Halls of Residence
GSA Sustainability Fund 2016-17 awarded for Res Life Sustainability activities Dawn Worsley
The Res Life team were delighted to be awarded £800 of GSA Sustainability Fund money towards developing events and raising awareness of sustainability concerns within GSA’s halls of residence: Blythswood House and Margaret Macdonald House. Res Life events are an initiative to improve student welfare in halls of residence following concerns of social isolation that (amidst other factors including financial worries) may lead to anxiety and depression. For Res Life, sustainability is holistic and perennial, considering environmental and social impacts upon both the wider community, the student community and upon the individual, exploring how consumption and wastefulness can be reduced and how imagination and thriftiness can be exploited in both creative practices and day to day decisions. Through these activities, Res Life hopes to encourage a happier, greener living environment in GSA halls of residence.
Res Life Sustainability Activities
The GSA Sustainability Fund award enabled Res Life to plan thematic activities for each of the three terms in year 2016-17. Some of the Senior Residents involved in Res Life Sustainability are studying Textiles at GSA, so Textiles was decided upon as the theme for Term 1.
In September, we organised a ‘Thrift Trail’ from the centre of Glasgow, through Partick, into the West End, up Byres Road and back towards the centre along the Great Western Road, visiting charity shops and vintage shops along the route. This was a very popular walk with between fifteen and twenty participants joining us at various points along the route.
We also organised two-part textile workshops, making small baskets from recycled tee shirts and pom-pom rugs from reclaimed wool. Whilst equipment was purchased with the award, materials were sourced from unwanted clothing left by students from the previous academic year and participants’ own contributions. Participation was very good with up to ten students taking part per session.
A field trip was organised in November to visit Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC) at Polmadie, a new venture run by private company Viridor. Despite a number of interested enquiries, the turnout was disappointing with a total of four students participating. The problem seemed to be that a talk was only available during the week when students had studio practice or lectures.
However, the visit itself was interesting, informative and inspiring, with an excellent reception and talk given by Karen Peer, Viridor’s Community Benefits Officer. Construction of centre was still ongoing at the time of the visitation and we were unable to have a tour of the facilities, but another visit when the facilities are up and running at a more fitting time would be beneficial to students interested in ‘Reuse, Recycle, Reduce’ practices
Res Life Sustainability’s theme for Term 2 was to be Food. We had already explored thrifty food buying, preparation and presentation in Term 1 (but not under GSA Sustainability funding), and with additional money felt we could offer more experimental sustainability food events. However, Res Life discovered that participation in all Res Life events were vastly reduced compared to Term 1. Students had by now cemented their friendship groups and established social habits, so it seemed the planned activities were not quite right at this time. We also had difficulty recruiting Senior Residents willing to lead on events, as they too were experiencing an increase in school workload.
We were contacted by a group of fourth year photography students who were planning a field trip to Whitelee Windfarm, the UK’s largest windfarm on the outskirts of Glasgow. Because we had a surplus of funding for Term 2, we gave the group access to the funds to finance their field trip. We also supported their planning by allowing access to the documentation we had devised for our trip to GRREC, including risk assessments, required by GSA when planning field trips.
We foresee that Term 3 may also develop its own pattern, when students may reduce their social activities as they focus on assignments, assessments, interim shows and degree shows.
We selected a seasonal and lead-on theme, Growing, for Term 3. Gardening is recognised to be therapeutic. Anxiety over end of year assessments is high in Term 3. We feel that relaxing yet productive activities such as growing vegetables and herbs, and possibly growing plants used in textiles, such as dyeing and fibre-making, would be welcomed by students.
We are looking to find a location or area where students may sow and tend to the plants, and when mature, may use them to produce meals or create artwork.
Future Planning Strategies
We discovered that Term 1 is the optimum time for providing activities for newly arrived students, offering opportunities for students to socialise, to develop friendship groups and familiarise themselves with the city. By Term 2, there was a reduction in Res Life activities participation. Participation patterns for Term 3 is as yet unknown, but from our own experiences as students, we are aware that Term 3 is when attentions are directed towards study and can be a stressful time.
Additionally, GSA is about to semesterise the academic year. If Res Life is to persevere with and plan effective events aiming for a satisfactory attendance, we recommend that assessment periods should be factored into planning.
Recommendations for planning future Res Life sustainability activities include (1) developing activities that have a durational shelf life, activities that students will wish to attend throughout the year and indeed throughout the duration of their studies. However, GSA has a number of established societies and it is counterproductive to develop competing events. (2) Develop holistic activities that reflect the changing needs of students throughout the year e.g. opportunities for making new friends and wayfinding around Glasgow in Semester 1, a more therapeutic emphasis in Semester 2 when students are offered activities that encourage students to reflect upon their practice and enable a healthy work-life balance. This may also mean planning activities for optimum times of the year i.e. early on in the academic calendar and avoiding events during assessment periods.
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