Q&A With Ian Tennant From Greeniversity


So I recently spoke to Ian Tennant, who is the development co-ordinator for Greeniversity, a sustainable skills sharing scheme which is being rolled out across the country. I wanted to find out more about Greeniversity, its successes, and how it would benefit you, my readers.

Q1. Greeniversity was initially developed by Peterborough Environment City Trust – who are they and what is their vision?

The Greeniversity scheme was first started by Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) in 2010. PECT is an independent charity with a vision for a cleaner, greener, sustainable Peterborough. Greeniversity is one of a range of projects and initiatives that PECT delivers working with people, communities, schools, businesses, and voluntary organisations. The scheme has been a great success in Peterborough, and PECT wanted to launch the scheme in other towns and cities in the UK.

Q2. Who teaches the Greeniversity classes?

The beauty of Greeniversity is classes can be taught by anyone. You don’t have to have a professional qualification to get involved. It’s a free skills share scheme so we are looking for ordinary people to volunteer to teach. In recent months we have seen classes range from basic bike repair, woodwork, to how to grow your own mushrooms.

Q3. What are the most popular types of classes?

The most popular classes do seem to be based around DIY, cookery and growing your own foods. We want people to learn new skills to help them go about more sustainable lives. People also want to save money in these times of austerity, so they want to learn anything we can help them cut costs. The more ‘hands-on’ learning classes are always more fun, too.

Q4. How do you measure the success of the scheme?

So far we have held more than 700 classes in Peterborough. The success of the scheme on a local level can be measured by more teachers volunteering their time, and an increasing number of learners signing up to classes.

Greeniversity is growing. We had five pilot areas in Leicester, Cambridge, Loughborough, Rutland and Lincoln when we received funding from the Cabinet Office which is managed by National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

Since the website www.greeniversity.org.uk went live at the end of 2012, the five pilot groups have run more than 150 sessions engaging with almost 1,000 people. We hope to see this success replicated in our new towns and cities which have recently come on board including Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff.

Greeniversity logo

Q5. Do you include specific education within classes to inform people of the environmental benefits that result from the activity they are taking part in (e.g. the emission savings from cycling 1 mile versus driving it or the issues surrounding the livestock industry when promoting a vegetarian curry over a meat based one)?

It’s not compulsory to include such information, but we encourage our teachers to have a ‘green’ element to their classes. We want to spread sustainable skills sharing across the UK and a lot of our classes will have a focus on living a low impact, environmentally friendly lifestyle without appearing obviously ‘green’.

Q6. Would you say that participants in the classes are more interested in the frugality of the activities or the environmental benefits?

I would say that a fair proportion of new learners are attracted in the first instance by the chance to save money. These often move on to taking part in other classes with a ‘deeper green’ theme.

Greeniversity aims to create local resilience towards climate change, dwindling resources and economic instability. We get people from all walks of life taking part from young mums who want to learn new skills to help them save money, to retired couples who want to investigate a new pastime.

We have also worked with the Transition Network to enable national roll out, so a lot of the classes in the pilot areas where run and supported by members of the regional Transition group.

Q7. You have proven the concept in Peterborough but what was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Greeniversity off the ground there?

The biggest challenge with getting this type of project going during the early days is spreading the word. Advertising and marketing can be very expensive although because Greeniversity classes are free, we find people benefit from word of mouth recommendations.

Local radio and press have also been very supportive. Our aim is for Greeniversity to become the household name that creates a revival in community-led learning for green living.

Q8. Where would you like to see Greeniversity in five years time?

Greeniversity aims to establish 250 groups in the UK by 2016, and aims to engage around 160,000 different learners in over 75,000 different individual classes. That’s in three years’ time, so we’ll see where we go from then!

Q9. How can my readers get involved?

I would invite your readers to have a look at www.greeniversity.org.uk to find out if it’s starting up in your area. If you are interested in getting involved, why not send them us a message on Twitter (@greeniversityuk), find us on Facebook, or email me at ian.tennant@pect.org.uk

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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