The NUS Placements for Good scheme ran a pilot for the first time this year and we were privileged at The Bay Trust to be one of the few charities to offer environmental sustainability placements to university students. Placements for Good (PfG) provides students the opportunity to become global citizens through real-world transformational work experience.
It aims to support student employability and progress the social and environmental impact of the organisations they work for in response to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – ‘Global Goals’ for 2030 (SDGs). PfG has been created in response to the motion “Placements, Apprenticeships and Education for Good” passed by student delegates at the 2017 NUS conference.
Dan Searby was our first “for good” champion. He worked with our environmental sustainability advisor Dave Jones and our healthy buildings champion Kristian Bird on a two week sustainability project in The Pines Garden and Rippledown Environmental Education Centre at The Bay Trust.
In my internship with The Bay Trust, I mainly focused on the re-use and recycling of old materials into new and useful purposes around the gardens. One of the most satisfying aspects of this experience was the construction of a pair of gates that will act as the main entrance to the yurt area of the gardens.
The wood used to make the frame of the gates itself comes from an old jetty and had been submerged under water for over 100 years, whereas the interlocking pieces were made from a leylandii tree that was being cut down that would have otherwise been wasted. Another similar project was the construction of ‘dead hedging’ from pieces of old unused dead wood.
One of the most interesting aspects of these types of projects is that you start to gain an appreciation for the way in which almost all materials found around us can be used in new and interesting ways, and conversely how much of the objects in our environment that would commonly be viewed as simply waste products or beyond their usefulness can still provide value.
…it allows us to more directly connect with our natural surroundings
This also illuminates a key aspect not only of what recycling can do to benefit a larger organisation but also a more general insight into daily life; recycling does not have to only be for the more obvious household items which we would usually associate it with, but rather can extend to almost any waste product imaginable, and this is a mindset which I am actively trying to incorporate into my everyday life and which I think everybody could benefit from (not to mention the obvious environmental benefits of this mindset).
An aspect of recycling that my mentor Dave was especially passionate about is that it allows us to more directly connect with our natural surroundings, and to appreciate the system that allow us to live and thrive on our planet.
…there’s no waste in nature
It is common wisdom that ‘there’s no waste in nature’ and this is something that was made especially prescient to me when working in the gardens and seeing the numerous ways in which natural processes are used to aid many aspects of agriculture such as in the production of ‘Biochar’ which is created by heating waste biomass into a charcoal substance which can then be used as a mineral rich soil substitute that can be used to encourage plant growth. Biochar can also be used as a ‘carbon sink’ by which carbon dioxide can be safely stored within the ground rather than being released into the atmosphere.
At a time when we are being made increasingly aware of how unbalanced and exploitative our relationship with nature is, it is more important than ever that we make use of such pragmatic and symbiotic solutions.