Want not Waste

Mon, 22 Jun 2020 10:11:00 BST

The sixth annual Making a Difference Awards took place in May, recognising the extensive range of social responsibility activities that our staff, students and external partners are involved in. A record number of 180 individuals and teams submitted entries, with judges recognising 17 winners, 28 highly commended and two special recognition awards.

8,000 people around the world engaged in our first online awards ceremony on Facebook Live which was presented by Chancellor Lemn Sissay. Details of all winners and highly commended awardees can be found on the social responsibility website, with short films about their winning projects on the social responsibility YouTube channel.

As always, the awards were an inspiring and humbling event showcasing the incredible work that our University community does to make a difference. We are continuing to celebrate and acknowledge our winners’ projects by featuring them in a series of articles highlighting the best of social responsibility at the University.

Want not Waste

Want Not Waste is a student-led initiative making zero waste living affordable and accessible to all. The project was the recipient of a number of awards in this year’s Making a Difference Awards and Volunteering Awards. Initially set up as a pop-up shop to tackle the plastic crisis within Manchester and globally, it has gone on to be a permanent fixture within the Students' Union. The shop provides much more than plastic free alternatives by focusing on a wide range of sustainability issues and creating a hub for learning and community.

As a not-for-profit enterprise Want not Waste aims to educate and share skills via free workshops such as slow-stitch repair and homemade DIYs as well as sharing meaningful content on their social media. After one year of running, the shop has built links with the local council, various departments in the University, local ethical businesses, and the student body. Sales figures are demonstrating this expanding success, increasing from £12 a week in February 2019, up to £12 a day in June and then hitting their first £100 day in November of last year.

Want not Waste sources its products from local and sustainable businesses and includes products made by students, including food, jewellery, reusable cotton rounds and handmade soap. Want not Waste is more than just a shop – it is a community, providing a place for students to meet like-minded people, swap skills and eco-tips. It also provides a café space and functions as a collection point for the Terracycle recycling scheme which is used by staff and student offices across the University.

The team consists of around 30 students across various disciplines, backgrounds and ages led by Holly Smith, a Psychology undergraduate. Members are organised into small working groups such as arts, retail, social media and graphic design with each having a group coordinator. Some key members of the team include Natasha Maddison, Ciara McGeary, Emilia Colman, Mohnish Pawar, Eric Weyerstrass and Lauren Davies.

We spoke to Holly about her recent success.

How does it feel to have won a Making a Difference Award?

Turning a pop-up shop into a fully functioning student project with longevity is hard but rewarding work. The progress we have made in the last year is just amazing and it's really wonderful to know that people outside the shop see that. Especially with the current situation, winning a Making a Difference Award was such a boost for us and forced us to consider where we were this time last year, and where we want to be next year. We feel proud, appreciated and a renewed sense of purpose. Want not Waste is a much-needed project on campus and I am confident it will last beyond its current generation of students.

What difference do you think winning a Making a Difference Award will do to your initiative?

On a broader level, we received an immediate flurry of social media attention and email subscriptions following our award. I think a lot of people within the University share our vision but perhaps didn't know we existed and are now tuning-in which is great. Ultimately, we want to create a safe space to learn and share our experiences of sustainable living and this award has really raised our profile to reach more people. We think our project is awesome, but it's great to know that there is a strong demand and sense of support across the University!

On an individual level, I am so excited to see the impact on my volunteers! Simply being nominated really created a buzz but since winning I've seen volunteers offering to try things they wouldn't have done normally. We are currently operating completely online doing social media takeovers, skill-share videos and blog posts and volunteers who normally fear content writing are taking on the challenge! The project strives to provide opportunity for students to try things without fear of failure (being not-for-profit there's no financial risk to consider) and it's great to watch this confidence slowly ripple through the team simply through a group chat!

To find out more about Want not Waste you can click here to watch a video about the initiative, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram or read their blog for recipes, product reviews, and eco-tips.