Sustainable Period Products Initiative

by Georgia Dillon

The Sustainable Period Products Initiative is a student-run campaign aiming to educate students on the environmental impact of menstruation and sustainable alternatives to traditional, single-use period products. At the heart of the initiative is the sentiment that while reusable period products aren’t suitable for all menstruators, those of us who can make the switch away from single-use products should try to do so. The initiative consists of a social media campaign, a poster campaign, a study of menstruator’s consumer habits and an opportunity for students to trial reusable products for free and to report on their experience with the reusable product. 

The project was funded by the Uni-Eco Green Challenges Campaign. This initiative aims to encourage students to “develop solutions that will improve sustainability at their University campus, working toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” The campaign is a collaboration between five universities across Europe, from Barcelona to Budapest. Trinity had five projects funded, a biodiversity audit of the campus, the student lab coat resale service, ecocalc (an app that helps students calculate the emissions their travel to college cause), thinking inside the box (a project to establish “novel habitats for bugs, bats and birds through installing ‘bio-boxes’ on campus, to enhance and support local wildlife populations) and our project, the sustainable period product initiative. These projects were led by students, with guidance from staff members.

reusable period products aren’t suitable for all menstruators, those of us who can make the switch away from single-use products should try to do so

We created our social media campaign to bring awareness to the waste generated by single-use period products. For example, the average menstruator will use 12,000 period products per lifetime, enough to fill two minibuses, and most period products are made from 90% plastic. The disposal of period products generates up to 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. We will post this campaign on our Instagram @sustainableperiodstcd, as well as on the Green Campus Committee Social Media. We also plan on postering bathrooms across campus, as this will allow students who may be uncomfortable reading posters out in the open the ability to read about the impact of these products and sustainable alternatives. 

the average menstruator will use 12,000 period products per lifetime, enough to fill two minibuses

We also plan on surveying students twice throughout the campaign. Once, in the beginning, to gauge student attitudes on reusable period products, as well as their interest in trying them. Through partaking in this survey, students will have the option of putting their name in a raffle to win a free sustainable period product of their choice. We will ask these students to report on their experiences, which we will anonymously share with other students. We will then resurvey the student body to see if attitudes towards these products have changed. Our goal is to replicate this study in other universities across Ireland or throughout Europe. By using our Uni-Eco platform, we hope to raise awareness of the waste created by these products.

Through partaking in this survey, students will have the option of putting their name in a raffle to win a free sustainable period product of their choice

We were privileged to be chosen to present our project at the Uni-Eco Summer School, a week-long series of presentations and lectures on sustainability and best practices from students and experts from across the five universities. We learnt from other wonderful teams about their initiatives in their home universities and heard from academic staff and sustainability experts about best practices in their universities. The Sustainable Period Product Initiative was selected as the top project, meaning that the project will receive more funding and that we will be able to present our project to participants in the next Uni-Eco Summer School at the University of Utrecht. We hope that Trinity students that experience menstruation will keep a lookout for our social media posts, survey links and posters around campus!

Can There Be Climate Justice Without Gender Justice?

by Niamh Donnelly

What does gender have to do with climate catastrophe? The answer may not be immediately apparent if we consider the connections between unequal power relations and natural hazards, for example. It is assumed that such extreme climate events presumably equally affect the lives of all members of a community. To take such a simplistic view of environmental hazards fails to account for the complexity of the political economy and social structures that can impact the everyday experiences of people dealing with the effects of a rapidly changing climate and other environmental challenges. 

It is widely accepted that any monumental environmental crises, including those predicted as a result of human-induced climate change, can be expected to have far-reaching implications for people of all genders. If the planetary boundaries of our physical world are overburdened, most people assume that the devastating effects of ecosystem collapse will be oblivious to our gendered bodies and social identities. Yet these effects will undoubtedly be experienced differently depending on the individual’s gender identity and race for example. As several feminist scholars have pointed out, international climate negotiations thus far have primarily mirrored the structural inequalities of the world economy. That is, they operate within a global political system often dominated by the interests of the most developed, industrialised countries ⎼ and are often debated and dictated almost exclusively by older, wealthier men. 

These grossly unequal economic and political systems often limit the extent to which more marginalised groups ⎼ not to mention lower income countries ⎼ can contribute towards the reduction of growing environmental and socio-economic problems. It is within this framework that grassroots environmental movements, often representing the strategic interests of marginalised groups, are forced to look in from the outside with virtually no power to influence the scope of policy-related discussions. At worst, such environmentalist movements, which are often led by women, can become the target of state aggression.

This movement explicitly opposes the hierarchical thinking that has led to the exploitation of nature and the perpetuation of social inequalities

People have been gradually waking up to the fact that these underlying capitalist market forces and gender structures are too important to ignore in any discussion on environmental policy. This point is one of the main objectives of ecological feminism ⎼ or ecofeminism ⎼ a social movement and philosophical theory centred around the transformative concepts of women’s liberation and achieving social justice while pursuing environmental goals. 

Female activists and protesters have been drawing attention to the parallels between the oppression of women and the destruction of nature. This movement explicitly opposes the hierarchical thinking that has led to the exploitation of nature and the perpetuation of social inequalities. Since the early 1970s, this movement has spread through female-led protests around the globe and is often championed by women from indigenous communities. Recently there has been a revival of the Ecofeminist movement here in Ireland. Local groups such as the Dublin Ecofeminists are mobilising, leading to a renewed interest in the ecofeminist approach to environmental activism. 

Taking the perspective of ecofeminists, it becomes more obvious to see how methods of expropriating women and other marginalised groups are intertwined with the destruction of our natural world. Both, after all, occur as the result of an unjust socio-economic system and are reinforced through male-dominated political processes. Important decisions about our collective future continue to be made behind closed doors, in meeting rooms that are often devoid of any semblance of diversity, despite the efforts of many marketing campaigns to convince us otherwise. 

The release of the latest IPCC report in 2021 highlighted the overwhelming magnitude of the climate chaos facing us in the coming decades. Thus far, our attempts have failed to appropriately address the severity of our climate warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. It may now be time for us to re-evaluate our strategy and consider some more radical ways of thinking about environmental justice. 

We should ask ourselves if environmental justice can be achieved at all without reshaping social power relations

Given the immensity of the task to effectively manage and protect the natural environment on a global scale, the collective input of all people is required. Perhaps we can learn from the philosophy of radical gender and environmental activists to consider what the transformative capacity of climate policy might be? We should ask ourselves if environmental justice can be achieved at all without reshaping social power relations. The ecofeminists among us would probably argue this is not the case. Regardless, the climate challenges that await may force us to finally consider the intersection of complex ecosystems, social institutions and cultural realities encompassed by this pursuit.

The Life that Lives on Campus

by Hazel Herbst

Hazel Herbst, a summer intern on the Trinity College Dublin Biodiversity Audit reflects on her time spent working on the project.  

As another strange COVID summer has come to a close, it is time to unmask what we’ve been up to these past few months and draw some much needed attention to the natural side of Trinity College Dublin.

As living beings on this dynamic planet, we are highly reliant on the interconnected nature of our ecosystems. Meaning, we are dependent on both the physical and organismal world around us. Should the world around us change and cause certain organisms to become less abundant, a healthy level of biodiversity can ensure that these organisms’ activities are compensated for by others, allowing their essential functions in nature’s systems to remain fulfilled. As such, the diversity of life throughout the world aids in nature’s resilience. But biodiversity does not stop there.

Biodiversity helps boost ecosystem productivity as each species contributes to the maintenance of life, no matter how small their existence may seem. For example, pollinators such as birds, bats and bees benefit the production of 75% of our food crops. Biodiversity further supplies us with medicinal resources, oxygen, clean air, clean water and the regulation of climate and disease control. That’s not to mention the recreational and cultural services that our biodiverse ecosystems gift us for free! We are interacting with the world around us each and every day so it’s important we understand and appreciate the impact of biodiversity on our daily lives. Thus, the importance of biological diversity within Trinity College Dublin deserves more prioritization.

Trinity Biodiversity Audit set out … with the objectives of seeding new initiatives to enhance campus sustainability

It’s no big secret that our college has long been hailed for its historic relevance and academic excellence, but what is known of its biodiversity? In a time of biodiversity crisis where climate change and human intervention continuously threaten the existence of many plant and animal species, we must better acknowledge the variety of life surviving directly around us. For as we now know, a loss of biodiversity is a problem that affects us all.

A biodiversity audit is a way of recording and quantifying the biodiversity of a selected area by looking at and recording how well the grounds are providing habitats for various wildlife. Thus, an audit is an evidence-based approach to understanding the requirements and conservation needs of priority species. As for what inspired the commencement of the Trinity Biodiversity Audit, our team lead Dr. Jane Stout expresses that “there has long been interest in generating baseline biodiversity data for Trinity, with the first “Trees of Trinity College Dublin” book having been published by the Botany Department in 1993 (a 4th edition was then launched in 2019).” Furthermore, Jane instigated the first campus “Bio blitz” in 2013 along with subsequent efforts in both 2014 and 2017, a “Birds of Trinity” book was published in 2016 by the Zoological Society and in 2017 Jane was involved in the launch of a Campus Pollinator Plan. Then in 2020, alongside the biodiversity audit in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, Jane had planned to start a similar project in Trinity before COVID ultimately intervened. However, Jane points out that “the success of and interest in the audit of Áras did inspire renewed efforts in Trinity in 2021” and she is “delighted that [they] were finally able to push on with the project.”

And so, a pilot Trinity Biodiversity Audit set out in May 2021 with the objectives of seeding new initiatives to enhance campus sustainability, to enable behaviours that will benefit the environment and life on campus and to enhance communication and education on sustainability amongst all. By developing a better understanding of Trinity’s biodiversity, a system and protocols can be developed that will allow for continued monitoring of the biodiversity of Trinity with reference to baseline biodiversity data.

However, a project of this size was no simple feat and required the collaborative work of many professionals from various fields and disciplines. For example, we had David Hackett from Estate and Facilities, Dr. Aoibheann Gaughran from the Botany and Zoology departments and Dr. Tony Williams, a landscape architect with knowledge of GIS mapping. Many more esteemed professionals from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences were also involved, particularly in the sampling and identification of the animals and plants throughout campus, such as Collie Ennis (amphibians), Dr. Carla Harper (fungi), Dr. Steve Waldren and Professor Trevor Hodkinson (plants) and Dr. Martyn Linnie (insects). Additionally, there were three undergraduate students employed as interns as well as two undergraduate student volunteers partaking in the audit. With many interested parties working together, the addition of Dr. Ursula King as project coordinator was essential in handling the sheer amount of coordination and management that this audit required.

Under the guidance of Dr. Ursula King and Dr. Jane Stout, the Trinity Biodiversity Audit has had several successes over the summer months. Dr. Tony Williams and student intern Danielle Varley were able to create a pilot habitat mapping system for the Trinity main campus, student interns Kes Daly and Hazel Herbst and student volunteers Scott Bastow and Isabel Quinn tested and documented various protocols for the standardisation of invertebrate sampling on campus and helped with devising a system for processing, recording, and storing lab samples taken from the field. Moreover, thanks to the hard work and contributions from all those involved an initial baseline inventory of the taxonomic groups (mainly invertebrates) and an inventory of horticultural species on campus were recorded and mapped to location and habitat. Furthermore, the geographical location of all trees on campus were recorded and relationships with external taxonomic experts were established. The collaborative and interdisciplinary aspects of the Trinity Biodiversity audit were highly important as they allowed for a pooling of expertise to create awareness of the resources and current state of knowledge available to us. Thus, revealing where gaps may lie should the audit be continued and/or replicated by fellow universities. 

Our audit efforts … have highlighted the ways in which we can protect and hopefully enhance the biodiversity of Trinity College Dublin going forward

As we can see, this pilot audit provided us with a huge amount of data, protocols, mapping systems and collaborative relationship building and was a successful stepping stone in promoting biodiversity awareness and sustainability conversations amongst grounds staff, researchers, staff and students with many invaluable resources for future biodiversity work and environmental research on main campus and other Trinity properties resulting. 

Our audit efforts and successes over the summer months have highlighted the ways in which we can protect and hopefully enhance the biodiversity of Trinity College Dublin going forward. Hence, the next steps in these efforts, should funding allow, is for biodiversity auditing to be continually carried out by Trinity College Dublin for years to come, and for the College community to understand more about the natural world around it, and it’s critical importance. 

All in all, we hope we have instilled in you a knowledge and appreciation for the diversity you see around you. Perhaps, the Trinity Biodiversity Audit will become a topical conversation amongst those studying, working, and visiting the grounds of Trinity College to promote interest in the conservation and protection of the wonderful life that lives on our campus.

An Introduction to The Trees of Trinity

by Jessica O’Connor

A brief stroll throughout campus will reveal a treasure trove of trees. It is clear even to an amateur naturalist that there is a vast selection present on campus. These trees from all over the world (yes, really!) manage to survive within the boundary of a city centre college campus and they sometimes make it look easy. While there is a rocky history with the survival rate of some trees, most have managed to remain here for decades. It is hard to imagine the variety of trees on campus, they range from native Irish oak species to Maidenhair trees native to China. Most of the trees on campus are deciduous- meaning they lose their leaves in autumn. Beautiful colour changes during the year help to reveal the true beauty of the trees on our campus. I hope to give you a greater appreciation for the trees on campus with an exploration of their complex history and interesting ecology. 

Walking through the main gate and out into campus, you are greeted by Parliament square. Your eyes are (most likely) initially drawn to the view directly in front of you, Front Square with its imposing architecture and characteristic cobblestone paths. However, if you look to your left and right you will be greeted by another different but just as magnificent view. The tree you are looking at is an Erman’s Birch or as those in the trade call it a Betula ermanii. This tree has a spectacular range stretching from Japan to Siberia. This pair of birches were planted following the loss of one of two Oregon maples in June of 1945 caused by an unexpected storm. After an arduous conversation, it was agreed that the second Oregon maple should be removed, the reason being symmetry. However, if you look to the right the birch present there is much less impressive; this is due to the lack of sunlight it receives in comparison to its contemporary on the left. So, possibly in homage to the cosmetic and therefore unjust removal of the second Oregon maple, lack of symmetry persists. This impressive tree can reach heights of up to 30m. Betula ermanii has shallow roots and is deciduous. The bark, which is pinkish in colour, unfurls  into scrolls at maturity. 

As you approach the east side of New Square, past the museum building there are two trees that may grab your attention. Across from house 36 of The Narrows are two Oriental plane trees, called Platanus orientalis. These trees are native to Greece eastwards to the north of Iran! Their leaves are alternate which means that each leaf is attached to the branch alone. The presence of globular clusters of fruit are distinct markers for this tree species. However, the trunk of these specimens present on campus is peculiar. There is a wart-like swelling present on the bottle-shaped trunk. Astonishingly the girth of the largest specimen is an impressive 5.5m. This trunk width is the widest of any other tree on campus. Notably, this tree is listed as one of the ‘Champion Trees’ of Dublin by the Tree Council. If we transport ourselves back to the Birr of 1834, the 3rd Earl of Rosse planted two Oriental plane trees. Why is this of importance to us? Well, the trees planted by the Earl are significant as they have the same unusual bark leading us to the conclusion that they are of the same origin as the pair of Oriental plane trees on campus. 

Without having to move too far you should come across a Sessile Oak or Quercus petraea. Sessile oak has been designated as Ireland’s national tree as it is a dominant species throughout our native woodlands. It can grow in poor acid-rich soils and is found in Europe and the Balkans. On the 13th of March in 1992 Alderman Sean Kenny, the Lord Mayor of Dublin at that time planted a Sessile oak sapling. The date of the planting marked the 400th anniversary of College Charter Day. However, due to building works taking place the specimen was moved, sadly it did not live on. The National Parks and Wildlife Service generously supplied a worthy successor, which thankfully remains standing today! 

As one heads to the Ussher library observing trees is probably the last thing on their mind, I get it! but if I may draw your attention to the infamous Aesculus hippocastanum or Horse-Chestnut as you and I may know it. This species is native to the mountainous regions of the Balkans but is planted 

around Europe. This tree was planted in the year 1920, unfortunately, we just missed its 100th birthday. Everyone reading probably has fond memories of collecting ‘conkers’ (don’t lie, we all did it!). What you are actually collecting is the distinctive seed of the tree. Interestingly they were fed to sick 

horses by the Turks as the chemical within the seeds was known to have anti-inflammatory properties. But they could make you and I quite ill, unlike regular chestnuts which are edible. 

At the flat iron, there are many different species of tree present but I am going to shine a light on the Maidenhair tree or Ginkgo biloba. This tree is what is known as a ‘living fossil’. It is the lone survivor of a major plant group that thrived during the time of the dinosaurs (Mesozoic). Imprints of leaves in rocks from 200 million years ago are practically identical to the leaves of the living tree. The leaves 

have a fan-like shape and the veins contain a forked pattern that repeats itself. Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous tree, during autumn its leaves turn a golden colour. This species is native to China and wild trees remain, although scarcely in the east. This tree has separate sexes with the male being favoured as when the female reaches maturity the seed coat becomes sticky and a rancid smell develops. The tree won’t begin to produce fruit until it reaches 20 years of age, however, once it does it makes up for the lack of production initially. Interestingly some specimens are thought to exhibit ‘leaky gender’. This means that male/female branches may form on a tree of the contrasting sex. The tree on campus was planted in 1956. 

Although brief I hope this article has given you an appreciation for some of the trees we are lucky to have on our campus. There are still many more to explore! So, I urge you even when rushing to that oh-so-important lecture or meeting up with your friends at the infamous ‘Pav’, stop and look at these magnificent marvels we have right within our reach.

It is Hard to Ignore the Imminent Damage of the Climate Crisis.

by Eanna O’ Loughlin

Sometimes the summer weather isn’t all that it’s made out to be. Ireland is notorious for its ‘four seasons in one day’, which most of us have grown used to. ‘Hey, it’s just a bit of rain, what can we complain about; the farmers will love it!’. However, in many parts of the world, one-off weather events and out-of-season storm patterns are becoming increasingly common, and their effects all the more extreme. If you find yourself feeling under the weather during the summer, take a look outside; call it pathetic fallacy, but it also has global-scale implications; climate change is here, and she’s going nowhere.

The hurricane season of 2021 began prematurely this year with Hurricane Ana in May, which developed as a subtropical hurricane in the central Atlantic Ocean. Here, she persisted for approximately 24 hours between the 22nd and 23rd of May, a full week before the official start of hurricane season on the 1st of June. Although hurricane Ana did not make landfall, it nonetheless set the tone for the rest of the hurricane season, which so far has already consisted of 20 hurricanes. Interestingly, the ‘average’ number of storms and hurricanes in a given hurricane season was increased this year from the average used between 2010 and 2020 to 14 storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes, an increase from 12, 6, and 3 respectively for the 1981-2010 average. This reflects the increasing presence of storms and hurricanes developing over the Atlantic Ocean. And it’s not just the number of hurricanes that is increasing, but the strength and thus the cost, both to economies and human life. This year, a prime example was Hurricane Ida in August, whose path stretched from Venezuela in the south to the US state of Connecticut in the north-east. Consecutive storms cause an increase in the damage experienced by those in the path of the storm, regardless of whether the strength of following storms are the same as the initial event. As seen in Louisiana, insurance payouts as a result of Hurricane Ida and subsequently tropical storm Nicholas in September are estimated to be $950 million. Hurricane Ida alone cost the US $95 billion. At the time of writing, there is still a month and a half left of the official storm season, and as such, time will tell whether there are further storms that will sweep across the east coast of North America and the Caribbean. 

Unfortunately, the problem does not end when the season is over. There is no rest for the wicked, and the weather notoriously does not take a day off. Even if there are no extreme storms at the scale of summer hurricanes again until next June, it goes without saying that the states affected in 2021 will still be recovering when the 2022 season rolls in. As seen with Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, New Orleans still bears the scars caused by the damage. Therefore, the effect of storms lasts far longer than the time they spend in our presence. If the frequency and strength of storms continue to increase as outlined in the recently published IPCC AR6 report (a light summer read), the ability of cities to recover becomes increasingly difficult to conceive.

if there are no extreme storms at the scale of summer hurricanes again until next June, it goes without saying that the states affected in 2021 will still be recovering when the 2022 season rolls in

Closer to home, it is ironic that the rain received on the east-coast of the Americas this summer could have been put to good use in Howth, North County Dublin, where gorse fires raged in June and July. The first sparks were ignited on the 22nd of June. Despite the attempts of both the Irish Air Corps and Dublin Fire Brigade, the fire persisted throughout the summer, fuelled by the continued dry weather in July, which further dried out vegetation. This led to large plumes of smoke reaching communities in Clontarf, Baldoyle, and Malahide, posing a health risk to residents who were forced to breathe in smoke-laden air. By the end of July, the gorse fires were finally contained, but not before burning through an area of up to 65 acres. As summers continue to get hotter and heatwaves become increasingly common, gorse fires are likely to become a familiar feature on the landscape of Ireland.  In an attempt to combat the spread of future wildfires to such a large extent, Old Irish goats are being introduced to eat the gorse that resides on the hills at Howth, as it is the dry gorse that ignites easily, thus providing much of the fuel for summer wildfires.  The future looks bright not just for the conservation of plant species that live in the vicinity of fire-prone gorse but also for the goat species themselves. The Old Irish Goat species has in the past been driven close to extinction, and as such, their new role as stewards of the environment will also give them the opportunity to increase their own numbers. 

And it’s not just the number of hurricanes that is increasing, but the strength and thus the cost, both to economies and human life

Meanwhile, across the pond, the outlook isn’t looking too good. The annual wildfire season in North America, which affects northern California in particular, saw its second-largest wildfire in recorded history this year and a wildfire protection budget that has been stretched thin. The Dixie wildfire has spread over one million acres since it established itself in mid-July. So far, $620 million has been spent, making it the most expensive attempt in fire control in the history of the state of California. Of course, this only accounts for the money spent on the Dixie fire; in total, California has spent $1.1 billion on wildfires since July.

While countries like Ireland and the US are afforded the luxury of funding attempts to curb the effects of climate disasters -as has been seen in Haiti- countries that are prone to frequent hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes have suffered immensely when two or more of these climate-related events occur in quick succession. Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on the 14th of August, with a focus located just 6.2 miles below the Earth’s surface. The shallow depth of the earthquake meant that more damage was caused than would be expected for a deeper earthquake. Unlike the infamous 2010 earthquake, which struck Port-au-Prince, the 2021 earthquake primarily affected a rural area with a smaller population living in the vicinity of the epicentre. Unfortunately, this was not the last natural disaster to hit Haiti this year. Just days later, tropical storm Grace made landfall. Approximately 5 to 10 inches of rain fell, providing the impetus for hundreds of landslides triggered on water-saturated slopes that had already been structurally weakened by faulting in response to the earlier earthquake. The case of Haiti, where 96% of the population is at risk of natural disasters, provides a grim insight into life on a warming planet, where multiple natural disasters could strike a country at once. In addition to frequent earthquakes and hurricanes, Haiti continues to battle the COVID-19 health crisis amidst the backdrop of a crumbling political system compounded by food shortages and gang violence.

the effects of climate change are visible, and the alterations to climate systems will continue to create more extreme weather events

If there is one thing we have learned from this summer, it’s that the effects of climate change are visible, and the alterations to climate systems will continue to create more extreme weather events, not just during the summer but at all times of the year. While the story of a symbiotic relationship between Old Irish Goats and gorse bushes is heart-warming, global, positive change towards a carbon-neutral planet needs to be implemented now in order to restrict the magnitude of natural disasters such as those seen in Haiti. Warmer summers here in Ireland may see an increase in the number of ‘ice-cream weather’ days, but this comes at a price, a price that no amount of holiday tantrums or trips to the beach will be able to make up for.

Interview with Yvonne Buckley

by Aoife Kiernan

Hi Yvonne, welcome and congrats on the new role- so tell us how long have you been in Trinity, what brought you here?

Nearly 8 years, I arrived in January 2014. I was working at the University of Queensland in Australia and when the Chair of Zoology came up at Trinity, I jumped at the chance to return home with my family and take up a once in a lifetime opportunity. I have two children and they were just about to start school, so it was great timing.

What is the first thing you’re going to do when you take office?

Resourcing and recruiting to an office that will mainstream climate and biodiversity action and sustainability practise throughout the College’s operations, research and teaching. That means recruiting new professional staff to manage our sustainability work, progress the climate action plan and work on a biodiversity strategy. It also means seconding existing professional and academic staff to the office to enable us to take advantage of existing skills and ingenuity from within the TCD community. I would like to see students represented in this office through a sabbatical or internships and I’d like to talk to students first to figure out the best way of doing this.

I will also establish a new governance structure for how sustainability will be worked on throughout College. The Green Campus Committee done excellent work in getting staff and students working together on sustainability issues and I want to make sure that sustainability is embedded in formal College management structures.

How do you think you can facilitate the student voice on campus when it comes to climate issues? Is it important to you that students play an active role in climate action on campus?

Students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are incredibly important in shaping our response to the climate and biodiversity crises. The actions (or inaction) we take now will determine what kind of world you will be living in in 50 or 60 years time. Our current students, from all over the world, will feel the brunt of climate & biodiversity change in the coming decades. I would like to see students very actively involved in all levels of climate and biodiversity action on campus and in society more generally and I will facilitate this through inclusion of the student voice throughout the new governance structure for climate and biodiversity action, from the ground up. The Green Campus Cttee has been really great in integrating student and staff ideas and actions. It’s important that students retain their independent voice and I’d like to support ways that students have an opportunity to contribute, examples include your own magazine Evergreen which was supported by the Provost’s sustainability fund.

What do you do in your own life to live more sustainably? 

The whole family is bought into sustainability. I think the most important thing we do is consuming less, we have a plant-based diet and grow some of our own vegetables, we try to minimise new purchases of clothes by buying second hand, swapping clothes, using “hand-me-downs”, and I like to make and mend what I can. We have an electric car and we’re working through retrofitting our suburban semi-detached house to make it more energy efficient. Wherever I’ve worked I’ve always taken public transport or cycled, I’ve recently taken advantage of the bike to work scheme to get an electric bike to make my commute a bit easier. We’re lucky to have a city centre campus which makes it easier to get to from surrounding suburbs.

How can we encourage hope and optimism in the face of the climate crisis?

Before we move to hope we need to acknowledge that this is an existential problem. It is very rational to have emotional reactions to what is going on. As a scientist the data scare me – I feel overwhelmed, sad, fearful and anxious. I feel great hope however when I’m surrounded by people who are taking action, doing what they can to mitigate climate and biodiversity change and working hard to find ways to adapt to the new world we’re living in. I have great respect for my colleagues who work with the IPCC and IPBES to build the scientific evidence base for what we need to do to avert the worst impacts. It’s up to the rest of us to lobby for change, take action where we can and importantly, transform the environmentally destructive systems that we have been constrained by for so long. 

How can climate change action benefit the health and quality of life of the college community?

I’m excited to be working with Healthy Trinity in this new position. There are loads of parallels between what we can do to improve our own health and that of the planet. One of the biggest problems is that we live in environments where the easy choices are bad for us and bad for the planet. Part of my job will certainly be looking at where we can make changes to the systems within which we make choices to make the sustainable, healthy choices easier. There are significant win-wins for the environment and our own healthy lifespans by taking action on our diets, air quality, safe and accessible blue and green spaces to exercise and travel in and cutting down on excess consumption.

Do you feel like you will have room to make mistakes and experiment?

I think it is inevitable that I will make mistakes, whether I have the room for it or not! I try to use my mistakes and failures to learn how to do better next time. I think it’s important that I step up and takes responsibility for my mistakes, work with the people affected to understand the mistake and its consequences, and make amends where possible. As a scientist I value experiments, I’m also a big fan of observational studies and using systems as “Living Labs” in which we can intervene and evaluate the effects of the intervention. As an ecologist I’m used to dealing with unique and complex systems that are not amenable to a traditional lab scientist approach of multiple replicated interventions, sometimes we just have a single replicate and in my research work I use models, data and a priori working hypotheses to evaluate what has happened. Trinity is certainly a complex and unique ecosystem!

As a professor of zoology working in college did you ever find it frustrating knowing the changes that could be made, but not having the power/resources to do so? What are you most looking forward to?

Meeting new people around college who are doing great things in changing how the College operates, changing how we teach in all kinds of disciplines to stimulate students to think about climate and biodiversity challenges and solutions, and researchers across all disciplines finding solutions to these challenges or bringing new ways of thinking to bear on the problem. We have some of the best thinkers in the world right here at Trinity so I look forward to learning more from them and putting their brightest ideas into action.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Finding the resources we need to invest in sustainable practises and changing the way things are done so that sustainability becomes “baked in” to how we do things, rather than an “add-on”.

Do you think that Trinity, as an institute of research and education based in the centre of Dublin, can influence more than just the college community when it comes to climate action?

Absolutely! We occupy an important cultural space in Dublin, Ireland and the world. We have brilliant people based in Trinity who influence society from political leaders to their own communities. We get hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to learn more about us and what we do. We have seen through the Covid-19 pandemic how TCD academics have become household names due to their commitment to work with government and society, and there has been healthy debate and dissent as well. As part of the university sector and as part of society in general Trinity grapples with many of the same challenges as other sectors – decarbonising our buildings, reducing the GHG emissions of work travel, reducing waste, promoting biodiversity on a multi-use campus where people and nature can come into conflict, these are all issues that we will work on, learn more about and contribute back into the public arena.

Do you think there will be an opportunity for the college to engage with the residents and business owners of neighbouring communities to decrease our collective climate impact?

Absolutely! We have an ongoing dialogue with DCC, and will continue to work with them to find sustainable transport solutions, including safe cycling routes between TCD campuses. I am currently involved in a couple of art projects that work with local communities around the city centre on climate change and sustainability issues. We need to keep principles of just transition and transformation to the front of our minds; where we have influence we need to ensure that climate and biodiversity solutions are fair and do not place a burden on those least able to bear it. Trinity has a responsibility to the communities that our campuses are embedded in. I look forward to working with the civic engagement office at Trinity to find new ways of engaging with our communities for mutual benefit.

As the first ever vice president for Biodiversity and Climate Action, you have a lot of influence in the direction of the role. What do you see in the future of the office? Where will it be in 10 years?

In 10 years’ time it will be 2031, we will have passed our first big climate action milestone which is halving GHG emissions by 2030. We only have nine years remaining to get there, I hope here at Trinity we will have done our bit to meet this national target. The sustainability office will be well established, and climate and biodiversity action will be embedded in how we operate, teach and do our research. Not only will we have changed our own practises but as a community we will have lit the way for new solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises through our research and sparked new ways of think about the crises and potential solutions through our teaching.

NatPro Centre Awarded MyGreenLab Certification

By Faye Murphy

On January 20th, Trinity College Dublin announced that the NatPro Centre had become Green Lab Certified. NatPro, the Trinity Centre for Natural Products Research, received the green level award, which is the highest level of certification and is only the second lab in the country to receive this certification. This level of accreditation is awarded to any lab that enacts 80% or more of the actions Green Labs recommends to them. 

The Green Lab certification process is recognised by the UN Race to Zero Campaign and is believed to be a key player in creating carbon-zero pharmaceutical companies. Yvonne Buckley, Trinity’s Vice Provost for Biodiversity & Climate Action, believes that the NatPro certification is an “outstanding achievement in providing innovative natural products research together with reducing their impact on the environment”. She also thinks it is “inspiring” as more and more labs are “increasing the sustainability of their world-class research”. 

Dr Gaia Scalabrino, NatPro’s Executive Director, mentioned that NatPro “felt responsible to address global concerns, such as climate change, starting with tangible daily actions”. Scalabrino also stated that they “embedded green practices across the board, from strategic planning to operations and lab practices. It became an integral part of our culture”. Scalabrino proceeded to state that she was “thrilled to contribute to TCD’s green lab ecosystem and national sustainability goals”. NatPro Green Lab Ambassador Peter O’Connell mentioned that NatPro’s sustainability success was due to “significant improvements across the My Green Lab assessment topics, including resource management, travel and procurement, as well as the more lab focused topics, such as waste, energy and water usage”. 

Michele Hallahan, Office of the Provost’s Sustainability Advisor, credits that the green level of certification for NatPro “shows the depth and breadth of dedication that the team have for minimising the environmental impacts of lab practices”. All the while, Dr Rachael Relph, Chief Sustainability Officer at My Green Lab, said that NatPro “did an outstanding job” and that My Green Lab  “look forward to supporting the dozens of other Irish labs currently in the program”. 

For more information on the certification process, visit: 

Simple Swaps for Waste Reduction

by Aoife Kiernan

Ireland produces more than 13 million tonnes of waste each year. This is equivalent to three hundred twenty-five thousand humpback whales (this is a lot of waste!) There are simple individual actions we can do to reduce the amount of waste we produce, without changing our daily habits drastically.


Bars are your best friend! By switching from plastic containers to solid bars you can completely eliminate the use of plastics from your shower routine. The range of products available in solid form is amazing, from shampoo, conditioner and soap to dishwashing detergent and body moisturiser. Although a bar of shampoo may look very small they will last ages, and usually contain natural ingredients that are gentle on your skin and better for your hair.


When you do your grocery shopping, be conscious of the amount of packaging your food is packed in. Veg can be purchased loose, you don’t have to put them into the plastic bags available. There are several refill bulk buying shops around Dublin, where you can bring your own empty containers, fill them up and pay by weight. When you run out, you can bring back the same container and refill it. They tend to stock dry ingredients like pasta, rice, flour, cereals, nuts and herbs. Food shopping is one of the more difficult areas to completely eradicate waste, but some supermarkets are starting to take notice of a consumer driven desire to reduce packaging, with Asda in Britain bringing in refill zones in their shops.

Day to Day

Grab your tote! By carrying reusable cutlery with you when you go out, you can save yourself from using takeaway cups and utensils. Although the worry of transmitting the coronavirus has discouraged many coffee shops from taking keepcups, the conscious cup campaign is encouraging them to use the contactless cup method where staff can make the coffee in a mug and pour the coffee directly into your reusable cup without touching it. Other items that are handy to keep in your bag are a knife and fork, and a bottle of water. There are lots of taps around campus where you can fill your water bottle, a map of which can be found on the Trinity Green Pages Website (along with lots of other great resources).

Clothes Upcycling 101

by Rachel Smyth

Around the world, an enormous amount of clothing and textiles are wasted every day. As a result, more and more people are choosing to buy less and donate or swap unwanted clothes. But what about those pieces that have gone beyond wearable? 

Good news: there are plenty of ways that you can upcycle and jazz up your preloved pieces to create useful items you’ll love even more. In the last edition of Evergreen Magazine, I shared my own journey into sustainable sewing. This time, I’ve compiled some easy projects to help you get started too. Take inspiration from the DIY ideas below to transform your old clothes into zero waste essentials (and save some money at the same time!). 

Don’t want to repurpose your clothes completely? Here are some quick ideas before you start:

  1. Try some visible mending: There are countless creative ideas online for adding flair to your favourite garments while fixing holes and tears. 
  2. Add a pop of colour: Brighten up greyish whites with a natural dye- you’d be surprised how many everyday ingredients can be used to make a lasting dye. I’d recommend turmeric for yellow and avocado stones for light pink (yes, really). 
  3. Crop, chop and bedazzle: Channel your inner Project Runway and become the fashion designer of your dreams. Just try to avoid a wardrobe malfunction by getting too enthusiastic with the scissors…

Reusable Makeup Remover Pads

Reusable makeup pads are a great way to move away from disposable cotton ones, and I find them even better at removing that stubborn mascara! For this quick project, all you’ll need is an old towel or face cloth for one side and some soft cotton or flannel for the other side:  pyjamas or a flannel shirt would be ideal. For all these projects, a simple sewing kit will work perfectly fine, but a sewing machine will speed up the process if you have it.

1. First, cut out a square of flannel and a square of towel material, 1cm bigger than you want the pad to be. 

2. Next, put your squares right side together and do a running stitch or backstitch all around, 1cm from the edge. Leave a small gap to turn them the right way around. 

3.Clip your corners to reduce bulk and turn them inside out, before ironing and stitching closed the opening. 

It’s great to keep a stack of these on hand for when you need them. Just rinse and pop them in a delicates bag in the washing machine when they’re dirty. 

Furoshiki Gift Wrap

This project is super versatile and simple to make. It is based on the Japanese tradition of furoshiki, a pretty square of fabric that can be used to wrap gifts of all shapes and sizes. They can also be transformed into a variety of forms- from bags to scarves to bandanas. Check out the Spoonflower YouTube channel for tutorials on how to wrap gifts with furoshiki. 

  1. Find a garment with a surface area large enough for the wrap you want to make. This could be a gathered skirt, large t- shirt or silky scarf. 
  2. Cut out a square as big as you need. 
  3. If you want to finish the edges (not necessary for stretchy fabric) either use zig-zag scissors or turn down the edge and stitch all the way around.

 A furoshiki wrap prevents the waste of non-recyclable wrapping paper and is much easier to use for those awkward shapes. They are also a great addition to gifts as the recipient can reuse them for whatever they like. So why not make a few in preparation for this holiday season? 

T-Shirt Tote Bag

This one is no-sew! All you need is an old t-shirt and a pair of scissors. 

  1. Lay the t-shirt flat and carefully cut off the sleeves and neckline, along the curves. 
  2. Cut even slits about an inch apart all along the bottom of the tee. Longer strips will produce longer tassels and a shorter bag, while shorter strips will do the opposite.
  3. Finally, tie each strip to the corresponding strip on the other side and then each of these sets to the set beside. 

This will close up the bottom, with the remainders of the strips hanging off like tassels.

Now go forth and buy your groceries, no plastic bags in sight! Hopefully some of the ideas above will help you to see your unwanted clothes in a new way! Finally, for any fabric scraps or failed projects that won’t be used (it happens to the best of us), check your area for textile recycling banks that will take them ( has a full list). Let’s keep those textiles out of landfill once and for all and create a sustainable, circular system.

How to Make Your Wardrobe More Sustainable

By Aoife Prunty

College. A time to start fresh. For a lot of us, that can include how we dress. The days of school uniforms, small towns, and online college are (hopefully) behind us, so maybe you feel it’s time to update your wardrobe, whether you want to start dressing older, brighter, bolder, or continue with your current style. Now we’re all in Dublin – and more importantly, Trinity – and it’s time to dress how you want to. But where to start?

When looking for new clothes, it’s easy to lean towards fast fashion sites. They are advertised everywhere: Instagram, TikTok, magazines, TV. It’s impossible to watch an episode of Love Island without being shown an ad for PrettyLittleThing every ten minutes. The main appeal of brands like Shein, Boohoo, and Bershka is their convenience. These companies are able to roll out vast amounts of trendy clothes for a low price and in very little time. This means I can go online and buy five pieces of clothing, spend very little money, and have it arrive at my house in a few days. Sounds great, right? But these low prices come at a high cost.

Fast fashion brands are notorious for having poor working conditions for those who make their clothes. Workers are underpaid and overworked – some of the reasons why these clothes can be sold for such low prices. The clothes are made with cheap materials and are not made to last, resulting in tons of clothes ending up in landfills every year. Factory emissions and chemicals which run off of materials in the manufacturing process pollute the environment around us, causing further damage to our planet. There is an overwhelming amount of negatives that come alongside the fast fashion industry. Now that we understand what some of these are, it’s time to look at how we can improve.
How can we be better?

When we think of sustainable fashion, we often think of brands like Patagonia, who use recycled materials and ethical practices to produce their clothes. These brands are great but can often fall into a higher price bracket (which isn’t always student-friendly). Fortunately, other methods of sustainable shopping can actually save you money!

Buy second-hand
If you know where to look, second-hand clothes can make for a fabulous addition to your wardrobe. Dublin is home to many vintage stores, including Tola Vintage, Dublin Vintage Factory, Lucy’s Lounge, Nine Crows, and more. These stores sell vintage and sometimes reworked clothes for a range of prices to fit everyone’s budgets. For example, the Dublin Vintage Factory prices their clothes by weight, with 1kg costing €20.
There are also plenty of charity shops in Dublin which sell second-hand clothes. It takes a good eye, but sometimes you can strike gold and find some stylish pieces at a meager price- while also donating to some great charities such as the Saint Vincent de Paul, Barnardos, and Liberty.
Depop is another way to source second-hand clothes. The app allows users to buy and sell each other’s clothes, shoes, jewellery, and more. Some small businesses also use the platform to sell their handmade products. Before purchasing a brand-new piece of clothing, I find it is a good idea to search for it on Depop first. This way, I might find the exact thing I am looking for at a lower price while simultaneously contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry. You can often find items that are brand new or in perfect condition on the app.

Upcycling is a fun and creative way to change up your wardrobe. Whether it’s some old clothes you don’t wear anymore, or a charity shop find that doesn’t fit quite right, a needle and thread (or even just a pair of scissors) are your new best friends.
Trousers can be shorts, t-shirts can be cropped, a dress can be a skirt, and almost anything (with a few extra supplies) can be transformed into a tote bag or a bucket hat! Rather than throwing away clothes with tears or holes, learn to fix or cover them up. If an article of clothing is faded or maybe stained, dying it a new colour can give it a whole new life.
If you feel like your sewing skills aren’t quite up to scratch, bringing your clothes to a tailor is a great way to ensure they are repaired correctly and that they fit perfectly. Upcycling saves you money and also allows you to add a more personal touch to your outfits.

Another way to craft a sustainable wardrobe is to share clothes. Now I don’t mean to go and ask your flatmates if you can borrow their socks, but think of more exclusive items. Say, for example, you’re going to a wedding. Do you need to buy a brand new dress that you’ll only wear that one time? Or is it possible that your friend has the perfect dress for the occasion? Again, swapping and borrowing is an easy way to keep your wardrobe fresh and exciting without making unnecessary purchases.

Buy less
At the end of the day, the number one way to reduce our fashion’s impact on the environment is to buy less. I’m not saying we need to stop buying clothes altogether. But we need to make smart decisions about what we buy and try to refrain from impulse purchases. We can do this by only buying pieces we know we will wear more than once or twice. Look at the dress you’re about to purchase and ask yourself, will it still be in fashion in six months? If not, is it worth buying?
Most importantly, we need to take good care of our clothes. This means washing and drying, as it says on the label. This way, we can stretch out their lifespan and keep them looking good and new.
In short, your wardrobe is an investment. Not only do your purchases affect you, but also the planet.

Remember; nobody is perfect – I’ve fallen victim to a Zara sale more times than I’d like to admit – but the main idea here is that we are aware of the impact of our fashion choices and that we make an effort to be better. In my experience, I feel much more satisfied when I buy second-hand, or upcycle, or make my own clothes than when I grab a few bits in Penneys out of boredom. The pieces which I didn’t buy on impulse or in a sale happen to be the ones in which I feel the most comfortable (and receive the most compliments). The lesson here is that shopping sustainably isn’t difficult, it just requires a little bit of extra effort for a much higher reward!