Consumerist Culture and the Climate: A Crisis

by Ella Hussey 

With the false reality that social media has created over recent years, the younger generation has developed a lack of awareness of how their desire to consume fast fashion has significantly damaged the environment. In a study completed in 2020, students of Aalto University found that fast fashion produces 92 million tonnes of pollution a year, which accounts for 10% of global waste. Village Magazine reported that the fast fashion market holds one-third of the world’s industry and employs one-sixth of the world’s population; fast fashion companies have capitalised on the human instinct to desire the unattainable.

Turbo consumption, which is the accelerated consumption of products, is central to fast fashion’s impact on climate change.  Prioritising profit over the planet, the fast fashion industry and its many facets promote a lifestyle of constant consumption and constant changing of your wardrobe. This creates a conflict in the mind of consumers that can be attributed to the idea of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a conflict between what we believe is right and our actions and choices. The culture of consuming vast amounts of clothing to wear only once or twice has contributed to the capitalist nature of society. As a society, whether consciously or subconsciously, we are aware that consuming this level of disposable clothing won’t be good for the environment. We need to move away from this feeling to be closer to our actions, matching our equal thoughts. 

“Prioritising profit over the planet, the fast fashion industry and its many facets promote a lifestyle of constant consumption and constant changing of your wardrobe”

With this generation, our interactions with people’s daily lives are often through social media posts, and it is so easy to expose ourselves to the idealised lifestyle of influencers. They have immersed themselves in their image’s perfections, the clothes they wear. Fashion brands now advertise their products as a feature of someone’s identity. Fashion Consumption is now a thoroughly socialised process in which actions are motivated by image.

The change is due to the lack of consumption for need and the increase in want. In recent years with the increased awareness from young climate change activists such as Greta Thunberg, the younger generation is aware of the problem. However, we continue to buy from fast fashion companies because we think the problem will not affect us in the global north. The fast fashion industry has created a social and psychological aspect surrounding consumption—a culture which contains system one versus system two of thinking. Companies have been able to capitalise from system one consideration, which is our initial response with little to no thought process behind it. If you see a great offer on SHEIN, your mind will immediately know the appeal rather than the damage it is doing to the environment. 

Although consumption is necessary, the lack of knowledge accessible to the younger generation has formed its being. The lack of transparency and disinformation between multi-million-dollar corporations and consumers is a problem. Companies have faced a lack of accountability for contributing to the climate crisis. To tackle this issue, in 2016, the Fashion Transparency Index was founded to track human rights and environmental issues among 250 of the world’s leading fashion retailers. Although transparency is not sustainability, the index disclosed that “When Fashion Revolution published the first Index in 2016, only 5 out of 40 major brands (12.5%) disclosed their suppliers and now seven years later 121 out of 250 major brands (48%) disclose their suppliers.” With activism movements such as Fashion Revolution taking action against climate change through the index, it contributes towards tackling the greater issue of climate change.  

“younger generations are growing up in a more consumer-saturated world, in a world in which market mediation is so much more important in defining their own identities, subjectivities and social dynamics”

In an interview with professor and author Juliet Schor, she discussed the acceleration in more youthful generations’ consumption. “younger generations are growing up in a more consumer-saturated world, in a world in which market mediation is so much more important in defining their own identities, subjectivities and social dynamics”. She expanded saying, “This is really the expansion of market culture, of consumer culture”. Village magazine wrote that the fashion industry has exponentially gained a “400% growth in the industry in the last 20 years”. The shift in the culture surrounding fashion has proved detrimental to the environment. 

America is a primary example of how turbo consumption accelerated the climate crisis. Schor again stated, “what I found is that in 2003 the average American consumer purchased 57 pieces of apparel each year. That’s more than one new piece of apparel per week.”.  She continued, “In 1991, the figure was 34, an increase of 23 pieces over a mere 12 years, or about two more each year, every year for more than a decade”. Cheapening of products has led to mass imports of units, which has proved to be destructive for the environment due to the over-exploitation of products and increase in waste. 

Schor, discussing the issue, said, “I think we need to move in the direction of those assets being held small-scale, and locally, as opposed to large-scale and in large collective public units”. The problem with this issue is not consumption as the action; people need to consume to live. By creating a unified vision on a localised scale, they can slowly impose stricter laws on fast fashion companies – they need to make their costs and actions transparent. But it is how we directly do that and what type of consumers we want to be. 

To tackle consumerist culture, we need to create something unique and translate it into the same appeal that designer products hold, as there is only a tiny amount of them. We need to replace this with something good or better. Getting social influencers on board will create a desirability that comes from their influence on the younger generation. Sustainable consumption needs to be aesthetically pleasing, so it becomes a trend. 

One Minute To Midnight

by Emma Gallagher

We’ve all heard the phrase One Minute to Midnight used to catastrophize the world’s use of resources and encourage a sense of urgency about the way we treat the earth and the emergency hurtling towards us. One particularly gripping use of this phrase comes from Dan Brown’s Inferno;

 “A beaker, with a single bacterium in it, one that divides and doubles every minute, if you place the first bacterium into the beaker at 11:00 and it is completely full by 12, at what time is the beaker still only half full? 11:59. That is what time it is for us. In 40 years, 32 billion people will fight to survive. They’ll fail. We’re a minute to midnight.” 

A compelling argument, throughout the book you can’t help but consider the side of the villain. Yes, he wants to kill off half the population, but he truly believes it’s in society’s best interest. The threat of overpopulation, of a doomsday future where we fight with our neighbours over basic resources, where we have finally stretched the earth past what it is capable of sustaining and cause our own extinction. It’s not a new idea, but it’s also not necessarily a correct one. 

“it feels like the world is spinning out of control. And honestly, it is, but the number of people isn’t the problem. Greed is.”

It took mankind about 100,000 years to reach the first one billion people, but only 100 years later we reached two billion, 50 years after that we reached 4 billion. It’s difficult not to be slightly intimidated by those kinds of numbers. It feels like the world is spinning out of control and honestly, it is, but the number of people isn’t the problem. Greed is. 

If we want to talk economics for a moment (bear with me), let’s look at the Malthusian trap. This is the idea that as we advance technologically, we begin to live above subsistence level; everyone has more than enough. Rather than maintain this level, however, we expand the population, so we’re right back where we started. We grow to keep up with our capabilities. But things are starting to change, we’re stretching the limits of these capabilities, why all of a sudden does it seem like these ever-expanding resources are becoming finite? 

“greed is why Ireland has a record breaking 10,000 homeless people, but last year reported over 180,000 vacant homes”

Humans are driven by greed; we cut, we destroy, we take, we consume. We have done irreparable damage to habitats, wildlife, and nature as a whole, all for our own progress. That greed is why Ireland has a record breaking 10,000 homeless people, but last year reported over 180,000 vacant homes. There is a global energy crisis, with millions of people fearing for their livelihoods this winter, and we watch the super-rich pick cars to match their Instagram aesthetics and shoot themselves into space for fun. Yes, I am still going on about that, because, yes, it was ridiculous. 108 billion pounds of food is wasted every year in the United States, and yet the numbers of people registering with food banks are growing exponentially, because philanthropy isn’t profitable.

The rhetoric of overpopulation as the most pressing issue right now is ridiculous. It’s a way for those who know they are the problem, to pass blame onto others. Pass blame onto those who cannot afford contraceptives, or who may not have been able to access the education to know they even needed them. This rhetoric is a dangerous one, it’s discriminatory, and, honestly, it’s racist. 

“This rhetoric of how overpopulation is the biggest issue right now is ridiculous. Its a way for those who know they are the problem, to pass blame onto others.”

The Global South is made up of a cruel paradox: it is filled with communities who do the least environmental damage, yet somehow bear the worst of the effects of climate change. Subsistence farmers lose significant portions of their income due to irregular weather patterns, caused by the actions of the Global North. The average family size in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the highest regional rates globally, so the claim that the problem with society is that there are too many of us directly targets the conversation towards communities in these areas. It shifts the blame away from those who know they personally are actively causing damage to the environment, and onto those who are doing the best with the consequences they are forced to suffer. There are many ways this rhetoric can cause damage, such as encouraging white nationalism as people refuse to accept climate refugees. Yet again those suffering the direct consequences of our actions are not welcome to our help in times of need. 

Maybe humanity will be a self-destructive force, the cause of our own downfall, but it won’t be because of overpopulation. We have enough food to feed everyone who is hungry, we have the money to help everyone who needs it. We do not have an overpopulation problem; we have a sharing problem. It might be one minute to midnight, but we are capable of entering into tomorrow, safely, sustainably, without greed, without selfishness, and without overconsumption. The future lies in the hands of the 1%, don’t let them blame the other 99% for being too big.

Rewilding in the Knepp Wildland

by Anangi  Sumalde

Last summer I read a copy of Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree. This book recounts how twenty years ago Isabella and her partner Charlie Burrell turned their traditional dairy farm (located on the 3,500-acre Knepp estate in southern England) into a thriving eco-tourism business. At the heart of this land lies the Knepp Wildland, which has become one of the U.K.’s most renowned and inspirational rewilding projects. 

“Rewilding” is a holistic form of land restoration that looks at the entire landscape of a given site rather than focusing on the conservation of just a few species. This allows natural processes to takeover and create a highly complex ecosystem that has the ability to reverse biodiversity loss and habitat fragmentation. Rewilding helps the ecosystem build a better resilience towards the effects of climate change.

The opportunity to gain a first-hand experience of the Knepp Wildland arose when I discovered an organisation called Operation Wallacea. It is composed of a network of academics, scientists and field biologists who organise biodiversity research expeditions, field training courses, and wildlife holidays. The residential field course, located at a camping facility onsite at Knepp, is designed to teach participants essential ecology training skills such as: field surveying methods, habitat classification and identification of a range of taxa, all while gaining an appreciation for the Wildland. 

Isabella and Charlie’s daughter, Nancy, led one of the surveys which involved walking the lengths of selected fields in search of young English oak trees. Specifically, we were looking for trees of approximately two metres in height that had developed without the protection of a nurse species (for example a surrounding crown of brambles) in order to assist Nancy in quantifying the survival rate of exposed young oak trees. Nancy’s research has shown how exposed oaks tend to gain more mass on their root systems, perhaps as a way of helping to develop their resilience against herbivory. Evidence of herbivory came in the form of ‘topiary’ executed on some of the tree and shrub species by deer, who as browsers, prefer to do their munching above ground. 

“Rootling encourages opportunistic annual plants to colonise these bare patches and creates hollows that fill up with water, attracting wildlife to the disturbed area.”

Pivotal to the Knepp Wildland is the rewilding practise of ‘grazing ecology’. Knepp’s “Big Five” species consist of Tamworth pigs, red deer, fallow deer, Exmoor ponies and old English longhorn cattle. The Big Five is a set of free-roaming, large mammals that have been adopted by the estate to intentionally disturb the process of vegetation succession. They mimic the herbivory patterns of some of the extinct, wild, megafauna species of temperate-zone Europe, such as the wild horse, ox and boar, through behaviours such as trampling, browsing and rooting.

The result is that rather than reaching its climax as a closed canopy forest system, Knepp has become a dynamic and open wood pasture instead, composed of interconnected microhabitats of grassland, hedgerow, scrubland, wood groves and free-standing trees. More habitat variety has led to more ecological niches for species to inhabit, resulting in a surge in plant and animal life on the estate. For example, during a plant quadrat survey, we found abundant numbers of several grass species, including Yorkshire Fog, Creeping Bent, Rough Meadow-grass and Timothy, all nestled within a haze of native wildflowers.

In addition to their grazing and browsing behaviours, Knepp’s Big Five facilitate disturbance by their ability to disperse seeds and transfer nutrients in their manure. Since the project avoids the use of pesticides, their dung serves as a microhabitat for invertebrates, such as the eponymous dung beetle. Our guide mentioned how dung sampled at Knepp belonging to horses merely passing through the estate with their riders was found to contain far fewer dung beetle species than dung sampled from the Big Five, possibly due to being contaminated with pesticide residues. 

During a continuous distance sampling survey of large mammals, we saw Tamworth pigs a few metres away, foraging in a grassland habitat with their snouts to the ground. Evidence of their rootling behaviour was present in the form of distinct, bare patches of earth. Rootling encourages opportunistic annual plants to colonise these bare patches and creates hollows that fill up with water, attracting wildlife to the disturbed area. 

“I found there to be an interesting irony in how all meals served on the course were fully plant-based and made by the same kitchen that processed the meat obtained from the animals at Knepp”

I admired the longhorn cattle at dusk one day from a treehouse at the camp site. The herd was making its way across a field. Their presence was known again when my surveying group was out looking for somewhere close to water to set up our pitfall traps. These traps aim to catch ground-level insects in saucers filled with water. A drop of biodegradable soap is added to the water to break its surface tension, which causes any insect that lands in it to drown. As we approached a nearby stream, we passed a previously installed Malaise trap; a tent-like structure used for catching Diptera and Hymenoptera invertebrate orders. However, we found that it had been utterly destroyed. Besides the wreckage, we spotted some tell-tale hoof prints, all the more impressionable in the heavy clay soil that characterises this part of West Sussex. 

My first observation of Knepp’s deer was when I saw a pair of fallow deer resting beside a lake, basking in the midday sun. Without the presence of apex predators such as the wolf or the lynx, they have the luxury of being able to remain relaxed for long periods of time. To maintain optimal levels of species richness and to prevent the open wood pasture from developing into grassland through overgrazing, excess numbers of deer and livestock are removed and processed into organic, pasture-fed meat. Therefore, I found there to be an interesting irony in how all meals served on the course were fully plant-based and made by the same kitchen that processed the meat obtained from the animals at Knepp. Reflections on my time spent on the course evoke the vivid, the unexpected and the wondrous. There were cold nights shivering under a sleeping bag while listening to the sound of a nearby shrew and hot days battling the effects of heatstroke from long days out in the field during a summer heatwave.

There was the disconcertment felt with intentionally catching invertebrates in nets, gassing them with ethyl acetate and pinning them through the thorax in the name of science, and a feeling of relief when my overnight-soaked oats, chocolate brownies and sweet potato shepherd’s pie were all 100% plant-based. I think about the micromoth species I examined up close while they rested on egg boxes inside a moth trap I had helped to install and the Purple Emperor butterfly that had to be enticed down from its dwelling quarters in the heights of the sallow scrub. Midnight conversations with fellow course participants under a moonlit marquee brought a sense of comfort and comradery that made waking up at the crack of dawn to join a bird mist netting session more manageable. Operation Wallacea’s field course in the Knepp Wildland has served me up a generous portion of newfound skills, knowledge and friendships.

The Importance of Herbaria

by Jessica O’Connor

On my first day of college starting in Botany we were shown the famous botany building with its wisteria growing on the front, which were beautiful even though they weren’t in flower. Attached to the botany building is the herbarium. I have to be honest; I was unaware we had a herbarium in the college let alone one that holds such wondrous samples, including specimens from Charles Darwin himself.

When one enters the herbarium, they are greeted by dark, old, wooden cabinets filled to the brim with plant specimens from all over the world. Plant ID books both old and new line the walls and small desks by windows are scattered with notecards and papers. Most people are unaware of its existence. From that day I knew I wanted to write about herbaria and their importance: this article is the result. 

“Herbaria hold vast collections of plant specimens from all over the world, with some specimens dating back hundreds of years”

What are herbaria and why should you care?

Scientifically, a herbarium is defined as a collection of dried plant specimens, but it is more than that. To me, a herbarium resembles a library and it is important for the same reasons. Libraries hold vast amounts of knowledge about our history, science, language, art, the list goes on. If a library were to be lost, the knowledge it held would be lost along with it. The same can be said for herbaria.

As described herbaria hold vast collections of plant specimens from all over the world, with some specimens dating back hundreds of years. These old plant specimens may seem like relics especially when one sees the browning paper and broken book spines, but they have a key use in some extremely important scientific research, such as identification of plant species, informing us of the uses of certain plant species, their ecological spread, and assistance in climatic research.

Historical samples enable scientists to examine these specimens and compare them with newer samples collected. The difference between them can help scientists understand the changes that were occurring in the wider environment such as changes in temperature. By having these collections scientists are also able to monitor changes in the spread or location of certain plant species. As each plant sample in a herbarium must be labelled, the label should carry basic information such as the plant species’ name, where and when it was collected, and by whom.

From this information future scientists are able to see where certain plant species were once abundant and monitor their distribution. Herbaria also help to ensure that plants are named correctly. By using what are called “type specimens” scientists (taxonomists) are able to compare the collected material with the original sample gathered. Type specimens are defined as the original material that was used to give the plant its description. Trinity’s own herbarium hosts an impressive amount of type specimens, including a cone nearly the size of a small shoebox, collected on the coast of America in the 1800s.

Herbaria are of significant cultural importance along with their scientific value. University herbaria around the world hold vast collections of their national flora along with international samples over the years. They aid in the recognition of the contributions made by the people of their countries to the world of science. For example, Trinity’s herbarium has the biggest collection of algae in Ireland, and one of the biggest of any University globally! Trinity’s herbarium has a vast collection (roughly 300,000 specimens), some being unique, meaning that as a herbarium it is of great historical value. Because of this historical importance and vast collection one can assume that the herbarium has a long history. You would be correct!

“Historical samples enable scientists to examine these specimens and compare them with newer samples collected. The difference between them can help scientists understand the changes that were occurring in the wider environment”

Trinity herbarium dates back to the 18th century with the donation of a volume of dried specimens to the Trinity Museum by Sir Hans Sloane, however, the museum curator deemed this volume of no value as the specimens within were mostly plants grown in his own garden. Around the same time other notable donations were made from the voyages of Captain James Cook as well as a set of Wallich’s plants.

The next step in the development of Trinity’s herbarium was taken by Thomas Coulter. In the Summer of 1835, he was given 3 rooms in House 28 where he housed his personal herbarium of 20,000 specimens. Two years later Coulter had to leave 2 of the rooms, this is thought to be due to a difference of opinion between himself and the new provost. However, in the June of 1840 he was appointed, by the provost (must have mended that bridge!) to be the curator of the herbarium and was given rooms in a newly built house 40. This marked the separation of the Herbarium and the College Museum.

William Henry Harvey was the next curator from 1844 until 1866. Harvey was a leading expert on algae at the time and wrote and illustrated many books, some of which are housed in the Botany library. E.P Wright succeeded Harvey as curator during a time when the herbarium experienced unsatisfactory conditions. Despite these troubles, it still accumulated a small number of donations. H. Henry Dixon, who saw the completion of the school of Botany in the year 1907 took over following E.P Wright.

He, with a grant from Lord Iveagh, ensured that the herbarium was built in the year 1910. The current building that I saw that first day of my degree (and that you may see if you choose a degree in Botany) was, thus, a result of Dixon’s work. D.A Webb then took over as curator and is also responsible for writing a synoptic Irish flora, which has gone through 7 editions as of today.

After Webb, John Parnell became curator and helped bring the herbarium up to date, including some rewiring and reroofing. He oversaw the incorporation of old specimens into the collection and the expansion of the collection, with the addition of modern collections coming from Thailand. He was also responsible for the expansion of the botany library, which is now considered one of the best of its type in Europe! 

I set myself the task of answering two questions at the start of this; what is a herbarium and why should you care? The first question was a relatively easy one to answer as it merely requires a definition, however, the importance of herbaria will depend on personal opinion. I believe they are important not only so that crucial scientific work can continue but to remind us of the richness of our natural history. The intricate and multifaceted history of Trinity’s Herbarium above is just one example. Think of the history preserved globally in buildings such as these, waiting to be appreciated!

Inaccessibility of Veganism

This article discusses eating disorders and may be triggering for some readers.

From culture to dietary restrictions to recovery from eating disorders, there are many reasons why veganism is still inaccessible. 

by Clara Roche

In recent years,  both veganism and vegetarianism have left the fringes of society to become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends of this century. Once associated with counter-culture caricatures like the bohemian Phoebe Buffay or the Buddhist saxophone player Lisa Simpson, veganism is no longer an outlandish and unconventional lifestyle, but instead increasingly viewed as a reasonable response to the climate crisis. As veganism has entered the mainstream, vegan options and resources have improved. Interest in adopting a vegan diet has surged as it has become, for many, a viable course of environmentalist action. However, even as veganism becomes progressively more convenient and its benefits widely recognised, veganism is still an inaccessible option for many.

“For example, a standard Cadbury Dairy Milk can be bought in SuperValu for €2.50, while the plant-based alternative of the same size is €4.00, almost double the price.”

Dublin students with the wherewithal to explore the city beyond The Perch will find a host of tried-and-tested vegan restaurants to choose from, namely Cornucopia, Veginity, and Vegan Sandwich Co. There are very few well-loved snack foods that have yet to see a plant-based alternative enter the market, with Cadbury’s recently announcing the creation of the Cadbury Plant Bar, its first-ever vegan chocolate bar.  Yet, availability of plant-based options depends almost entirely on where you live. Almost 90% of the world’s vegans live in urban areas, largely due to the increased prevalence of vegan cafés and restaurants, the proximity of supermarkets with satisfactory vegan options, and the ease of joining a vegan community. Beyond the urban versus rural divide, some 200,000 people in Ireland are experiencing “food poverty” or living in “food deserts”, adversely affecting the choice of food they can afford to buy, and where they can buy it from.

Students often find themselves committing to a sort of involuntary veganism when confronted with the price of meat. While it is true that veganism as a whole is generally cheaper than a meat-based diet, it is disingenuous to suggest that price does not inhibit the transition to veganism, especially when it comes to everyday changes that particularly affect those on tight budgets. For example, a standard Cadbury Dairy Milk can be bought in SuperValu for €2.50, while the plant-based alternative of the same size is €4.00, almost double the price. Starbucks only recently dropped the surcharge that was in place for plant-based dairy milk alternatives. (The same fee still exists in many coffee shops around the country.) Furthermore, those relying on food provision schemes due to financial disadvantages, such as free school lunches, have limited access to plant-based meal options. 

Any evangelical vegan will reassure you that, with careful planning, veganism can be equally as nutritious as an omnivorous diet. Putting together three well-balanced vegan meals a day generally takes more preparation, both in sourcing and cooking food. For people with time constraints, certain health conditions or disabilities, such intensive planning and preparation is undoubtedly a barrier to becoming vegan. Although many resources are available online to assist in planning and sourcing vegan meals, reports suggest that, on average, vegans skip more meals than non-vegans, likely due to the additional time needed to plan and prepare meals. 

“Unfortunately, the association between veganism and “clean eating” or low-calorie diets sometimes attracts those looking to lose weight or restrict their food intake to veganism”

Excluding the consumption of all animal products, veganism is inherently restrictive. Due to its restrictive nature, vegetarian and vegan societies advise against converting to veganism without first being fully mentally and physically healthy. An eating disorder clinic in the United Kingdom found a correlation between those suffering from eating disorders and those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. Unfortunately, the association between veganism and “clean eating” or low-calorie diets sometimes attracts those looking to lose weight or restrict their food intake to veganism. This means that veganism occasionally becomes a sustaining factor for an eating disorder, and may need to be avoided by those in recovery. 

Beyond eating disorders, other dietary restrictions may render some individuals incompatible with veganism. Coeliacs may struggle to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, as gluten is a common ingredient in many meat substitutes. The fibre-rich nature of fruits, vegetables, and some dairy substitutes may also make veganism a difficult diet for those suffering from IBS. Lastly, those with soy allergies often struggle to find alternatives to tofu, tempeh, and most meat replacement bars. 


The benefits of veganism are well-documented, and as resources continue to improve, veganism will become a more accessible option for many. Vegan communities around the country, like those at Irish Vegan located at irishvegan.ie, are working on compiling useful lists of vegan restaurants and groceries. However, as it stands, veganism is not a suitable lifestyle for everyone. Luckily, veganism doesn’t demand anyone practise it who lacks the ability to. The pressure to become a ‘perfect’ vegan might turn some people off the diet entirely. But, of course, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ vegan. Reducing your meat intake in any aspect is better for the environment and likely for your health than doing nothing at all. A plant-based lifestyle doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, a bit like how it’s better to buy more of your clothes on Depop than Shein, even if you still buy your socks in Penneys.

It’s Not Over Yet 

by Emma Gallagher

It’s not looking great out there right now, but don’t give up! Here’s five things to help us all remain hopeful about the future of the climate fight.

Floods covering large proportions of countries, wildfires claiming acres of natural habitats, oil companies making record breaking profits amid a cost of living crisis and Dublin’s streets seeing more hotels than Doc Martens. It’s easy to feel like any progress towards a clean, sustainable future is hopeless. But that’s why this article and myself are here; to show you that maybe not everything is totally doomed, maybe there are some indicators that we are living in a society that wants to do better. 

So, I present to you five reasons to not totally give up on the climate fight. We’re going to start off small and then look a bit more ‘big picture’. But that doesn’t mean the first ones on this list are any less important- the little things are easy, and they’re good because they’re easy. Simple introductions to sustainability are what teach people that it is possible to do good for the environment. For those more established in their sustainability journey, these things might seem silly; but I think that it’s good to see the little progressions, and they serve as a reminder that the sustainability community is growing, and with growth comes progress. So, without any further waffling on my behalf, here’s 5 reasons to maintain hope in the climate fight.

  1. Starbucks’ free milk alternatives

Okay I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this one, but stick with me! From January of this year, Starbucks started providing free non-dairy milks in any coffee! For those of you who are sick of paying an extra 50cents for your iced latte with oat milk this will come as welcome news (we all know a carton of Alpro Barista Oat only costs 2 euro, it makes no sense for it to take up so much of the weekly coffee budget). As such a global, consumer-based company, this change shows the beginning of a definite shift in the market, as brands finally start to respond to consumer demand for vegan, climate friendly options. Hopefully this trend will start to catch on in all coffee shops, and we can all stop breaking the bank for the much-loved winter chai latte. 

“Having the opportunity to make a vegan choice once or twice a week is a brilliant way to lower your carbon footprint, and be climate conscious in your daily life.”

  1. Ireland one of the most vegan friendly places in the world 

More diet based eco friendliness! In 2019, Dublin was branded the most vegan friendly city in the world by holiday company, Hayes & Jarvis, and since then we have maintained a good vegan reputation. If you’re looking for a good way for you and your friends to be a little bit more friendly to the environment on your lunch break, head to V-Face for a burger, or a post night out vegan cheesy chip from McGuinesses. Having the opportunity to make a vegan choice once or twice a week is a brilliant way to lower your carbon footprint, and be climate conscious in your daily life. Dublin is providing that opportunity for us all! If you’re looking to dedicate yourself a little bit more to the vegan lifestyle but don’t know where to start, Dublin is the perfect place for finding student-based inspiration – namely Trinity’s own Jemima Sutton and her student-budget vegan account @foodforjoyy on Instagram 

  1. Slow Fashion is on the rise

Just in case you haven’t heard, fast fashion is like, totally out. No longer are you going to get any street cred in the arts block for your branded jackets, all the cool kids are buying their wardrobes from Depop or vintage stores. Shopping second hand may just be the hottest trend of the college, and it’s another easy way for everyone to get involved in the climate fight without even realising it. Over consumption and fast fashion are leading contributors to environmental damage, and even though the entire planet might not be saved by the Depop girlies, they’re making a wonderful contribution by making sustainable fashion cool again! 

“Although these companies already face tight guidelines on advertising in other countries, the French ban is yet another positive shift in the market towards a more sustainable future”

  1. France has banned fossil fuel advertising 

Going a bit bigger picture now; this month France has become the first European country to ban fossil fuel advertisements. Although these companies already face tight guidelines on advertising in other countries, the French ban is yet another positive shift in the market towards a more sustainable future. Whether you’re a final year BESS student or you just about scraped through with Leaving Cert business, we all know the power advertising has. A ban on advertising will hopefully help lessen the demand for fossil fuels. This is a really hopeful indicator of a future system that doesn’t give preference to these larger oil companies and wants to promote more sustainable, eco-friendly choices. 

  1. Ireland committed to cutting emissions by 51% by 2030

Returning to the Irish climate fight, because it’s good to see positive change happening so close to us. In July of this year, the Irish Government committed to a 51% reduction in emissions right across the economy. Although this proposal has received some backlash, as a whole it shows hope for positive progression towards a country which is more eco-friendly, and is doing its part in the global climate fight.

So, there you have it, five reasons to give you hope that this fight isn’t over. Go out, shop second hand, get oat milk in your flat white from Kaph, and don’t give up just yet. The small things feel very small in the face of all the big bad news at the moment, but they’re the things that will keep us fighting strong.                         

Trinity’s Urban Garden Project

by Anangi Sumalde

As someone who has lived in a city her whole life, I place great value on the connective power of urban community gardens. As the world’s population becomes increasingly urbanised, with more low-income families living within so-called ‘food deserts’, these oases of green allow us city-dwelling folks the opportunity to ditch the usual hefty food mileage by harvesting our own produce. This, in turn, reconnects us with the food we eat and the communities we share it with.

Trinity Urban Garden (TUG) is a new college community garden project set up by PhD researcher Eleanor Mullen. As secretary of the Trinity Green Campus’s biodiversity committee, I was in contact with Eleanor earlier this year, to see how the committee could help to initiate the planning phase of the project over the summer. It has taken a long time for the project to receive final permissions to proceed. Many months after the initial application was granted by the Provost’s Climate Action Fund for COP26, the project has finally received a location on campus, provided by the Zoology department, who moved their experimental setup to facilitate this. With the limited space on campus, the project may not have been possible without the department’s generosity.

” 89% of the student community thought that life at Trinity would be improved by the presence of an urban garden.”

Students’ interest in a college urban garden is clearly apparent. A survey conducted by one group of students taking an elective module, in which they were asked to produce an artefact that contributed to progress on meeting one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals, revealed that 89% of the student community thought that life at Trinity would be improved by the presence of an urban garden. These survey results galvanised Eleanor’s initial call-out to the college community to participate in the project. The response certainly did not disappoint, with over 100 volunteers expressing an interest to join, including members of both the staff and student communities. 

The designated location for TUG sits somewhat awkwardly between the bicycle storage area and the Botany department’s greenhouses, adjacent to the O’Reilly Institute, Sports Centre and Pearse Station. Sunny and spacious it most definitely is not. Instead, TUG offers volunteers the challenge of turning a shaded and confined space into a thriving campus garden. Throughout regular meetings held over the summer, volunteers have collaborated and pooled their knowledge from multiple disciplines. This has allowed for the brainstorming of novel ways in which to demonstrate light and space maximisation, as well as growing techniques under suboptimal conditions. After all, the space, with its low light levels, ground surface area restricted to just under 12 m2, and surfaces consisting of paving slabs and gravel, is representative of many urban gardens today. 

We aim for TUG to become an educational model for innovative, sustainable, and affordable urban gardening and food production methodologies. We plan to install a small greenhouse in the project space with an inbuilt water collection system, allowing us to harvest rainwater. Within it, we hope to plant vegetable scraps of commercially grown vegetables to create a ‘zero waste’ zone. Spring onions, romaine lettuce and ginger are just a few examples of the vegetables that can be grown from remaining scraps. We are also keen to set up a hydroponics system within the greenhouse, which will allow for vertical growing of classic greenhouse crops. This growing method uses water rather than soil as a medium, thereby avoiding the negative impacts associated with peat consumption. 

Regarding the recycling and reusing of materials, we have received very positive results after posting donation requests on the Trinity Yammer Repurpose/Reuse group. From unwanted filing cabinets that can be repurposed as outdoor raised beds, to bicycle helmets that can be transformed into hanging baskets for space-efficient vertical growing methods, many items are revived rather than discarded, contributing to the goal of reducing waste and improving sustainability on campus.

“Within it, we hope to plant vegetable scraps of commercially grown vegetables to create a ‘zero waste’ zone.”

The project is also committed to raising awareness of biodiversity preservation. We wish to educate the public on the wealth of benefits of wild Irish plants by growing native orchids in the greenhouse and wild edibles in the outdoor portion of the garden. Despite their beauty, Ireland’s orchids are rare and sadly not well-known compared to their tropical cousins. Likewise, many wild edibles tend to be discriminately labelled as ‘weeds’. The inclusion of these plants with added native, medicinal or shade-tolerant value will serve to recontextualise them, reflecting our commitment to conservation. 

Complementary to the garden itself, we aim to run events throughout the academic year, such as how to use wild foods including dandelions, nettles, and wild garlic post-harvest. We hope to collaborate with Trinity’s student societies, the Healthy Trinity project, and the Green Campus Committee to organise events such as seed swaps and wild food cooking classes. We also hope to collaborate with certain elective modules, providing opportunities for student-led research that makes use of the garden as a living lab. Furthermore, data will be collected for the ShareCity food-sharing urban project, via their sustainability impact assessment toolkit, to contribute towards improving the sustainability of the food system. 

Our future goals include outreach programmes with local social initiatives to investigate whether similar projects can be set up elsewhere, and to learn from other urban community garden projects. The RISING project, a creative climate action project in Ringsend, where residents have formed a local edible garden, may provide an opportunity for the exchange of ideas. Influencing other individuals and groups to ‘green-up’ their local urban spaces is important for mitigating the urban heat island effect, whereby urbanised areas trap more heat than their rural counterparts. This is undoubtedly a worrying trend given current climate change projections. 

It has been very exciting to be part of a new college initiative so early on in its conception. Participation has made me realise just how challenging it is to turn an idea of this scale into something tangible. There have been many hurdles to overcome to develop a garden ground plan that the Grounds & Gardens committee, Botany and Zoology departments, and Estates & Facilities are all happy with. Permission needs to be granted at every step, including plans to hang up posters at the location. Delays in the project’s operation have resulted from waiting for the approval of many different stakeholders. Therefore, during this early phase in the project’s development, my thanks go out to all the project volunteers for their time, dedication, and patience. I look forward to continuing to be an active member of TUG and seeing how the project blooms in the months to come. 

To get involved with the project please email trinityugarden@gmail.com and check out our Instagram account @ tug_22_

A Year of Green Labs

by Becca Payling

Towards the East end of campus, a group of passionate scientists have been working for over a year to make Trinity’s lab practices less resource-demanding and develop more conscious practices among staff and students. 

TCD Green Labs was founded by Camilla Roselli of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN). It aims to increase awareness of sustainable research and lab practices, collate green labs across campus, advocate for lab changes among individual scientists to the level of institutions, and exist as the point of contact for Trinity sustainability. This is no small task when labs consume ten times more energy than offices, and scientists create over sixteen times more waste per capita than the average Irish citizen. Borne of the more comprehensive enterprise My Green Labs, an international initiative aimed toward accrediting labs and scientists who have made efforts to reduce their energy, water and waste footprints in wet labs, TCD Green Labs inspires and implements change in how labs are run sustainably in Trinity. 

“This would significantly cut Trinity’s overall energy, waste and water footprints, in line with the 2020-2025 Trinity Strategy Goal No.5 of contributing to a sustainable and healthier planet”

On the 18th May 2021, TCD Green Labs were pushed into the spotlight when TCIN achieved a Platinum Green Lab Certification from My Green Lab, the first in Trinity and second in Ireland to hold the award. The award was the culmination of efforts by PhD candidate Camilla Roselli, Prof Andrew Harkin, Ciaran Conneely, and Dr Virginia Mela Rivas, who were awarded €1,500 funding from the Provost’s Sustainability Fund to pursue Green Labs certification in February 2020, before their first committee meeting on the 12th March 2020, days before the country-wide lockdown. For the following year, despite the covid-related challenges, the TCD Green Labs team worked hard to improve their resource and waste management practices and more efficient water and energy usage to achieve the certification. This meant an impressive 70% of assessment actions of My Green Labs criteria were achieved and consisted of changes such as changing temperatures in freezers from -80°C to -70°C, saving about 30% of energy in the process. Dr Sarah McComish of the TCD Green Labs Committee added:

“The journey towards Green Lab certification begins with a survey, which was completed by all lab members (PIs, staff and students) in TCIN in August 2020. We received the results of this survey from My Green Lab in September 2020 and achieved an overall score of 44%; based on the answers from 33 researchers.”

Last November, the School of Physics Undergrad Teaching Lab & NatPro Centre for Natural Product Research, and earlier this year the School of Pharmacy, have joined the TCIN in achieving My Green Lab certification in Trinity, with 13 more labs undertaking the process, and the end goal by 2023 to sign up a total of 30 labs to the programme. This would significantly cut Trinity’s overall energy, waste and water footprints, in line with the 2020-2025 Trinity Strategy Goal No.5 of contributing to a sustainable and healthier planet.

This year, the TCD Green Labs Committee have been looking for more certification across Trinity labs and striving for better internal practices of labs already certified. This year’s goals were predominantly outreach-orientated, with recycling posters in the lab to encourage better waste management practices among staff and students, along with a traffic light ‘switch off’ system to reduce accidental energy consumption. Excitingly, TCD Green Labs received funding from UNI-ECO (a partnership between five universities uniting staff and students in implementing sustainable projects in universities and raising awareness about the benefits of climate conscious-actions) this summer to run a ‘Cold Storage Challenge’ where labs inside and outside Trinity competed for a prize to be crowned the facility with least energy-consuming freezers. Cultivating a TCD Green Labs community can also be seen in the production of a Green Labs Guide as an accessible blueprint and point of reference for not only certified labs, but college-wide, to introduce other scientists to Green Labs, advise them ahead of certification, and communicate the TCD Green Labs Committee’s goals for the future.  This vibrant 11-page step-by-step companion can be found at https://www.tcd.ie/provost/sustainability/assets/guides/green-labs-guide.pdf, and offers tips as simple as unsubscribing from mailing lists and links where labs can purchase ‘greener’ chemicals and lab equipment.

TCD Green Labs, despite its many successes, parallels most research in that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. For example, amongst the goals for this year have been implementing a polystyrene recycling scheme on campus with specialist company Rehab Recycling, but have faced the issue of working around Panda, the recycling company already operating on campus, as well as a lack of funding. Similarly, the installation of tap aerators to align with a main My Green Labs goal of reducing water in labs, and would reduce the water consumption on campus by 50%, has also been delayed due to lack of funding. However, with the increase of certified labs and lab sustainability interest across campus, along with the tireless work of the TCD Green Labs Committee, these projects will likely come to fruition in the coming years. 

This semester, the TCD Green Labs Committee are embarking on making more college-wide connections and nurturing sustainable mindsets. The creation of a Green Lab workshop will be available in October for current and incoming staff to reflect on and start building better lab practices. There will also be a sustainability scenario integrated into the first-year medical students’ problem-based learning tutorials, with the idea that the knowledge and application of more conscious practices will follow them throughout their time in college and later in their careers.

TCD Green Labs,  chaired by Camilla Roselli, are one of the subcommittees of Trinity Green Campus. Students and staff can get on board with the movement and are welcome to join the monthly meetings to make science in Trinity greener and cleaner. 

Sustainable Living in Trinity Accommodation

by Ellen Duggan

As we fall into another Michaelmas term, many of us are returning to student accommodation for the first time since May – and some of us are entering it for the first time. Between the difficulties that moving brings and the beginning of the academic year, the challenge of living sustainably in often poorly designed accommodation is the last thing on the minds of even the most environmentally-conscientious among us. Dodgy heating, flatmates who refuse to recycle… and what about those of us living in Trinity accommodation? The college prides itself on its sustainability initiatives, from the TCD Green Labs scheme to the array of environmental societies and programs students can get involved with- but just how easy is it to live sustainably on campus and in Trinity Hall?

A big part of the problem is with modern lifestyles emphasising convenience over conservation, students, who are often short on both time and money, tend to gravitate towards cheaper and more easily available goods and services. Takeaways wrapped in layers of plastic bags, disposable coffee cups and cutlery while getting food on the go between classes, deliveries from fast fashion brands such as Shein and PrettyLittleThing in order to have an endless supply of outfits for nights out results in a lot of waste and an increased carbon footprint. While Trinity may promote more sustainable options (e.g. selling KeepCups in the SU shop and offering discounts for their usage), there will always be those who will understandably reach for what is readily available instead, such as the disposable cups available in every shop and café on campus. 

Even students who do their best to live sustainably can find their efforts thwarted. While recycling and waste management form a large part of Trinity’s environmental commitments, it is thought that up to 40% of recycling on campus alone is contaminated. Asking students to be individually responsible as a part of environmental efforts is all very well and good, but when those individual efforts are so easily undone by others, many students may find themselves frustrated and less willing to try. While individual efforts to curb consumption and wastage are necessary, it is far more important to implement systemic change among businesses selling non-recyclable and unsustainable products in order to see greater impacts to undo the climate crisis nationally and internationally. 

“From 2006-2021 Trinity achieved a 35.9% improvement in energy efficiency thanks to projects undertaken by Trinity’s Estates and Facilities team”

For those lucky enough to be living on Trinity’s historic campus, there are plenty of opportunities to live more sustainably, as well as amenities which support this. From 2006-2021 Trinity achieved a 35.9% improvement in energy efficiency thanks to projects undertaken by Trinity’s Estates and Facilities team. Projects completed this year include the development of a low carbon Fabric Retrofit strategy for the Rubrics building to improve thermal efficiency (but within reason, to avoid jeopardising material stability or the building’s historic character), a planned ventilation upgrade for the Berkeley library and the continuation of transitioning from fossil fuel to electric machinery for landscaping on campus. Sustainable Procurement, a term used to describe ‘consciously purchasing products and services that are produced in a socially responsible way’ according to the Trinity Green Pages, remains a priority along with reducing overall consumption. 

Being in the centre of Dublin means campus is ideal in terms of access to public transport, but for those interested in cycling, the Dublin Bikes rental scheme is located at the Science Gallery, Nassau Street, as well as a variety of other locations around the city. There are also secure bicycle parking racks by Botany Bay, the Hamilton, the Sports Hall, and elsewhere on campus for students bringing bikes from home. Online sustainability handbooks created by the college contain guides and maps to sustainable facilities around campus, such as Green Maps (available as Google MyMaps links on Trinity Green Pages ‘Know your Campus’ https://www.tcd.ie/provost/sustainability/resources/knowyourcampus/) of waste disposal facilities, public transport options and water-saving projects for students looking to mitigate their individual impact, and get familiar with infrastructure around Trinity and Dublin City. For those looking to get even more involved, societies such as Enviro Soc, Bot Soc and Vegan Soc, and the Green Campus Committee are great ways to find out more about active sustainability projects on campus and to meet other students who are passionate about the environment. 

While a lot of sustainability initatives on campus are also relevant to those living in Halls, there are also some a little closer to home. The Green Halls Committee organises environmental events throughout the year and particularly during Green Week, with successes last year such as the second annual swap shop and an urban gardening workshop. Alli Dixon, the incoming Trinity Hall JCR secretary shared her hopes for the environmental committee this year; 

   “I hope to fully integrate sustainability as the standard for all JCR events and have all subcommittees work together as a team to ensure the most involvement in all aspects of our events. I would love to expand the Halls swap shop into an online formal for halls residents for the second semester to loan and rent formalwear, as [college] balls place huge burdens on students to spend money they may not have and turn to fast fashion to find affordable pieces. Additionally, I would like to do a holiday swap shop so residents could pick up Christmas gifts for their family and friends with less strain on the environment and their wallets.”

Regarding policies she hopes to implement to make JCR events more sustainable, Dixon says the JCR want to focus on events that engage residents directly in saving energy, as well as ones which inspire unity in a community reaching a common goal, as opposed to focusing on individual efforts. “One idea the committee has thought about is regular Halls-wide blackouts, where houses compete to see who can save the most energy over a night… also fun events like Dartry park clean ups, especially in collaboration with other JCR subcommittees such as Ents, Sports and International.”

While trying to live sustainably in student accommodation may come across as a daunting task, and there is certainly room for improvement in Trinity’s approach, it is very much possible, with a range of amenities and opportunities provided by the college which students can take advantage of.

In Conversation with Trinity’s Foremost Climate Activists

By Faye Murphy

Wildfires, heatwaves and extreme weather events; every summer is becoming increasingly dangerous. It can be extremely daunting to see the effects of climate change get worse in real time. In order to remain positive yet motivated to reduce emissions, lobbying governments and creating change is essential. Evergreen talked to some of Trinity’s foremost climate activists to discuss how they have been affected by the climate crisis and how to remain motivated. 

TCDSU’s Environmental Officer, Erin O’Dowd, believes that the recent heatwaves and wildfires simply have “illuminated the damage that climate change is doing to the world”. Aoife Kiernan, this year’s Environmental Society chair, adds that “it is frustrating when media reporting fails to acknowledge climate change as the driving force behind this extreme weather.” O’Dowd also mentions how a “few days of hot weather is enjoyable in Ireland” but “we have got to remember the more sinister reasons for those days becoming weeks.” Becca Payling, a previous Environmental Society chair, continues “the heatwave has been a wakeup call” that climate change “will not just affect people in the Global South”. 

“it is frustrating when media reporting fails to acknowledge climate change as the driving force behind this extreme weather.”

When discussing the Irish government’s debates around agricultural emissions, Kiernan described the talks as “disheartening” due to the government’s “unwillingness to place relative cuts to the emissions of the sector”. On the UK side of things, Payling discussed how the election of Liz Truss – whom she described as “a woman who dabbles with climate sceptics” – worries her as it may be a sign “that leaders cannot take this crisis seriously despite increasing evidence.”

Although COVID-19 stole the headlines in 2020 and 2021, the climate crisis is slowly creeping its way back into the media. When asked about the increasing number of outspoken climate activists across campus, O’Dowd states “conversations around climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental awareness are crucial in making a change for the better.”

She also believes that “groups like Extinction Rebellion, or our Green Campus Committee in Trinity, and societies like EnviroSoc” are “a step in the right direction” due to their ability to “encourage people on the ground to get involved and get angry about how people in power are treating our planet”. To this, Kiernan adds that “an increase in visibility [of climate change] has extended our ability as a society to do more varied collaborations.”

“conversations around climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental awareness are crucial in making a change for the better.”

With increasing media coverage comes increasing backlash. Payling believes that it is possible “people are either fed up, are overwhelmed, or have shifted priorities since covid.” Regardless of the evergrowing visibility of climate deniers, O’Dowd states that “the progress being made” should not be “tainted by the opinions of the ignorant”. Maintaining that “the work being done to combat climate change will go on without them or not.”

Despite the overwhelming and unsettling nature of climate change, O’Dowd reminds us that “you are one human, and you can only do so much.” She urges students to “join environmental groups like EnviroSoc or the Green Campus Committee and get involved in organising local protests, beach clean-ups or sustainable meals.” Kiernan agrees and continues, “it’s really important to find a community with similar beliefs and values to you”.

Payling shared that “it helps to find out more about your passions from a green perspective”, as “staying informed can be overwhelming” but supposes that “if it’s attuned to your interests, then at worst it’s a fun fact to take home.” O’Dowd adds to this idea as she believes it’s important to “make a difference while having fun.”