When people think of sustainability events, they usually think of recycling drives, water awareness, or energy conservation campaigns. These are all important, but the Information Services Sustainability Team decided to do something a little more…unusual for our Extra Mile event.
The idea for the project came from a spontaneous thought I had while writing my bi-weekly environmental email, Environmental Matters. This particular edition was on sustainable dieting, and while researching some sustainable eating tips I came across the UN recommendation that western countries begin to include insects in our diets.
“How interesting”, I thought to myself, “I’d like to try those sometime. I wonder if anyone else would be up to try some”. It wasn’t long after that thought that Crispy Critters was in the planning stages. Our aim was to use the novelty and the spectacle of offering free insect samples as a way to start a dialogue on sustainable eating. We weren’t necessarily expecting everyone to make grasshopper and mealworm salads a daily lunch option, we just wanted people to think a bit about their diet choices, and how those choices impact the world around us.
The project developed quickly from there, culminating in a stall on the NSQ walkway during Sustainable City week. We were amazed by the response we received, with far more people trying the insects and taking photos than we could have hoped for. We got into some fascinating conversations with students and staff alike, with one member of IS staff even buying some insects himself from our supplier!
Following the success of the NSQ stall we decided to run another in Cass a month later. We knew that Cass would be more of a challenge, as a smaller campus, but we were pleased with the engagement we received from some Cass students and staff.
The support from the Sustainability Team was fantastic, and they provided us with freebies for the stall, as well as financial and practical backing for the project. Afua was with us on both days, taking pictures and encouraging participants.
Starting a project is easier than you might think. First, just think of an environmental issue (there are plenty to choose from!). Then, think about how you can draw attention to that issue, or how you might be able to encourage people to focus on their own environmental impact.
The most important part of a project is that it be fun for your audience, otherwise no-one will take part! That’s why we went for something unusual to grab the attention. If you’re struggling with how to action your idea, the Sustainable City Team can offer advice and support to help you throughout the project.
We had a great time running the project, and got some great feedback from around the university. Our top piece of advice for an Extra Mile project would be that if you have an idea that sounds crazy, it will probably end up being the most fun, so go for it!