Brand Investigation: Primark

by Anna Barry

Penny’s, as it is known in Ireland, first opened its doors in 1969 in its capital city, Dublin. It is known around the world as Primark, and has over 380 stores worldwide. Primark is a fast fashion chain and has a large range of products, including womenswear, menswear, baby and children’s clothing, accessories, footwear, homeware, beauty products, and confectionery. Fast fashion can be described as inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Primark offers trendy clothing and day-to-day products at cheap and affordable prices. This all sounds great until we ask ourselves: how can Primark afford to make these items for as cheap as they sell them for, in a sustainable and ethical way AND make a profit? That is when the question of how ethical and sustainable Primark is, comes into play. 

Environmental impact

On a good note, Primark is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a global alliance of retailers, brands, suppliers, advocacy groups, labour unions, and academics, who aim to create “an apparel, footwear, and home textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on people and communities” – The Guardian. Another good step made by Primark was implementing the use of paper bags rather than plastic bags, which was done in 2002. However, how environmentally friendly can any fast-fashion brand be? According to researchers, a pair of jeans requires approximately 7,600 litres of water to make. It can also take around 2,700 litres of water to make just one T-shirt. Already, we can see how damaging selling these items for €20 or less is to our environment. The cheaper the clothes are, the more we can afford to buy, and basically, the more water we use up and the more damage we do to our environment. Primark has recently started to use organic cotton and recycled materials to make their clothes but what exactly does this mean? It is true that cotton is renewable and biodegradable but growing conventional cotton has had a detrimental impact on our environment. It takes approximately 10,000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of conventional cotton. Many manufacturers use artificial means such as chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides to make cotton grow faster. This causes massive damage to the soil, resulting in fields being unsuitable for growing other crops. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is much better for the environment as it doesn’t require the use of synthetic pesticides or any toxic chemical fertilizers. Its production also sustains the quality of soil and protects the native ecosystems. Recent studies suggest that the energy demand of organic cotton is 62% lower than conventional cotton. Organic cotton also uses approximately 91% less water than regular cotton and in turn produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the use of organic cotton is a pivotal step for Primark and other fast-fashion brands like H&M. As well, cotton does not contain microplastics. Therefore, cotton does not give off microplastic pollution when washed which is an added reason why to choose cotton items over the likes of polyester, viscose, etc which DO cause microplastic pollution. 

a pair of jeans requires approximately 7,600 litres of water to make. It can also take around 2,700 litres of water to make just one T-shirt

In terms of ‘made by recycled materials’ Primark states on their website that “We have partnered with specialist suppliers to produce our recycled products. First, waste plastic is recovered, flaked into pellets, and melted down. The plastic is then spun into yarn and used to create our products. In 2020, our products made using recycled materials more than doubled to 40 million items”. It is a great idea to try to use up our already existing plastics but this still promotes the idea that recycling is the answer, when cutting down on our overall consumption is the real answer. Primark has introduced a lot of great changes, but they still mass-produce items of often low quality and sell them at cheap prices. We must also consider transportation and packaging methods before giving them a gold star. Overall, the best way to be sustainable is to use what we already have but we are human and that’s not always easy. Primark has provided some more sustainable ways to buy fast fashion but you have the real power. Companies always listen to the consumer as that’s where the money is. So if you are buying in Primark, shop smartly and support the sustainable cotton items and other more sustainable alternatives.

Animal Welfare

Primark does NOT use fur, angora, down feather, or exotic animal skin or hair in its products. However, it DOES use leather and wool without stating its sources. They also do NOT provide evidence that they trace their animal products to the first stage of production. This withholds information about the condition and wellbeing of the animals used.  In terms of cosmetics, Primark state that animal testing is NOT permitted on Primark products, but it does retail cosmetics from other brands that do test on animals. 

Primark has also been called out for showing no evidence of workers being paid a living wage

Labour conditions

On the Primark website, it states that “Primark does not own any factories and requires all its suppliers’ factories to meet its Code of Conduct, which is based on the standards of the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations body”. Primark uses the likes of GY Sen to supply their clothes and this is where some of the major ethical questions for Primark lie. In good terms, the promotion of organic cotton protects a lot of workers from the toxins present in conventional cotton and Primark is a signatory to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Cotton Pledge and a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and has adopted their Code of Conduct. Primark has also set up “Primark Cares” which is an initiative to support the people who make their clothes and vet the factories being used. However, as Primark does not own these factories it means there is no real responsibility for them to ensure ethical practices are taking place. Over the years, we have all heard about ‘sweatshops’ making the clothes we see in Primark and other fast fashion brands. As recently as 2021, Primark hit the papers again with ‘Primark supplier accused of locking workers in a factory in Myanmar protests’- The Guardian. This supplier being GY Sen. In 2019, a report was issued by CIR who interviewed 73 Sri Lankan employees from six named supplier factories to Primark. It stated that no supplier met the retailer’s code of conduct and that some were involved in breaches of local law. Primark has also been called out for showing no evidence of workers being paid a living wage. Altogether, this is just not good enough. We expect when buying the Primark cares products that the workers behind the item are getting a living wage, but it seems that Primark isn’t being as transparent as we would like. 

Overall Primark is no worse than any other fast-fashion brand and they are making a big effort to be more sustainable. However, until people change their shopping habits and cut the amount of clothing they are consuming down, the situation will not improve. 

Green Labs

by Faye Murphy

In the past couple of years, many Trinity students and staff have been trying to find a way to create a more sustainable lab environment. In August 2020, the Institute of Neuroscience began its journey to becoming Green Lab Certified.

As Trinity College Dublin has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, the green labs initiative will significantly help Trinity in its journey towards this commitment. While the numbers vary from lab to lab, globally, labs use ten times more energy and four times more water than an office of the same size. In addition, labs alone contribute 2% of the total global plastic production.

Even on an individual basis, bench scientists contribute much more to climate change than the average individual. For example, while the average Irish person produces 61kg of waste a year, the average bench scientist can produce up to 1000kg of waste annually.

globally labs use ten times more energy and four times more water than an office of the same size

From these statistics, we can conclude that labs are resource-heavy environments, but this is not entirely necessary. Most of this energy and waste comes from poor management practices and bad habits. If only 2% of lab plastics were diverted from landfills, it would prevent 100 million metric tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere annually. This change would not only aid in Trinity’s goal but also aid in the international fight for climate control.

The My Green Lab programme is an international certification system where laboratories undergo a five-step programme to reduce their environmental impact and introduce sustainable practices continuously. These steps include a baseline assessment to understand the current state of lab practices. After the evaluation, some recommendations of change to improve lab sustainability are discussed and implemented. Based upon the percentage of green lab practices adopted, a lab is then certified as bronze, silver, gold, platinum or green. After initial certification, more recommendations and re-certification occurs down the road to ensure the lab is keeping up with their green practices.

labs alone contribute 2% of the total global plastic production.

As part of their green lab initiative, a group of PhD students from the institute of neuroscience and the school of chemistry created the Trinity Green Lab Guide. This green lab guide offers simple ways to reduce lab costs and improve efficiency. Trinity’s green lab guide focuses on five main areas, water management, energy, waste, green chemistry, and sustainable purchasing and management of substances inventory. The guide can be followed and used by any lab within the campus.

bench scientists contribute more to climate change than the average person … while the average Irish person produces 61kg of waste a year, a bench scientist can produce up to 1000kg

During Green Week last February, the college voted to decide which lab would be next to receive funding to become green lab certified. The vote decided that this funding would be allocated to The Cocker Chemistry Teaching Lab. This choice is a new step in the right direction as green chemistry is one of My Green Labs and Trinity Green Lab Guide’s main aims. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green chemistry is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances”. Green chemistry involves using safer and more environmentally friendly chemicals and substances as well as reducing solvent waste. There are 12 principles of green chemistry that one can find on the My Green Lab website. Also, the EPA provides an environmental toxicity report of chemicals used in labs. All types of labs must try to become “greener”, as for chemistry labs alone, 60% of their energy is used for ventilation, which can be significantly reduced by introducing green lab practices.

There are many ways to get involved in the green lab initiative, such as introducing your colleagues or peers to the Trinity Green Lab guide. On a personal scale, the My Green Lab website offers a free course to become a Green Lab Ambassador. This course is an introduction to lab sustainability, behavioural changes as well as how to suggest and make changes in the lab. Green labs are in the best interests of all individuals as not only will they create a more environmentally friendly lab, but a safer and more economically sound environment.

Psychology around the climate crisis.

by Hillary Mullen

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard of climate change. Some people’s brains and thought processes react differently to the crisis than others. It may be difficult for some of us to comprehend why people are convinced that climate change is not that big of a deal or believe that it doesn’t exist at all (even though it evidently does). However, this reaction of some people towards climate change can be understood through the understanding of the human mind and its psychology. 

Psychology of the Individual towards climate change.

Big movements and big changes usually start at home by a specific individual. It is the easiest way to change something about your life. From recycling your plastics to thrifting clothes instead of buying another t-shirt from H&M, individual changes really impact how one lives a sustainable lifestyle. 

However, beginning with the individual is important in order to emphasise to people that there is in fact a climate crisis in the first place. Under the concept of individual and household behaviour towards climate change, the theory of “overlooked dimensions” fits here (Nielsen et al., 2021). This means that there are choices individuals must make in order to be more sustainable and combat climate change and obstacles putting them off or preventing them from making such choices. For example, it is better to take public transport to get into work than a car. However, it is easier to get the bus if you live in the middle of the city compared to the middle of the countryside. 

Big movements and big changes usually start at home by a specific individual

According to Time Magazine, many psychologists have made the point that it is incredibly difficult for the human brain to fully comprehend the concept of climate change. The point was made by Samuel Schleffer for Time that a human’s purpose is to provide a legacy and work on something that has a significant impact on those living in the future. When people hear about climate change, it makes many feel that the work they are doing is not worthwhile or has any point in continuing if there is no future to look forward to. 

However, the argument could be made that a person’s work is worthwhile if it is to create a sustainable planet for the next generation that is not worrying over climate change the way many young people are today. 

On the other side of the spectrum, many people are struggling with their mental health as a result of climate change becoming more of a reality. This is as a result of people who have been directly affected by the consequences of climate change or are nervous for a future that does not look so bright anymore.

climate change … makes many feel that the work they are doing is not worthwhile

Climate anxiety develops as a result of action or a lack of action towards the crisis. Responses are needed for those who feel that issues to do with the environment are beginning to lose control.

Psychology of people within Government towards climate change

It is submitted that many governmental bodies are not bringing in enough policies and systematic change to help combat climate change. Despite an ongoing demand by the citizens of these countries, the government is hesitant to abide by some points. Governments when deciding on policy observe the mood of the people towards certain issues over others.  

Many people do want to see climate change policies implemented by their governments over the growing concern by the individual over the climate crisis. However, governments are beginning to understand and prioritise climate change policies through agreeing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and signing up to the Paris Agreement. 

the concept of a complete climate catastrophe is too overwhelming for the human brain to fully comprehend

If there’s one thing we know about the human mind it is that it tends to procrastinate. Tell me that you have never procrastinated an assignment or put off doing some housework at some point in your life, I doubt it. There are just some people out there procrastinating about climate change because the entire concept of a complete climate catastrophe is too overwhelming for the human brain to fully comprehend. However, it is essential for humanity to move past this and deal with the crisis head on for a sustainable future. 

Recycling is a Myth

by Faye Murphy

With the recent news that soft plastics can be placed in the household recycling bin, I took it upon myself to research why this was happening now, why all of a sudden and what was stopping this from happening in the past. 

When the media was flooded with appreciation for companies such as MyWaste and Repak for pushing this change in policy, there was simultaneously backlash. Three days after this new policy was announced, the EPA produced a press release of Ireland’s recycling failures. This included worrying figures that our recycling rates had been declining, yet our waste production had been on a steady incline. According to the EPA, “Ireland generated over 1.1 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2019, up 11 per cent on 2018”, which had been “the third year in a row that packaging waste in Ireland has exceeded one million tonnes”. Even more alarming is that “less than a third (28 per cent) of Ireland’s plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2019”, all while “the share of plastic packaging that Ireland incinerates has grown year-on-year and now stands at 69 per cent”, stated by the EPA as of September 10th 2021. 

The news that soft plastics can now be accepted into the recycling bin may seem optimistic, the reality is that while the soft plastics are entering the recycle bin, they are still not being recycled. According to MyWaste, these soft plastics will be used to make solid recovered fuel, which will be used to replace fossil fuels as a source of energy in cement kilns. 

Using materials made of fossil fuels to replace fossil fuels may seem defeatist, and I would have to agree. Will this really have any benefit when the same substances are entering our atmosphere?

Recycling is also not infinite. Recycling degrades the material, especially for plastics and paper, meaning there is a limit on the number of times it can be recycled before new plastic must enter this recycling process in order to produce “recycled plastic”. All this said plastic recycling is non-existent in Ireland. In Ireland, we collect materials, separate them in our waste factories and then those with enough economic worth are then exported abroad to be recycled there. The remaining “worthless” materials are then either sent to landfills or incinerators or else sent to cement factories to be used as fuel for their kilns. The latter is now being used for soft plastics. 

I believe that this new policy will lead to increased rates of contaminated recycling bins unless the “clean, dry, loose” message is engrained into Irish society as much as the angelus is engrained into RTE1

For decades we have been recycling plastics and other materials with the hope and belief that they will be recycled and enter a new life cycle. It was only over the summer when a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of “wishcycling”, which she describes as the way most people place their contaminated food packaging in the recycle bin with the hope it might possibly be recyclable. Being introduced to this idea made me realize how I am also a sucker to wishcycling. The thought of it perhaps being recyclable seems better than the idea that it will end up in the local landfill. Unfortunately, the new change in policy seems to only make my “wishcycling” worse, as now, although I understand that only clean, dry and loose plastic packaging should be placed in the recycling bin, as the majority of it is not recyclable (and not recycled anyway), will my bad habits make any difference? I believe that this new policy will lead to increased rates of contaminated recycling bins unless the “clean, dry, loose” message is engrained into Irish society as much as the angelus is engrained into RTE1. 

Plastic companies paid for recycling advertising in the 1990s to produce more plastic. 

According to previous oil industry insiders, the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of recycling have been known from as far back as 1974. While the ineffectiveness of recycling was known to oil companies, the industry still spent millions selling and advertising recycling. Why would oil companies promote recycling if this extends the life cycle of their products? According to Larry Thomas, former president of the Society of the Plastics Industry, “If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment”. Therefore the industry can get away with selling more and more plastic as the public believes recycling is effective. One of the main problems with recycling is economic inefficiency, as making new plastics is much cheaper than collecting, sorting, melting and rebuilding recycled plastic. From the very beginning, this problem was known, yet we and our parents have been sold a lie for almost 50 years, so why do we continue to wishcycle and have such a strong belief in our recycling bins? 

We should put the main emphasis on reducing waste consumption and production initially. There is a reason why reduce is first in the 3Rs

So, recycling is clearly not the answer, then what is? We should put the main emphasis on reducing waste consumption and production initially. There is a reason why reduce is first in the 3Rs. There are many ways to reduce waste, including making a meal plan and shopping list, buying second hand, using reusable bags, cutlery, bottles etc. We should also look into reusing our waste for other purposes, be it using our jam jars to hold makeup brushes or turning takeaway pint glasses into plant pots, there are many exciting ideas to flex your creative muscles. Without changing our attitude towards waste and recycling, nothing will change, and we will continue with ever-growing landfills and incinerator fumes entering our atmosphere. We must globally reduce our waste production and codependence on plastic. It will take a global attitude change to force us out of our bad habits and force companies to change their ideology towards packaging and waste management.

Wellbeing, Markets and Careers; Green Week Day Two

By Rory Chinn, Aoife Kiernan and Faye Murphy

The second day of Green Week began with a Climate Wellbeing Workshop, organised by the Green Campus Committee. Gary Tyrrell, Climate Action Officer with An Taisce’s Climate Ambassadors spoke to a group of budding and experienced climate activists on addressing eco-anxiety. For reference, eco-anxiety is the feeling of anxiousness and fear that comes with fully embracing the scale of the climate challenge. The committed climate activist is sure to run into this feeling and although some may feel that it is part and parcel of advocating for climate justice, this can lead to burnout. True strength, according to Gary, is about setting boundaries in our own lives and knowing that we can’t do everything. 

The highly interactive session was most akin to a tutorial in its comfortable intellectual discourse. This meant that engagement was free and encouraging to those with their ideas. One attendant discussed the relevance of the history behind the climate movement, with a particular focus on the esteemed marine biologist Rachel Carson. He said that the history of humans’ relationship with the earth has been thousands of years of connection, thrown away in the past few hundred. 

The session rounded up with a chat on how we take care of our well-being, and those privileged to take part in the workshop shared their outlets. 

The final message from Gary should stick with everyone, as a reminder of the optimistic attitude we should have in our approach to climate action and life as a whole, “Failure is not making a mistake- failure is giving up”.

The afternoon continued with a plant market organised by Envirosoc and Botsoc. This market facilitated students and staff in buying and swapping plants, cuttings and seeds. It proved to be a great success, with many members of the college community bringing in plants that they had propagated themselves, and expanding their own plant collections. Several botany students and members of the botanical society were in attendance providing sound advice on the caretaking of the plants. The society set up the market within one of the kiosks in the arts block and managed to gain traction throughout the college. The market was run as a fundraiser for the charity SEED Madagascar, and attendants were extremely generous. In total over €450 was raised. This money will go towards a myriad of projects, mainly in southeast Madagascar, ranging from conservation to food distribution, as Madagascar is currently experiencing a famine caused by drought, to education. Madagascar is commonly referred to as a “biodiversity hotspot” due to the high numbers of endemic species caused by its locations and nature as an island. 

The evening finished off with two talks, a discussion with Manchán Magan and a panel on Careers for a Sustainable Future. In a collaboration between the Environmental society and the Cumman Gaelach, Manchán Magan joined his discussion from zoom, which was then streamed into the beautiful surroundings of the Botany Lecture Theatre. The event was bi-lingual and gave insight into the interconnectedness of the Irish language and nature, and the common struggles the Irish language movement and the environmental movement have. Manchan proved to be a very engaging speaker, and his extensive life experiences made for an interesting talk, as he described his worldwide travel, casually dropping in comments like “when I came back from the Himalayas” , and inspired students with talk of his self-build house in county Westmeath.

The Careers for a Sustainable Future panel began with Melanie Allanson, Head of Human Resources at FoodCloud.  She discussed how FoodCloud goes about eliminating and distributing food thus addressing the SDGs 2 and 12.3. Allanson stated that there are many ways to get involved in FoodCloud, from technology, data analytics, finance or communications. She mentioned that before joining FoodCloud she wanted to find a purpose and believed joining FoodCloud would achieve this goal. 

The next panellist was John Dardis, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Glanbia. 

Dardis discussed how the nutritionist solution business is targeting dairy industry waste and converting it to protein. He mentioned that Glanbia is also developing packaging and partnering with Foodcloud. When looking into future careers, Dardis believes that you “don’t need to decide on a path immediately”, and should “stick with your gut”. You must “be prepared to grow, and see setbacks”. Dardis mentions that he “enjoys helping people with a vision”, and states that “trust with the team is important”. He maintains the outlook that empathy is a skill set, that in order to be in charge you must be able to “give solutions rather than issues”. 

Dr Sabrina Dekker, Climate Action Coordinator at Dublin City Council was the final panellist. Dekker discussed her career experience, from originally wanting to be a doctor to becoming involved in DCC.

She gives the advice to “love your space and don’t need to know your path immediately”, as it took her until the age of 25 to decide on a path. Dekker believes that one needs “skill in uncertainty and how to respond and think creatively to give aid and answers where needed”, she mentioned that as students have already suffered through the pandemic they, therefore, have increased resilience.

There are currently graduate programmes at DCC and unpaid internships but with a chance of ending up with a job. There are also Foodcloud internships including a stipend, Allanson mentioned that FloodCloud is waiting on a graduate programme, they just need funding.

Graduate programmes are available within Glanbia, with sustainability entry jobs available in the future. There are also two campaigns for students, in spring and autumn.

Day three of Green Week sees a myriad of events, from a college-wide swap shop, a green lab panel discussion to a flower hammering event by Trinity’s Environmental Society. 

Green Week Day One: A Rundown

By Faye Murphy and Aoife Kiernan

Green Week was launched with a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Trinity’s green week. This year’s theme is “repairing our broken food systems”, chosen by the popular vote in November. 

The ceremony began with Michele Hallahan, sustainability advisor to the Office of the Provost. Hallahan spoke of how society’s “broken capitalist economy” has been letting down cultures worldwide. She spoke fondly of the many initiatives and changes that have occurred in the past year, from a change in provost, the election of a vice provost for biodiversity and climate action, as well as a new sustainable travel policy for staff and new green lab initiatives. Although many of these initiatives are due to small people groups, she announced that no action on a university scale without “unified efforts” and “unified passions.”

Sam Foley, the Environmental Officer of TCDSU, gave the student perspective for the event. Foley praised the student-led initiatives currently taking place. She believes that the “desire for social change is self-evident”, especially on a curriculum, divestment and food choice level. She believes that “sustainability is for everyone” that everyone has a different perspective to bring to the table. 

Senator David Norris, who was described by Hallahan as a “long-time champion of human rights”, has opened 19 of the 20 green weeks. Norris, who saw the population of earth triple so far within his lifetime, believes that it is vital we continue and maintain the conversation around the climate crisis. 

Provost Linda Doyle mentioned that although there is a lot to celebrate, green week reminds us that there is still a lot to do. We have the opportunity to change, but simultaneously, the burden that we must act on or the earth will continue to die in front of us. She believes that Green Week gives us the opportunity to think on a personal and university level of how we can make changes. 

Iseult Ward, the co-founder and CEO of FoodCloud, an NGO helping businesses to redistribute food waste to charities, was the next to take the stage. She began with the many disappointing statistics of food waste. Still, Foley mentioned that she is hopeful for the future due to small actions currently taking place and believes young people are the driving force for change. She states that the 140 billion meals that FoodCloud had prevented from ending up in the landfill due to their work would not have been possible without the community of environmental activists. Food is something that brings us together; every culture and community around the world is influenced by its cuisine and food security. Therefore we must inspire and encourage others to make changes to create a better world for us all. 

To close the ceremony, Michele Hallahan offered the audience a chance to imagine a world where everyone is fed, where ecosystems are cherished and a world where it is a sovereign right to be a part of nature. She then stated that this is not just a dream, it was a reality in the past, and it can and will be a reality again if we make the appropriate changes. Although these changes “should’ve started 30 years ago”, they must start now. Finally, she stated that we need to stop buying into the marketing that “commodifies nature”, taking up every acre of land and destroying our environments. 

Pop-Sci Book Club

The next event of the day was a pop-science book club. The science societies on campus are running a pop-sci book club throughout this semester, and this week it was hosted by the natural science societies: Botsoc, Envirosco and Zoosoc. Held in a cosy room in the atrium, the participating students sat around a table and snacked on some vegan treats while discussing a wide variety of books. Some highly recommended books included Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan and Thor Hansons Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid. The discussion ranged from the human biome to the frustrations associated with reading hopeless climate change-related books. 

Law Economics and The Environment Panel

The first day of Green Week concluded in an informative panel discussion organised by Envirosoc, Student Economic Review, Lawsoc and Trinity Free Legal Advice Centre. Chaired by Anne Spillan, the Auditor of Lawsoc, this panel was run in a hybrid fashion, as one of the participants, Dr. Andrew Jackson, joined Zoom from France, where he is on sabbatical. Other panellists included Dr. Jackson, an environmental and planning lawyer and a faculty member of UCD, and Dr Surya Roy, the Assistant Professor of Regulatory Law at Trinity College Dublin. 

The panellists touched on various topics, from carbon leakage to greenwashing. Dr. Martha O’Hagan-Luffe spoke about the power economic systems have over the environment and how Trinity Student Managed Fund have purchased shares in Irish companies and have plans to attend their AGM’s and ask them questions about their climate goals. Overall the event was uplifting for the audience gave insight into plans for the future. 

Tomorrow’s events for Green Week will see discussions in climate well-being, careers in sustainability, a market to buy and sell plants, and many more.

“Connecting Nature” & Humans in Trinity

by Roisin Gowen

Humans have historically placed themselves superior to nature. Although it is common knowledge that we rely heavily on natural capital and resources, we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance, but also by our mere existence on this earth. As climate change becomes more integrated into our everyday vocabulary, more and more new terms have emerged to help scientists, sociologists, and politicians alike to grasp ways to solve our current environmental issues.

‘Nature-based solutions’ is amongst these new concepts that aim to integrate nature into the ways in which we tackle these environmental challenges by mimicking processes that occur in the natural world. This concept follows the path of other newly popularized terms such as ‘ecosystem services’ and ‘natural capital’ that are leading a movement towards greater emphasis on the relationships between society and the environment and the ways in which humans perceive and use nature. Rather than looking purely scientifically for solutions to environmental problems, nature-based solutions aim to bring humans more in line with nature by searching for answers within nature itself. Environmental action is being more realised as a multidisciplinary discourse. Therefore, environmental issues and initiatives are becoming more considered on multiple planes, such as environmental, ecological, social, cultural, economic and political. 

we have kept ourselves at a distance to our environment, rather than accepting that we are deeply embedded in it through our reliance

“Connecting Nature” is a framework being funded through Trinity that is inspired by nature-based solutions and aims to help small-scale organisations and cities adopt this concept. I was fortunate to be able to speak to Marcus Collier, Professor of Botany in Trinity, about his involvement in this project and why nature based-solutions is a very promising avenue for future environmental action. 

“Connecting Nature” is based on innovative action instead of research action, as it looks to the surrounding environments to help guide environmental action that is beneficial on an environmental, ecological, political and social scale. Moreover, this framework was designed to be available as a tool to guide the implementation of nature-based solutions. Prof. Collier noted that there is a lot of “untapped knowledge” in urban spaces and that we can source information from our cities and surroundings to be able to scale them up to effective large-scale environmental action. For many organisations and cities, motivations for making positive environmental changes must often come with a supplementary case for growth within their cities or businesses. By implementing more nature-based solutions, particularly in urban areas and cities where we are often more disconnected from nature, we will become more integrated with natural capital and resources, and have a more circular approach to the way in which we rely on nature. 

“Connecting Nature” aims to put a value on resources so that we pay for them rather than depleting them. The framework has three main phases; Planning, Delivery, and Stewardship, of which each phase has seven different elements that must be considered at each phase. An important aspect of this process is the ‘co-production of planning’, where shared knowledge and multidisciplinary opinions are valued for creating an interrelation between all the parties involved. Collier emphasized how nature can be a powerful tool to bring people together and can be used to build cohesion in communities. This cohesion goes beyond relations between individuals in society but also extends to the relations between individuals and their surrounding natural environments.

The Ultimate Guide to Green Week 2022

Trinity lights up green this week for the 20th anniversary of the college’s Green Week. The theme, voted on by staff and students earlier in the year, Repairing our Broken Food Systems, has inspired a host of thought-provoking events, which aim to educate, and also celebrate our environment.

Monday 21st


Business School Courtyard


Kicking off with a bang, the Green Week Launch is being held in the foyer of the Business Building. Special guests include Senator David Norris and Food Cloud CEO and Co-founder Iseult Ward. They will be joined by Trinity’s very own Yvonne Buckley, the new Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action, Sam Foley, SU Environmental Office and Sustainability Apprentice, along with Michelle Hallahan, Sustainability Advisor and Provost Linda Doyle. This is set to be a lovely ceremony, with vegan nibbles, memories from previous Green Weeks and a great atmosphere. 

Pop Science Book Club

Atrium Room 2


This week Enviosoc, BotSoc and ZooSoc will be hosting the Pop Science Bookclub. Books being discussed include Buzz and Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid: The Fraught and Fascinating Biology of Climate Change by Thor Hanson and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. There is no pressure to have read these books – this is a casual chat about popular natural science books.

Thrift Shop Night Out



Trinity Ents are holding a big night out to start the week. The theme: Thrifted Clothes! Get your charity shop and vintage outfits together and dress to impress! Tickets are €3 and available from the Ents fixr (link can be found in @trinityents instagram bio). 

Law, Economics and the Environment Panel

McNabb Lecture Theatre

EnviroSoc, SER, FLAC and Law Soc present an interdisciplinary panel giving students a flavour of how law, economics and business can help to reduce climate change, seek environmental justice and fix environmental degradation. 

Tuesday 22nd

Design Thinking Sprint – Day 1


11am-1pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Join the international NGO concern in this three day series of workshops, where the design approach is applied to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Climate Wellbeing Workshop



This is a lunchtime workshop, organised by the Green Campus Committee and  delivered by Gary Tyrrell, Climate Action Officer with An Taisce’s Climate Ambassadors. It will discuss eco anxiety, and provide ways to deal with it.

Plant Market

Arts Blick Kiosks


Swap and buy plants, seeds, cuttings and pots at EnviroSoc’s plant market. This event will be in aid of SEED Madagascar.

Careers for a Sustainable Planet



Trinity Careers Service have assembled a fantastic lineup of speakers from various disciplines, all of whom have careers relating to climate action or sustainability. Guest speakers include Melanie Allanson, Head of Human Resources at FoodCloud, John Dardis, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Glanbia and Dr Sabrina Dekker, Climate Action Coordinator at Dublin City Council. They will be sharing their personal career stories, and discussing their work. If you are interested in a career in the world of sustainability, but not sure how to get into it – this is the event for you!

Seachtain Glas le Manchán Magan

Botany Lecture Theatre & Online


This hybrid event sees the Cumann Gaelach and EnviroSoc come together to speak to Manchan Mágan, travel writer, documentary maker and author of the book Thirty Two Words for Field. Manchan has a great insight into how language shapes culture, and how the Irish Language can give us a greater connection to our environment. 

The State of the Nation – Ireland’s Environment in 2022



The Graduate Students Union had put together this exciting panel which discusses the current state of the Irish Environment. Speakers include Pádraic Fogarty, author of Whittled Away, and Editor of Irish Wildlife magazine, Elaine McGoff, Director of the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN), climate journalist John Gibbons and Ciara Beausang, a postdoctoral researcher with Teagasc. 

Wednesday 23rd

Get to know 2USE



2USE, the new second hand buy and sell platform will be in the Hamilton building all afternoon. They will be giving out prizes, chatting about their platform and promoting the circular economy. Drop by to have a chat with their team.

Swap Shop

Hamilton Study Space


Trinity’s biggest ever swap shop is being held in the Hamilton Junior Common Room. Items can be dropped off downstairs in the Business Building, beside the McNabb Lecture theatre. Each student will be allowed to take 5 free items, which include clothes, accessories, shoes, books, kitchenware, and sporting goods. 

Flower Hammering Mid-Week Munchies

Atrium Room 2


In a special edition of their weekly Mid-Week Munchies, EnviroSoc will be holding an EcoCrafts session, where they will be using natural dyes to colour clothes. Join them for a chance to learn a new skill, have a chat and make some friends. Bring along a light couloured garment that needs a bit of a lift!

Green Lab Panel Discussion



Trinity’s Green Labs have had a very successful few months, with the School of Pharmacy’s NatPro lab being awarded the highest level of accreditation through the Green Labs Programme. Join them for a discussion on the best practises in lab sustainability. Opened by Prof. Kingston Mills, and chaired by Prof. Andrew Harkin, speakers will include Andrew Arnott, Dr. Fanny Yeun and Dr. Siobhan Gaughan.

Horticulture Peat: Challenges in Transition



In another event from the Graduate Students Union, this time discussing the challenges the peat industry faces after the closure of peat fired power stations across the midlands. Featuring Niall Sargent, journalist with Noteworthy, Matthew Lohan, Woodstock Trees and Shrubs Ltd.,  Anna Kavanagh, growing media consultant & Dr Michael Gaffen of Teagasc. 

Thursday 24th

Clothes ReWorkshop

191 Pearse Street


Envirosoc are holding a workshop detailing how to repair and restore your old clothes and prolong your wardrobe. Thread, needles and embellishments are supplied by the society, just bring yourself and your clothing piece of choice. 

Food From The Sea



This presentation by Paul Holm,  Professor of Environmental History explores whether we can get more sustainable food from the sea in the future – and what we may learn from the past. From looking at ways to encourage people to eat more sustainable foods, to . Learn how academics engaged with innovative chefs and educationalists to build on Ireland’s seafood heritage, this will be an interesting talk. 

Pop-Up Shop

Berkeley Library

12-5pm, Thursday & Friday

OH MY POP UP! will be running a Pop-Up Shop event where a number of vendors, students, alumni students, artists and designers will be selling and showcasing their products. Including crafts, accessories, Eco-friendly skincare and cosmetics, hand painted and restored furniture, ceramic design with original artwork, clothing, hats and scarfs, vintage, secondhand, designer, sustainable products, and more! 

A Green Healing Environment



The Global Brain Health Institute is hosting a seminar with Dr. Rutger de Graaf,  an innovation manager for Health Care organisations, specialising in nature-assisted health innovations in a healing environment. 

The Need For A More Sustainable Irish Food System



This food system focused panel is being organised by the Green Campus’s Biodiversity Subcommittee and the Food & Drink, Environmental and Zoological student societies. They aim to explore the need for a more sustainable food system with speakers who are experts in a range of areas. Professor Jane Stout of Trinity’s Botany Department,  will chair the discussion in which Ballymaloe Cookery School’s Darina Allen, news correspondent Pat O’Toole, organic dairy farmer Sinéad Moran and Irish Rural Link’s James Claffey will each consider solutions to the challenges we currently face with our modern food system. 

What Does Integrity Taste Like



Daniel Malan, Professor in Business Ethics will lead this discussion on ethical leadership and integrity in the food chain. He will be joined by  Brian Ingarfield, Chief Customer Officer at Ireland’s food industry Unicorn, Flipdish and Kylie Magner, MD at Magners Farm, a leader in organic food production. 

Friday 25th

Vegan Food Crawl

Front Square


DU Food & Drink, EnviroSoc and DU Vegan Soc will be visiting all the best places to get vegan food near campus. 

Sustainable Business: How to survive in a Consumerist World



Norah Campbell will chair this discussion with owner of Bread 41 Eoin Clusky, Donal Sheehan, farmer with BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment) Project, and others. 

Green Generation



Green Generation, based in Kildare, uses organic waste to create energy in the form of biomethane through anaerobic respiration. In this talk they will discuss their business, and the place these fuels have in our futures. 

TCDSU & the Hist Debate



In a collaboration between the Trinity College Dublin Student Union, and the College Historical Society, this debate will be on whether Ireland’s agricultural industry is compatible with Climate Justice. Special guests include Hazel Chu and Fridays for Future’s Beth Doherty.

More information and links to online events can be found on the Trinity Events Calendar

Green Campus’ Waste Subcommittee Achievements

by Caroline Costello

The Green Campus Committee has been putting forward lots of ideas this past year on how to make Trinity a more sustainable campus through the use of its subcommittees. Despite the restrictions the lockdowns held over us, the Waste Subcommittee hosted an online tutorial explaining what Ecobricks are and how to make them during Green Week. This workshop was set up with the hope that students and staff would start making their own bricks, which are made from plastic bottles filled with non-recyclable plastics. Following the workshop, the subcommittee set up a temporary bin collection point for them on campus. This bin can be found by heading towards Kinsella Hall and following the narrow passageway to the right, where you should find yourself facing Nassau Street beyond the wall as well as a row of bins. One of these bins will have an Ecobrick poster on it as well as the requirements for them such as weight, etc. There are also several other types of bins here that you should check out while you’re at it! 

The aim for the Ecobricks would be that both students and staff would continue to make them while also becoming aware of just how much non-recyclable plastic companies use and that we ourselves consume. Hopefully, this would encourage people to cut down on their plastic consumption while also lobbying for change in regulations on non-recyclable plastics by both organisations and our government. As plastics also have a great impact on our sea life, Seal Rescue Ireland was one of the organisations that spoke with the Waste Subcommittee about how Ecobricks can prevent these plastics from harming our sea life. During the workshop, they showed how Ecobricks could be used to make other objects such as garden furniture as well as art installations. The Waste Subcommittee would love to host another workshop with Seal Rescue Ireland and potentially others who promote upcycling waste in order to get more people involved with not just making Ecobricks but participating in collecting non-recyclable plastics, not just from their homes but from beach clean-ups etc., as well as making furniture and art from them on campus. 

bringing both staff and students of Trinity together to create objects of art through waste

The subcommittee has also been in touch with Trinity’s catering services to set up a rewards system where students receive a catering voucher in exchange for their Ecobricks and subsequently have a permanent collection point on campus for the Ecobricks. This could then continue to be used to make furniture and art. By bringing both staff and students of Trinity together to create objects of art through waste, could encourage the Trinity community to be more aware of not only the effects of plastic pollution but how it can be salvaged from waste to art and, in turn, encourage our community to lobby for change in the plastics industry.

Another scheme being set up by the Waste Subcommittee was the crockery and cutlery lending scheme Envirolend. Envirolend was set up in 2019 by what was originally the TCD Plastic Solutions group, which turned into the Green Campus’ Waste Subcommittee.  The idea behind the scheme was to reduce the amount of single-use plastics the societies and clubs of Trinity can often go through when hosting events. This way, our societies and clubs can borrow these items at a small fee and return them after their use. Thus, Plastic Solutions decided to order cutlery, cups and bowls all in metal so they would be more durable than ceramic. The brand of cups used is called Enviro-Cup, which is a reputable stainless steel company that works with festivals across the U.K. and Ireland. For the bowls, the brand is called Milestone, which makes their bowls from enamel, and the cutlery was bought from Nisbets. The next step was to find storage for the items. As UPS had just been established on campus with a focus on sustainability, the group decided to get in touch with them through Trinity’s Sustainability Advisor, Michele Hallahan, and they offered up a storage locker space free of charge. The goal behind the organisation of the scheme is that someone from the Waste Subcommittee keeps track of society bookings through emails and the form set up on Facebook, they collect the items and give them to the society. Then the society uses them, cleans them and then returns them to their point of contact. If anything gets lost or broken, then the society buys the replacement. However, funding was needed to get the scheme up and running, and so Plastic Solutions applied for the Provost’s Sustainability Fund who offered money to set up a pilot scheme. This is how the group was able to buy this initial small set of cutlery and crockery, which was trialled for one event before Covid put a stop to all society and club socialising, with the goal to apply for more funding once the scheme gets off the ground. 

The idea behind the scheme was to reduce the amount of single-use plastics the societies and clubs of Trinity can often go through when hosting events

You can sign up to borrow items for your events now by going to the Envirolend Facebook page and filling out the form or by emailing The Waste Subcommittee, as well as the other subcommittees, are always looking for more members to join Trinity’s move towards sustainability. If you have any ideas or suggestions of your own please do not hesitate to get in touch or fill out the sign-up form here

Waste on Campus

by Aoife Robertson

Disposing of our waste correctly can often feel confusing, especially if we don’t know what can be recycled or where to put it. Trinity generated nearly 60 tons of waste during the month of September 2021 and this number is expected to rise to over 130 tons per month as we make a full return to pre-Covid teaching and activities. However, up to 40% of domestic waste in Trinity is contaminated by incorrectly disposed items, meaning that this waste cannot be recycled and instead is treated as general, black bin waste. With this in mind and with many students on campus for the first time, we are here to give you the breakdown of waste on Trinity campus!

It is important to note that Trinity consists of many campuses, not just the city centre location that we all know and love. With the exception of Tallaght Hospital, all Trinity campuses follow the same waste management system so whether you are in Halls, Front Square or the TBSI, this article can act as a one-stop-shop for all your waste disposal needs!

Mixed, dry recyclables

Trinity has an incredible waste management system and facilitates the recycling of many different types of waste. The simplest of recyclables are mixed, dry recyclables including paper, plastic and aluminium. To dispose of mixed dry recyclables, you can use the numerous green bins that are found in nearly every building on campus. There are also four “Solar Belly” bins placed in Fellow’s Square and beside the Cricket Pitch. These bins are easily identified by their green lids and shouldn’t be confused with their black lidded, general waste counterparts. When disposing of mixed, dry recyclables don’t forget the golden rule; They must be clean and dry, otherwise, they will contaminate the rest of the bin! 

Large blue bins can be found in locations such as Botany Bay, the Science Gallery and the Museum Building. These bins are specifically for white office paper, no coloured paper or cardboard is allowed! You can put all other paper in the green bins while cardboard can be flattened and placed beside these large blue bins for later collection.  


Having a great night out and wondering what to do with your empties? Currently, the biggest problem for Trinity Waste Management is that glass is being put in the general waste bin, not only preventing its proper disposal but also proving a health risk for anyone handling the waste. Glass bins can be found outside the Pav, in Botany Bay or behind the Arts Block and all glass items can be disposed of here if they are clean and empty. Plastic and aluminium lids can be disposed of in the green bins while mixed material lids can be put in the general waste bins. 

Organic waste

Organic waste such as food can be put into brown, compost bins. A good rule of thumb if you’re confused about whether a non-food item can go in the brown bin, is that if it once grew it can be composted. Paper and corks were once trees so they can go in the brown bin! You can find organic waste bins in Botany Bay, behind the dining hall, behind the Pav or in Goldsmith Hall. Compost bins may be a little rarer on campus, but they are still there so make sure to avail of them! 


General electrical items can be disposed of in the WEEE cages in the Hamilton, Botany Bay or on the second floor of the TBSI. If you’re a resident of Halls you can also bring your electricals to Front Desk for recycling. When disposing of electricals make sure to remove batteries where possible. Trinity also offers facilities for battery recycling in House 6, the Arts Block and the Civic Engineering Building. House 6 also has facilities for toner and mobile phone disposal.

Other waste

There is a whole range of other waste disposal points for the above-mentioned items, with dozens of disposal points around campus. There are also many more items that can be recycled on campus such as construction and demolition waste, hazardous materials, light bulbs, metals, oils and timber all easily disposed of using on-campus facilities. If you are unsure of whether an item can be recycled or how to recycle off-campus you can use the website which sorts objects into categories for recycling and even gives you your nearest recycling point!
For the full list of recyclable items at Trinity and to access a map of disposal points please consult the webpage