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Transition Scotland Support Case Study Series: Number 05 March 2011

Transition Edinburgh University (TEU) TEU IN FOCUS Kind of place: University faculty and students involved. Where is it?: Edinburgh City Population: 36,000 Involvement with Transition: Official Transition Initiative (Registered with Transition Network) Funding: Climate Challenge Funded until March 2011 Where do I find out more?:

WHAT does transition look like at a University? The Transition group at Edinburgh University are funded and have several members of staff. They also employ a raft of interns to do various pieces of work, and work with volunteers to support them and help to spread the word. Transition Edinburgh University aim to engage both staff and students as well as the range of people who pass through the University on a daily basis. The population of the University is huge - 36, 000 people - but is also transitory. People finish their courses

and often move on to other places. This could result in a loss of momentum, but as far as Transition is concerned, this can be a good thing. Many of the people who are attending the University are living away from home for the first time, and contact with TEU can help them to develop habits that they will take on into the rest of their lives.

each year by involving staff. TEU run projects to look at energy, food and transport, as well as involving research and attempting to build on the particular nuances of being within a University.

The project has had initiatives that worked with people who were in University accommodation as well as The transitory nature of a those who rented outwith, to university setting also means try and support them to learn that the process of transition to live in an energy efficient here is a continual one, with new people becoming involved way. each semester. The hope is that by engaging the research potential of the However, TEU have also university population, that spent a good portion of their Transition can become a better time involving the permanent understood and more well population of 10,000 or so known phenomenon, and that academic and support staff. by touching those who work Their increasing engagement with staff has paid off in many there and who pass through, it can find its way into even ways and the message will be more everyday lives. spread by many more people

CARBON CONVERSATIONS PRACTICAL outcomes: 64 voluntary course facilitators trained (15 from other communities around Scotland).167 people from the University participate in the course. A quarter of participants have been staff members, many of whom have gone on to facilitate group action on environmental issues within their departments and schools or buildings as a result of their experience. We are also running internal groups within departments so that groups of managerial staff etc can do the course together - this is proving very effective at leaving a legacy in that area of the University community.

ENGAGING SUPPORT THE course is quite a commitment and is the deepest programme we have tried in terms of time commitment and personal engagement - both for volunteer facilitators and course participants. We’d be keen in the future to look at condensing the course.


conversation in their communities.

Carbon Conversations was developed by Cambridge Carbon Footprint. It consists of 6 inspiring, practical meetings on low-carbon living, supported by facilitators.

On an individual level, the average planned reduction in personal carbon footprints in the year following the course has been 3.15 tonnes, with larger reductions planned for a 4-5 year period.

The course itself is valued for its process and outcomes, and almost everyone involved in it recognises that its fundamental approach has long been missing from community action on environmental and social challenges. ‘If we are to expect people to change their lifestyles we must together facilitate conversations about how those changes interact with where we’re already at... our aspirations, identities, social status, personal needs etc. People from many different backgrounds take inspiration from the course towards starting meaningful

The course focuses on action planning towards more sustainable lifestyles. It is true that around 75% of those taking the course are pretty ‘green’ minded already, but most of us that believe in climate change and peak everything still have far to go when it comes to personal lifestyle choices. CCs provide an important space for ‘positive greens’ to continue with significant lifestyle change, as well as engaging people who are less certain of the need for lifestyle change altogether.’ Rosie Sullivan, Peer Learning and Food Projects

In-depth facilitator and support training are vital, so that facilitators can run high quality, effective courses. However, we’d like to move away form a centralised process to a communityled process in the future to ensure the programme remains sustainable.

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TEU don’t just engage with Edinburgh University. They have also been working with the University of St. Andrews, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh Napier University, and the University of Aberdeen.

TEU attempt to work at all levels of the University population, from staff to students. Transition Edinburgh University works in a way that means that anyone can get involved. They believe that everyone has a part to play, and everyone’s opinion is valued. ‘Our most significant learning to date is the importance of face-to-face communication, and of rigid and thorough data collection. Every community is different, so we will always need to test the best ways to engage with them, but we definitely can’t sit back in our office and hope that people will come to us. The communication of behaviour change must be personal, proactive and accounted for.’ Joe Farthing, Communication and Engagement RESEARCH Being part of an academic institution gives TEU a

slightly different flavour to other transition groups. TEU have tried hard to ensure that they are actively working with the possibililties for research through the University. They have a section of their website that is dedicated to suggestions for dissertations and research projects. This involves both topics ranging from climate change to behaviour change. TEU held research evenings for people to come together, share their research and listen to others. They were a good way of including people and involving them in thinking about what a University with sustainability principles and transition aims had to offer one another. How has this worked? ‘It can be difficult to get people interested at first. It’s a bit of a step change for students and staff to take on the transition model, but as time goes on and the ideas become more embedded, it

The TEU team presented their ideas at the Transiton Scotland Conference in 2010, and also at the Shared Planet conference. Their report ‘Footprints and Handprints’ was covered in the Guardian and can be found here on the TEU website (address on the first page) TEU also organised a “Grassroots Climate Exchange”during March 2011 at the University of Edinburgh.

BIG GREEN MAKEOVER THE Big Green Makeover is designed to give both staff and students the skills and knowledge they need to make their homes and halls warmer and more energy efficient places to live. TEU offer visits from trained volunteers (who bring pizza) to discuss individual needs. Energy advice is also offered at stalls and workshops throughout campus to provide people with the tools to do it themselves.

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THIS project has focussed on cutting the footprint of one of the main halls of residence at Edinburgh University.

THE food fellowship pledge allows people to make pledges about their own positive changes. It also provides a series of linked workshops to teach food skills such as preservation and bread making. The pledge is backed up with a weekly newsletter containing hints, tips and seasonal recipes to make things easier.

Over 2000 students live here every year, and they are encouraged to be aware of their energy use. Fruit and nut trees for the main catering kitchens have been planted in the grounds. At the end of each term students are encouraged gather up their unwanted clothes and books for new students and homeless charities.

How many pledges do you have and what’s worked best? ‘We’ve got 300 food fellowship pledge sign-ups - 90% of these people signed-up at our food skills events and veg bag stall. We’ve found lots of people care about the environmental impact of food, about food

security, and health. However, as ‘sustainable food’ is such a diverse topic, most people don’t have access to a central point of local information on relevant events and opportunities. The newsletter has been successful in letting people know whats going on and we’ve had a lot of follow up attendance from pledgers. Each person pledges to change their food choices so to reduce their carbon footprint by around 1 tonne. The increased participation in food activities and events has been a good indication that people are engaging with these choices. We have a great active working group of around 15 key volunteers and together with these people engage a wider group of 40-50 people on a regular basis in running our veg bag stalls, outreaching, making a film with first year students on food waste and working with university procurement. We’ve found overall that a participatory approach to developing solutions to the food issue is the best way to reach lots of people and to build a movement on campus. The food working group will continue to develop the veg bag scheme next year and have secured a space to develop a central, student-led ‘food hub’ to house a diverse food coop, and to support other food activities.’ Rosie Sullivan, Peer Learning and Food

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Case Study TEU  

Transition Edinburgh University's case study

Case Study TEU  

Transition Edinburgh University's case study