tone can express different moods. Visual details, such as people taking off their shoes and revealing their stripy socks in the drama workshop, show the human side of attending a conference.

The programme integrated theory and action, from Richard Dunne sharing how sustainability had become part of daily school life in Ashley Church of England Primary School, to taking a silent walk with Dr Elsa Lee to Mill Road cemetery, and thinking about how to encourage school children to engage with their local area. Walking along the busy pavement, we noticed moss and other small plants growing between the cracks.  The drama workshop with Dr Joel Chalfen included active group exercises, such as body sculpting to make shapes as a basis for further conversation on sustainability-related themes.

Illustration of an artist illustrating the conference

A core idea which threaded throughout the day was that sustainability is in harmony with education as a whole, across subject areas. An example of the fields of art, creative writing and sustainability education working together was a beautiful book of paintings and poems presented by Dr Robert Macfarlane, which he created in collaboration with the artist Jackie Morris. The Lost Words: A Spell Book (2017) immerses children and adults in the magic of the natural world.

I enjoyed drawing alongside Farah to capture our angles on the day, and the conference gave me insights into how illustration can contribute to the field of sustainability education.

Hannah Moshtael, illustrator and graduate of the MA in Children’s Book Illustration
Website: Instagram: @hannahmoshtael

Being a Young Change Maker 

Social Science research presenting his ideas

On 8 November 2017, the Education for Sustainability team invited young people from across Cambridgeshire to Anglia Ruskin's Cambridge campus to explore how they could go about changing the world. Our student intern, Hollie, reflects on the experience.

Greeting our guests at 9am, it was great to see excited pupils (and teachers too!) from local schools across Cambridgeshire wanting to learn about sustainability. In the morning, leading social science researchers from the Global Sustainability Institute introduced the concept of being a ‘Young Change Maker’ through a series of short talks. Their presentations on sustainability within the economy, society, and the environment hoped to inspire the students to develop their existing knowledge on these issues, and learn more about them.

Whilst the students were in the seminars, I had the wonderful chance to meet the representatives from local organisations and help them set up their stalls for the lunch time fair. These organisations specialised in different areas of sustainability within the community. When talking to the representatives, they expressed how excited they were to meet the students. For them, this was an opportunity to capture the students’ interests in sustainability, to encourage their learning and to share with them some of the local initiatives taking place. Whilst helping the students navigate around the university, I also had the opportunity to take part in a few activities on the stalls and talk to the representatives. This was a valuable experience for me as I was able to develop my networking skills, meet like-minded people and learn about how local organisations are trying to push for a sustainable future.  

Young people choosing their 'global issues'

Another enjoyable aspect of the day was working with the other volunteers. Despite being from different undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the students helping at the event shared one common interest of wanting to learn more about sustainable development.  We talked about areas of sustainability that particularly interested us and what we have done to support these interests. From talking to the representatives and the volunteers, I was given lots of ideas about courses I could go on, books to read, possible ideas about dissertation projects, event invitations and even career advice.

Young people working together in different discussion groups

Towards the end of the day, SEEd Executive Chair, Ann Finlayson, encouraged the students to get together in groups to look at a global problem. Each group focused on a different issue of their choice to resolve. By giving students from different schools the chance to work together, they learnt how to effectively collaborate their ideas and present their solutions to the rest of the attendees. The group I was working with started to think about how they could implement changes around their school. They proposed that they could reduce the school’s volume of waste by recycling more and setting up a book bank to donate unwanted books to schools in less developed countries. The task was extremely useful for the students as they could apply the information they had learned through the guest speakers and from the representatives to real life concerns.  This was my favourite part of the day because I really enjoyed helping the students and seeing their enthusiasm. 

Overall, it was great to see a mix of generations all talking about global concerns and how we can work together to combat these challenges. The day highlighted the importance of incorporating sustainability within our education to create a more innovative sustainable society.

Hollie Hawkins, Law LLB (Hons), 2nd Year

GSI go to Freshers' Fair

The GSI’s Institute Manager, Felicity, and I went along to the Freshers' Fairs in Cambridge and Chelmsford this year.

We went to tell all the new students about all the exciting things happening at ARU, like Responsible Futures accreditation, lunchtime seminars, paid internships, The Green Pitch, and the University’s Sustainability Strategy. At our stalls, we also held a competition. We asked students different questions and they were entered into our prize draw. The winners, which were selected at random, won a £10 voucher for a local independent café in their local city: Hot Numbers in Cambridge and… in Chelmsford. We were very impressed by how much the students knew. The vast majority of those who filled in the survey got the answer right.

These were the questions:

By Grace Philip, October 2016

Ava Heinonen: My internship at the GSI

For 11 weeks, the GSI hosted two paid student interns to help with our research and comms work in EfS. Ava was one of the them, based in Cambridge. Here's what she had to say about it...

Coming to the end of my second year at uni, I wanted to find a job or an internship where I could put the skills I learned to some use. I was quite lucky that the same week I decided I needed a job, I wandered to Coslett and picked up a leaflet about internships at the Global Sustainability Institute. I read it trough, found it interesting and knocked on the door of the GSI office to ask if I could still apply. That same night, I applied, got an interview and here I am, 11 weeks later finishing up my research and communications internship at the Global Sustainability Institute.

My first major task was to do a pilot study about whether certain areas of Education for Sustainability are present in my courses’ curriculum. That was a few weeks of reading trough every single module guide of every module offered for Computer Science students trying to find out whether sustainability or skills for sustainability are incorporated into the module curriculum, and writing a report of my findings to the GSI staff.

I was also involved in the Responsible Futures Survey, which has been promoted throughout the University for the past several weeks. I did some promoting online, but it was mainly face to face asking students to fill in the survey. A surprise finding of the study was that students are more willing to fill in a survey if you offer them cake than if you do not! Reading student responses and analysing the data from the survey for has probably been my favourite part of the internship. We got responses from each of the University’s campuses from students studying over 90 different courses, so it has been interesting to see how we all see sustainability, and which issues we see relevant to our life and our degree of study.

The survey results are going to be presented to NUS, and knowing the information I am gathering may well be part of a published study at some point made it feel worthwhile. It would have been great to be able to dig deeper into the survey data, but unfortunately my time here at GSI is coming to an end so that’s a job for someone else. Last week I worked on researching articles for background reading for the report, part of which the survey results are going to be. It has been interesting to read about Education for Sustainability and engaging young people to sustainability. I wouldn’t read these articles as a part of my course, so it’s been a whole new world of information for me.

Going into my 3rd year next September means it’s soon dissertation time, and having now done the process of getting survey participants and analysing survey responses, that part of my dissertation is going to be easier. I feel I am also more equipped to write academic papers for different audiences, and on finding and analysing information. Also weeks of going up to students with surveys have definitely given my communication skills a boost.   

By Ava Heinonen, May 2016

How to change the world: Campaign skills training

Wednesday, 13 April 2016 from 1-3pm, LAB 027, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Open to all students - Staff are more than welcome to join as well although places are limited.

Following the success of our workshop last year, How to change the world: Presenting to influence, we decided to run a similar event. This time we're learning how to campaign effectively from expert, Fanny Calder. Sign up here.


  • Use real-life case study to understand what makes a successful campaign
  • Learn the importance of an effective strategy and how to create one
  • Understand how to influence different audiences, including elites like government and big business
  • Gain transferable skills by learning key tips and tricks of the trade e.g. creating memes, social media, use of popular culture, direct action etc...

Fanny Calder - A two hour workshop with Fanny Calder, a campaigner with extensive and unique experience delivering high profile and successful campaigns. Currently she is Campaign Director at Artists Against TTIP and The Future, and she is Co-director of Media Climate Leaders Initiative. She has previously worked as a freelance campaigner, and has worked as a Director for the Global Cool Foundation and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Her CV is available online.

Following the event, all attendees will be given a certificate to mark their training.

What sustainability means to me

In March, the EfS team welcomed Kazia Martin for work experience. Here's what she thinks about the word, 'sustainability.'

In geography, when we learn about sustainability, we learn about sustainable rainforests and deforestation – and how the word sustainable means to maintain something or someplace. At the moment, we are being taught about deforestation in the Amazonian Rainforest and the impacts that we face in consequence. Such as most of the Yanomami tribes who are being forced to flee and make contact with the world outside of their community’s. This is because loggers or local farmers are chopping down trees for supplies, and are invading their traditions. By doing this, we are not respecting their rights and not protecting the rainforest from mostly illegal actions which are destroying the Amazonian Rainforest.

We also touch on other aspects of sustainability, for example, we look at the different statuses in society and how that can affect your privileges and the importance of global partnership; different countries helping and trading provisions with each other. However, when learning this subject, I noticed that the HIC’s take advantage of the LIC’s because they pay the workers, who make the items, too little; which is not enough to feed their families - I feel that this isn’t fair. The bigger companies gain profit while people in less fortunate countries suffer.

For me, sustainability is about promoting a peaceful and all-round safe society and ensuring equality. It’s also about making sure one day we will have culturally diverse communities and to establish economic justice so we can make settlements that are resilient and sustainable. And by looking at the examples above, we still have a long way to go until we have succeeded.

By Kazia Martin, March 2016

Responsible Future

Anglia Ruskin is on track to achieve Responsible Futures accreditation

Responsible Futures logo

The National Union of Students (NUS) is working with universities around the country to embed sustainability into the curriculum of every student in education today through a new accreditation scheme: Responsible Futures.

The scheme involves students examining what their university is doing and awarding them if they see enough evidence that students are being prepared for the emerging low carbon economy and that they are being given the tools to become effective change agents for a better future.

Anglia Ruskin’s Education for Sustainability (EfS) Team have partnered up with the Students’ Union to sign up for this scheme and together we are working to achieve this accreditation.

There is a workbook of criteria which the SU and EfS team are currently working through and at the beginning of the next academic year (2016-17) we will be looking for volunteer student auditors who will be trained by NUS to verify the workbook.

We are confident that we will be successful in gaining our accreditation, for we can already tick off a many of the requirements, for example we have already:

  • conducted an Institute-wide audit of courses – read the reports here
  • created a communications strategy to keep everyone up to date with news and events – follow EfS on Twitter or take a look at the Global Sustainability Institute’s magazine
  • provided funding through our ‘Be the Change’ grant scheme where we give away 3x £1000 a year to fund sustainability in curriculum – find out more and read reports from last year here

Please let us know if you would like to help, either by gathering evidence for our workbook or as a student auditor.

Student experience of sustainability

As part of our Responsible Futures accreditation and also as part of a research project within the Global Sustainability Institute, the EfS team and Students’ Union will soon be undertaking a student survey, questioning the attitudes and experiences of sustainability in the curriculum of our students in Cambridge and Chelmsford.

Communicating and researching sustainability

Sustainability is a complex thing and difficult to understand and communicate effectively. We want to get the message out about what it means and what people can do, through actions, events, posters, social media and other means. If you would like develop your research and communication skills in a fun and productive way, get in touch. We even have some paid internships for some of this work. To find out more and apply, visit the University's Employment Bureau. Alternatively,  contact us directly.

By Grace Philip, February 2016

WHOLE EARTH?: You can’t have missed it

Whole Earth photography exhibition on display in Parkers Piece, Cambridge

The Education for Sustainability team joined forces with the University of Cambridge Environment and Energy Section to bring WHOLE EARTH? photography exhibition to Cambridge.

WHOLE EARTH? is all about the idea that students and universities can help build a society that works for a sustainable  future.

If you walked through Parkers Piece between the 5-16 October, you can’t have missed it - the 60m long display was near the path, catching the constant foot traffic between the town centre and our University.

Students from both universities were asked to use social media to share their thoughts on the iconic images. The Global Sustainability Institute worked with the exhibition’s creators so that these reactions from across the world are captured using #StudentEarth. These comments will be analysed by a PhD student from our University and presented to world leaders later ahead of the international climate negotiations taking place in Paris later this year.

WHOLE EARTH? was launched with a special edition of the GSI Seminar Series. Students from both our University and the University of Cambridge came along to take part in the Question Time style event which asked "How can you change the world?"  Speaking during the key note speech, Mark Edwards explained that “we face new challenges and old challenges on a new scale.” He also called for a new revolution, adding that “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen at universities.” Edwards is challenging students to think about the future they want and to act on it. The exhibition itself talks about the different roles students and young people can play, no matter what they study.

The panel included Mark Edwards, the renowned photographer behind the exhibition, Joan Wally, the former MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee, and Dr Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute. The event was compered by Sammi Whitaker, ARU Students’ Union President, and Quinn Runkle, Senior Project Officer for NUS’ department for sustainability.

The Cambridge exhibition was just one of several international launches in partnership with the National Union of Students. Universities around the country as well as in Scandinavia and Australia also hosted WHOLE EARTH?

By Grace Philip, October 2015

Action for sustainability: best of all worlds

Do things have to get bad before they get better?

Grasping the concept of sustainability doesn’t require that much imagination. Looking back, it has been a key concern for our ancestors and many of us will be practising some aspect of it or seeing it in action around us on a daily basis, without giving it a second thought. But in many ways, we are moving in the wrong direction.

First up: what does ‘sustainability’ even mean?

There are lots of definitions thrown around, but it boils down to living within the earth’s limits, safeguarding it for future generations and ensuring the safe existence of the other species we share the world with. The concept inspires us to rethink the way we do things, especially our economic pursuits, which are recognised to be the main cause of many social and environmental problems – just look at the amount of dirty pollution caused by clothes factories and the conditions some workers endure. On top of that, sustainability also encourages respecting cultural diversity, calling for a fair and just world for all.

Actions for sustainability can be found everywhere

For instance, before the major shift to mains water, rainwater harvesting (RWH) was used as far back as the second century AD in the Western world, and is common practice in developing countries, particularly rural areas of Africa and Asia. However, this use of RWH is slowly eroding in underdeveloped countries as they are keenly moving on to mains water – this would not be such a big problem if it weren’t for the water wastage in the system due to escalating demands and resulting water scarcity. As water stress is becoming a major global issue – one-third of the world is impacted by a lack of water –  countries are being encouraged to actively promote RWH for both agricultural purposes and household usage.

Another example of this unsustainable path which Western countries are keen to address is the move from walking or cycling to other means of carbon-heavy transport, such as cars. As carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere the pressure on Western governments, such as the UK's, to cut emissions mounts. They are, in many ways, encouraging citizens to revert back to walking/cycling – you don’t have to travel far to find a bicycle lane through a busy city centre. However, as livelihoods begin to improve in developing countries, most are eager to show off their new wealth by owning cars, whereas for centuries previously walking and cycling had been the major means of transportation.

Far from saying that developing countries shouldn’t invest in clean water and transport, these examples beg us to question: must things go so badly wrong before we learn the importance of some of our existing approaches to sustaining the Earth? Is it not time to take a step back and celebrate those sustainable local practices that don’t need changing in the first place? Surely the answer is to start working together and learn lessons from each other – that way, we will get (and keep) the best of all worlds.

Please share yours or any sustainable actions and practices from around the world which should be preserved.

By Obehi Frances Sule, August 2015

Five steps to a sustainable self

We know that if we want a world that is safe, fair and long-lasting, we need to become sustainable – that is, we need to be the change that we want to see. Only then will we have the power to resist the problems of a future world, whatever that may look like.

1. Be hopeful

Try not to don't get bogged down in cynicism. Yes, there is doom-and-gloom, but things are already starting to change: politicians are agreeing on sustainable development goals and big businesses are under pressure to take responsibility for communities and the environment. Things can change, because they have already started to.

2. Do stuff

What you do adds up to make a difference. Whether it's turning off the lightchoosing Fairtrade chocolate or riding your bike, what you do with your time and money can contribute to a better society, a safer environment and a stronger economy.

3. Get at 'them'

The role of those in power is clear: do the right thing. Our job is to 'get at' governments and companies and demand they change with us. Sign petitionsjoin societies or tweet politicians; challenge the powerful to safeguard your future.

4. Learn about you

Nobody is an island. What you do in Cambridge has an impact elsewhere. What you wear, what you eat and the technology you use are all examples of how trade and consumption connects us all. So take the time to learn about your life in a global system, then consider the kind of impact that you want to have and gain the skills to help you get there.

5. Have fun

Don't think that sustainability is about what you can and can't do. It is about enjoying life while also thinking ahead, so that you can continue to enjoy it in the future. The world is full of rich cultures and experiences to embrace – let's have fun with them and, of course, keep them.

There you have it – you can 'bee' the change. But, if you only do one thing, make sure it's to remember: the environment is only one part of it. Sustainability is about creating the world that works for you, others and the future.

By Grace Philip, April 2015

Things you can do now