Jana Green is our Centre Administrator, working alongside Deborah Beck to make sure the Grantham Centre runs smoothly. Alongside her work for us, Jana got involved with the NUS Green Impact scheme. Here she explains how her team’s projects became gold-award-winning successes.
Green Impact is an NUS affiliated scheme for university staff across the UK to get involved with sustainability projects to improve their work environment. I met Alice Potter from Sheffield Green Impact my very first week working at the University of Sheffield. As soon as I heard about it I knew I wanted to be involved.
Myself and a bunch of Grantham Centre PhD students formed a team, including: Florentine Weber, Manasi Mulay, Mary Eliza, Mira Lieberman, Phebe Bonilla Prado and Caty Cosmopolis del Carpio. We were also joined by 3 other students from the University – Elly, Esme and Melissa – as our Project Assistants.
What started as an experiment, with none of us really knowing what we’re doing, resulted in 2 amazing projects. Plus our team won multiple awards. Best of all, some of our team members got inspired to start growing their own food!
Our first project was clear from the start. Florentine was determined to tackle the waste at the University by helping students to sell or swap their clothes, books or household items. And for the second project Mary was keen on doing something around sustainable food.
Now we had our projects, we divided the team into 2 subgroups. I was involved in both of the projects and was the team leader of the whole Grantham Centre group.
Florentine took charge of the project on tackling waste with myself, Mary, Caty and Melissa. I headed up the sustainable food project along with Manasi, Mary, Mira, Phebe, Elly and Esme.
For this project our aim was to create an online marketplace for the University of Sheffield (TUoS) students and staff. We also wanted to organise a series of flea markets once the pandemic situation was stable.
We discovered that there was already an online marketplace platform promoted by the Students’ Union (SU) called ‘Paperclip’. It seemed our work was done and we could simply focus on promoting Paperclip. The SU agreed to help us.
Firstly, we joined forces with the owner of the staff Online Marketplace Google group. They wanted to suspend the group due to it not being efficient and consuming too much admin time. So we brought together the University staff and Students’ Union representatives to discuss the issue and found a solution that would benefit everyone.
Our strategy was simple: we would design a marketing campaign to promote the Paperclip platform. Then we would send a message to all the staff Google group suggesting they join the much better Paperclip platform. We designed posters, leaflets, digital boards and online materials and started with our Paperclip awareness campaign in November 2020. And we got access to the SU Paperclip admin dashboard so we could get stats to evaluate the effectiveness of our campaign. It was great to see that when we launched our campaign there was immediately a rise in the number of people using Paperclip.
But then something unexpected happened: Paperclip suddenly shut down all universities’ sub platforms and asked all the users to move to the UK-wide platform. Worse of all – they introduced a 10% selling fee.
After discussing this with our partners we decided to stop promoting the Paperclip platform. It just didn’t make sense anymore and we wouldn’t even be able to follow the stats.
Despite this obstacle we didn’t give up, instead we brainstormed and decided to start from scratch. We would create our own online marketplace. As such we found some new team mates by joining forces with Computer Science students. In the end we made 3 prototype online marketplaces designed specifically for TUoS. Currently we are in discussions with the IT Services team and we would like to implement one of the prototypes University-wide.
The second project was ‘SHEFF-Yield’. This genius acronym was thought up by Manasi and stands for ‘Sustainable Harvest Empowering Future Food Yield’. This was an ambitious project that aimed to educate the people of Sheffield (and beyond) about sustainable food, teach them how to grow their own food and spread awareness about why it is important to do so.
We designed our own website and social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). To promote our ideas we organised a series of webinars with various speakers. Plus we published blogs, articles and other resources about sustainable food – including vegan and vegetarian recipes, all conceived, tried and tested by our team. In addition to that, some of our team, including myself, started growing our own food and we have been publishing the results on the website.
The webinars were a real hit. People were able to join them from the comfort of their own home, which also helped the audience to not be limited to just Sheffield or even just the UK. Some of the webinars were practical, such as the one teaching people how to grow food hydroponically (with no need for soil) or how to grow food in an allotment. While others talked about the social, environmental and public health benefits of growing food. All the webinars are now available on our website as a permanent resource.
Our blogs were also a success. These were written both by Grantham Scholars as well as people from outside of the University. All were keen to share their wisdom! The recipes have grown into something that could be published in a cookbook and we like to think people following our project have tried them (we certainly enjoyed trying them ourselves!).
Even though not all members had the time to carry on with the SHEFF-Yield after the official Green Impact scheme finished, some of us remain to keep the project alive. New webinars, blogs and food recipes are added to the site regularly. Plus we now send out our own newsletter and keep active on social media. And I continue to grow food in my garden and write short blogs about it for the SHEFF-Yield website which I really enjoy.
Our Green Impact team’s collective efforts were rewarded by obtaining the Green Impact Gold Award and also a Special Award for ‘Innovation for Engagement’. Our team was delighted to be recognised for our hard work!
In addition, I was also nominated by our team for the ‘Sustainability Hero’ award. To me, the real sustainability heroes are all the Grantham Centre PhD students who work hard on solving the world’s sustainability issues – and I am very happy that I can support them in achieving that.
Both of our projects grew, and there was not enough time to give them all the attention they deserved. However we gave it our best and it’s amazing to see what we achieved while we were all still also doing our main job (or in the case of the PhD students, their PhD!) through a pandemic. Should I join another Green Impact team in the future I’d set out what hours I could give it more thoroughly at the start. That being said, it was an amazing experience and taught me a lot!
Most important to me was everything I learned about teamwork, time management, communication, multitasking and (sometimes) improvising! Another important skill I gained was how to organise and chair online events, a prescient skill for these times. And I got to improve my public speaking, which I used to be self conscious about.
Learning how to lead teams and projects was great experience. And I believe I grew both personally and professionally due to this. Additionally, I think we all discovered the value of not giving up and how to find creative solutions to problems.
In addition, my work for Green Impact was used as an example of successful work that has led to my role becoming a higher grade. This is something that I didn’t foresee. I’m grateful that Green Impact helped me achieve such an outcome.
I would like to thank my amazing line manager Deborah. She not only allowed me to use some time for Green Impact, but also gave advice and encouragement. Perhaps this is the most important lesson learned from Green Impact: the importance of having a great and supportive manager!