On September 15th 2022, three students from the University of Münster co-organised a “Student Thinking Lab” dealing with 1.5° lifestyles, as part of their studies. The workshop was aimed at students from different higher educational facilities and fields of study in the area around Münster. It focused on sharing information about sustainable lifestyles and discussing structural barriers to sustainable lifestyles (and how to overcome them), specifically within the student population. Here, the three students - Pia Kirschenhof, Jessica Klaube and Till Evers – recount their experiences of organising a workshop with students, and what they learned about (un)sustainable consumption among the student population through this experience.
“The environmental crises have been considered as one of the biggest global crises for many years, yet there has been a lack of adequate action. Although the serious need for action has been pointed out by many actors and from different sides, misinformation, a lack of information, as well as conspiracy theories persist. We ourselves have seen that even enlightened citizens seem to be unaware of the urgency of the climate problem and the acute need for action in their own lives.”
In their experience, the three students had seen that people from all parts of the population and all social groups have continued to resist climate-friendly alternatives in their everyday lives, despite increased pressure for change. They also felt that students themselves, a group who are often thought of as being more environmentally conscious and active for change than older members of society, were often taking part in unsustainable activities.
“The idea grew to organize a Student Thinking Lab for students from different departments, focusing on the reflection of their own consumption behaviour and the development of alternatives”
The motivation behind organising a Student Thinking Lab was thus stirred by the wish to better understand the specific reasons that either enabled or hindered students in sustainable consumption behaviour.
“When planning the workshop, the initial focus was on how to get students excited about participating. After creating the flyer, we decided to send it as an attachment to a circular email to various university groups. The mail included a link to a registration form. In this way, we wanted to address students from different disciplines in order to generate as heterogeneous a group as possible.”
The three students worked hard together with the EU 1.5° Lifestyles team to plan an event that would be informative, as well as fun and activating. The aim was to engage and empower students to take action for the environment and their own futures. The students explain:
“In addition to the content-related aspects, it was important to make the day varied for the voluntary participants. In the spirit of climate friendliness, we also organized a vegan lunch and snacks, as well as coffee and drinks, and repeatedly integrated breaks for free exchange.”
The Climate Puzzle co-developed by D-Mat and other EU 1.5° Lifestyles partners was a fun gamified approach to helping the students understand their personal impacts, which then led to a wider discussion on societal structures. “With the help of the WWU’s EU 1.5° Lifestyles project team, the content of the workshop was supplemented by technical input on the concept and objectives of the project, presented by Steffen Hirth. However, most of the day was spent with students evaluating their own behaviour and thinking about and evaluating structural enablers and barriers that can aid individual behaviour choices, as well as jointly working out alternative courses of action.”
The feedback after the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. “Both the participants and we as organizers were able to gain new and sometimes surprising insights into our current and needed future lifestyles. Especially the climate puzzle showed the participants what they can pay attention to in the future in order to live more sustainably. One point of criticism that was mentioned with regard to the climate puzzle was the low relevance to the student's living environment: Many environmentally friendly choices were related to car and house ownership, i.e. giving up your car or installing a heat pump. Both are rather rare among students.”
“In the subsequent discussion rounds, which dealt with the four social areas of nutrition, leisure, mobility and housing, many approaches were developed that could help students live more sustainably in the future. Both individual and institutional structures were reconsidered and, if necessary, possibilities for change were formulated.”
“We had a lot of fun planning and conducting the workshop. It was an enriching experience that stood out above all for its practical relevance. This was also due to the good supervision of Halliki Kreinin, who was always available to answer our questions and also contributed her own ideas to the planning. Jeremy Philipp, a student assistant at the Chair of International Relations and Sustainable Development, also supported the event. Finally, we would like to thank all participants for the productive day!”