UN Sustainable Development Goals Explained

By Faye Murphy

All 193 UN member states signed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September of 2015. The SDGs aim to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. These goals replaced the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which emphasised helping those in developing countries. The SDGs are different to the preceding MDGs as it is a global call to action, rather than just assisting the developing world. While the MDGs have a valuable legacy, the SDGs must carry on this legacy while improving and expanding upon it. Furthermore, as SDGs are for all countries regardless of their developmental or economic status, if all the SDGs are achieved by 2030, the entire planet would be better for all.

In the SDG “Wedding Cake” that Carl Folke proposed at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Stockholm University, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are split into three categories: economic growth, social equity and justice, and those goals related to the biosphere. The 17 goals feature 169 targets and 232 indicators, which are all interconnected. The targets for these goals have a wide variety. For example, for SDG 5 (Gender Equality) alone, the targets range from universal access to sexual and reproductive health to ending female genital mutilation and ensuring women have equal opportunities to leadership roles at all levels. We can see from this single example that the targets are well intertwined with other goals such as quality education, good health and wellbeing, to name a few. Targets and objectives allow us to see how each SDG is crucial and interdependent on another.

An example of how these individual goals as a whole are all interconnected can be seen if there is a rise in sea temperature (Climate Action), leading to the loss of crucial biodiversity (Life Under Water). This loss of biodiversity can cause a buildup of pathogens, acidity, and pests in the water (Clean Water and Sanitation). This buildup can cause health problems in those drinking the unsafe water from the source, which is especially prevalent in developing countries where hospitals are few and far between (Good Health and Wellbeing).

In order for the goals to be achieved, the SDGs require policies to be put into place. These policies must include everybody, including subpopulations or minority communities, as these minority communities are usually the most vulnerable and at risk. Furthermore, as the SDGs emphasise no individual being left behind, inclusivity and intersectionality are vital in achieving these goals. This emphasis can be seen in the transformative goals of zero hunger, no poverty, good health and wellbeing, quality education and gender equality.

As the SDGs are a Global Agenda, we must think about them in our individual lives, communities, countries, continents and global roles. Achieving these goals by putting in policies requires partnerships and interconnections between governments, all sectors of society and communities to ensure that there can be a future for the next generations.

Get to Know the Green Campus Subcommittees

By Faye Murphy

Trinity is a green campus; its Green Campus committee is part of an international programme to support environmental issues within third level educational institutes. Trinity’s Green Campus Committee is responsible for the majority of environmental initiatives occurring within the campus, from the introduction of new modules to building insect hotels. The Green Campus Committee consists of 9 subcommittees, some of which are more active than others. As the subcommittees range in many topics, you can easily find one that suits you. 


This subcommittee focuses on projects related to biodiversity and ensuring that we recognise the value of nature and the ecosystem services it provides. The Biodiversity Subcommittee has had many successful events in the past year, including a rewilding talk with over 140 attendees. In addition, The Biodiversity Subcommittee has been working with Jane Stout over the summer to carry out a biodiversity audit of campus. The subcommittee has also recently received funding to install a bird feeder for Trinity Halls. 


The Communications Subcommittee’s central role is to raise awareness about environmental issues and campus sustainability. This subcommittee mainly focuses on social media as it can be a great tool to get the word out. Therefore, any Facebook or Instagram content you see is due to this subcommittee! In the past year, this subcommittee has not only been keeping the green campus social media aesthetically pleasing but also created a video of many Trinity students reading Amanda Gorman’s poem “Earthrise” for Green Week 2021. 


The Education Subcommittee focuses on educating the college community on the many ways to reduce their carbon footprint. This subcommittee promotes the research and entrepreneurship programmes being carried out within campus that are pushing for a more environmentally friendly market. The subcommittee is currently planning ways to support students in Direct Provision, as the majority of these refugees are as a result of climate-induced atrocities. For example, this subcommittee has been applying for grants that can then be used to provide students in direct provision with leap cards so that transport to education is not used as a barrier. 


The Energy Subcommittee’s primary focus is on reducing energy consumption. Most of Trinity’s electricity and the entirety of Trinity’s heating is fuelled by fossil fuels. The Government Procurement office dictates this issue. While the subcommittee cannot change this, they have supported many initiatives to reduce energy consumption as a whole. This includes the recent Green Labs initiative supported by The Institute of Neuroscience. Labs use up to 10 times more energy than a similar-sized office, so this initiative can significantly reduce Trinity’s energy consumption. 


Trinity has been running a Green Week since 2003. This is organised by the events subcommittee. Green Week is a week of environmental events, including dance, films, dinners, swap shops, bike repair, to name a few. Green Week 2021 stood to be hugely successful, despite being online for the first time. An online Green Week allowed it to be an all-island affair and had the capacity to spread the events even further than usual. The events subcommittee also organise Earth Day as well as ad hoc environmental-related events all year round. 

Food and Resources

As animal agriculture is responsible for up to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Food and Resources Subcommittee focuses on choosing more plant-based options to reduce campus’ emissions. About 30% of Trinity staff and students already identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian; the food and resources subcommittee work together with the caterers on campus to implement more local and creative plant-based options and reduce consumption of red meat in particular. Even though climate action is above all a political task, we can still radically change our impact on this planet by consciously choosing what we eat three times a day. This subcommittee is working with Trinity to incentivise healthier and plant-based food choices. 

Sustainable Procurement

Sustainable Procurement relates to consciously purchasing products and services produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. The Sustainable Procurement Policy and guidelines were released in 2020, and this subcommittee works to make recommendations on what the college should be buying, be it in day-to-day purchases, research equipment or construction projects. If you have any new ideas or suggestions on spending, this subcommittee is for you!


Trinity has managed to reduce our overall waste volume over the past three years, but we still have a way to go as global waste is projected to grow by 70% by 2050. This subcommittee works on eliminating plastics where possible, educating our community about ways to reduce waste, reuse options and how to recycle correctly. The waste subcommittee aims to educate our community by providing easy solutions for students. One of the main achievements of this subcommittee in the past year is the introduction of its Ecobricks initiative. Ecobricks can be created from plastic waste and then donated to their specific “Ecobrick donation site” within campus. A tutorial on how to make Ecobricks can be found on the Green Campus social media. The Waste Subcommittees aim to use these Ecobricks to create something new such as garden walls or furniture. 


Water consumption on campus has reduced by 45% in the past ten years, however recently it has been beginning to rise again. The Green Labs initiative hopes to help campus regain this reduction as labs use four times more water than an office of similar size. While the Green Labs initiative is a start, this subcommittee is currently seeking more water enthusiasts to find more initiatives for water conservation within campus.

Each of these subcommittees is open to recruiting new members throughout the academic year. So, if you are passionate about raising awareness of environmental issues or are an activist for a plant-based diet, Trinity’s Green Campus Committee has a subcommittee for you! The Green Campus Committee meets every month to discuss each subcommittee’s initiatives. These meetings are an excellent opportunity to begin your journey to creating a more sustainable campus.

* all information was correct as of writing. Since September 2021, Green Campus has renamed their subcommittees but each still holds the same values.

Visit: https://www.tcd.ie/provost/sustainability/greencampuscommittee/ for more information.

Must Read Books for Every Environmental Activist

by Aoife Robertson

Climate Justice – Mary Robinson
As the first female president of Ireland and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson uses her experience to write a wonderful book on the women behind the climate change movement. In Climate Justice, she writes the stories of women she met who are facing hardships as a result of climate change. An emotional and inspiring read, it becomes clear that those at the frontline of climate change are often those that are contributing the least to global warming. Mary Robinson expertly shows just how interconnected environmentalism is with feminist and humanitarian causes. With first-hand accounts of the environmental crisis, women from all walks of life tell their stories and detail what they are doing to combat the difficulties faced in their communities. This book puts people at the forefront of the climate catastrophe and creates a sense of urgency to combat climate change – not just for ourselves but for those who need it most.

The Lorax – Dr Seuss
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” The Lorax has become an iconic figure in children’s literature and not just because of the humorous rhymes that Dr Seuss weaves into his storytelling. The Lorax is a wonderful little creature who tries to protect the trees and the animals that live amongst them as the Once-ler starts chopping down the forest and polluting the environment so that he can make a quick profit. The Lorax warns the Once-ler that this will all lead to no good, however, the Once-ler does not listen, and soon there are no trees left. This short book ends with the message that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” This is a great book to introduce children to the importance of looking after the environment or even just as a fun, light read for experienced climate activists!

Silent Spring – Rachel Carson
Silent Spring is often regarded as the starting point of the 1960s environmentalism movement. In this groundbreaking book, Rachel Carson outlines the dangers facing the American public as a result of synthetic pesticide use, in particular, DDT. DDT is now known to have disastrous ecological effects as it trickles up the food chain, accumulating in the fatty tissues of animals, including humans, resulting in genetic defects such as cancer. However, in the 1950s and 60s, DDT was hailed as a miracle pesticide that could clear entire islands of malaria-carrying insects. The release of Silent Spring brought public awareness to the devastation DDT was wrecking on plants, animals and humans alike and can be credited for the eventual banning of DDT in many countries. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in environmentalism in the late 20th century!

No. More. Plastic. – Martin Dorey
No. More. Plastic. is a short, easy read detailing what minor differences we can make to reduce our plastic consumption. This book is excellent for anyone who wants to reduce their plastic use but does not know where to start. Martin Dorey breaks the book into bite-sized chunks that deal with the problems of plastics, why recycling isn’t the solution and differences we can make in our homes, workplace and families. Although this may sound like every environmental self-help book ever written, what is refreshing about Dorey’s take on the subject is that he acknowledges the roles large corporations play in the plastic problem and admits that although one person may not be able to stop climate change, the actions we take in our everyday life can add up to something much bigger. Including sample emails to government members and startling statistics on major plastic polluters, Dorey helps guide the reader towards the beginning steps of environmental activism. This book is definitely recommended for anyone feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of their activist journey!

Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered – E.F. Schumacher
Do you have an interest in sustainable economics? If so, then you should definitely pick up this book! Small is Beautiful critically examines how economics works in a capitalist society and looks at the downfalls that come along with this. Schumacher speaks at length about Buddhist economics and what it would mean to be economically successful in a society that places value on the human costs of globalisation. Mainstream economics works on the assumption that “bigger is better”, but as environmentalists know, bigger can often be much worse! By placing value on nature and creating a measure of sustainability, Schumacher was the first to coin the term “natural capital”. If you want to learn more about how we can be more economically sustainable, this book is for you.

Kings of the Yukon: One Summer Paddling Across the Far North – Adam Weymouth
In Kings of the Yukon, Adam Weymouth goes on a journey along the 2,000 mile long Yukon River in Canada in an attempt to document the salmon migration. This book instantly draws the reader in with wonderfully descriptive text and a story that focuses on the lived experiences of those living alongside the river. Weymouth listens to indigenous voices and documents the struggles they are facing as a result of climate change, along with the impact it has had on salmon populations and river patterns. This is sharply contrasted with stories of giant corporations and their subsequent exploitation of the already declining natural resources. For anyone interested in the importance of lived experiences and indigenous knowledge, this book offers an emotional and gripping narrative of the history, science and people behind the King Salmon of the Yukon.

Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery – Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe
Rewilding involves the restoration and protection of natural areas with the aim of allowing biological processes to establish themselves. Rewilding is a relatively new and often controversial topic in the world of conservation science, and this book brilliantly breaks down what rewilding is, the benefits it can have, and the various forms it can take. Jepson and Blythe have formatted the text in a really accessible and understandable layout without the overly academic jargon that is often seen in books such as this, making this an easy read for everyone regardless of scientific background. Jepson and Blythe do not assume that the reader is familiar with the topic, and they break down the conversation surrounding rewilding using examples and case studies from around the world. Definitely an excellent read for anyone who wants to look at alternative conservation methods!

Diary of a Young Naturalist – Dara McAnulty
At age 16, Dara McAnulty became the youngest person ever to win a major literary award when he was announced the winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing for his first book, Diary of a Young Naturalist. This book is truly a delight to read as Dara takes us through the changing seasons in his Northern Ireland home from his perspective as a young person with autism. Using extraordinarily vivid descriptions, the reader is fully immersed in awe of the natural world, and we cannot help but share the deep connection that Dara feels with his surrounding environment and the concern that he shows for nature in the face of a changing climate. However, the truly magical aspect of this book is that anyone, young or old, can read it. Younger readers may find a piece of themselves in the narrative, while older readers could find this book as an opportunity to regain some of the childlike wonder for nature that they may have lost. As Dara McAnulty himself said, “In sharing this journey my hope is that people of all generations will not only understand autism a little more but also appreciate a child’s eye view on our delicate and changing biosphere.”

Dune – Frank Herbert
One of the only fiction books on this list, Dune is a series that revolves around challenges in the face of a changing environment. It is unlikely that Herbert wrote the series with the intent to shine a light on the climate crisis, however, the plot throughout the books is continually driven by the changing ecology of the planet Arrakis. Originally a hot, arid planet covered almost entirely in desert, the exploitation of natural resources results in the retreat of the sandy dunes and increasing pressures on the local people, Fremen. The Fremen even have an Imperial Planetologist who imagines a planet full of lush greenery and abundant water, although he sometimes expresses concerns for what this would mean for the future of the planet’s wildlife. As well as ecological themes Dune is a story of family and friendships, along with epic battle scenes and mind-blowing technologies. A brilliant read for any sci-fi fan but particularly riveting for those interested in the environment.

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference – Greta Thunberg.
A collection of eleven speeches written and presented by Greta Thunberg, No one is too small to make a difference is a must-read for every environmental activist. Greta Thunberg is possibly the best known environmental activist and has undoubtedly impacted the lens through which we view activism. As one of the founders of the school climate strikes Fridays for Future, Thunberg acts as a role model for many young people who previously felt powerless in the fight for climate action. The speeches selected for this collection were delivered over 2018 and 2019 and were hugely inspiring for those who heard them. This book offers new environmental activists an opportunity to learn what kickstarted the most recent wave of activism and for more experienced activists to revisit what themes and motivations continue to propel environmental activism forwards.

Note from The Environmental Officer

by Sam Foley

If you were a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed fresher, what would you find a new passion for? For some, it may be croquet or perhaps crochet, but for myself, I realised that I wanted to be part of the movement to create a more sustainable campus and to become an advocate for promoting biodiversity and precluding climate change. This tongue twister of a passion was derived from an appreciation for the incredible work completed and ongoing in Trinity from the brand new to not so new members of the college. However, a crisis of this calibre should not have had the opportunity to come about, and the least that we can do is to take a stand.

Each journey towards becoming environmental activists must start somewhere. Trinity Halls was the catalyst that started my integral experiences in environmentalism. Through coordinating with a small committee of freshers in Halls, better known as Trinity Green Halls, I realised that small individual actions have immense power; a DIY Christmas decorations video can get 900 views or a student swap shop with over 100 swaps. The grey walls of the Arts block contrasted to the colourful swaps that swanned campus in the following days, and all by sustainable means. It was a source of inspiration to see how willing people are to make small changes even when the world is caught up in a global pandemic.
Another avenue ventured down by many, including myself, is participation in the Green Campus Committee. A unique combination of staff, undergrads and postgrads, this committee broadened the scope of my knowledge and the opportunity to work with a diverse range of people on projects and ideas. From the Junior Common Room to the Green Campus Committee, I found myself knocking on the door of the Student Union role of Environmental Officer. However, being proactive in this sphere is an open playing field and you can find your own path.

“it was a source of inspiration to see how willing people are to make small changes even when the world is caught up in a global pandemic”

If you are looking to step on the first rung of the ladder, there are many ways through which to do this, but naming a few: Residents Sustainability Champions, Uni- Eco summer schools or perhaps a society such as Envirosoc. There are also initiatives within the student union that you could take part in during the year, such as the Lab Coat scheme, and there will be many new initiatives within the SU to get involved in throughout the year.

As Environmental officer, it is my aspiration to build on the achievements of the past officers, with a focus on the return to campus after Covid-19. The difficulties of the global pandemic were overcome successfully by the past student union environmental officer, securing a substantial online presence for green week. Green week is a fundamental week in the college calendar, and although every week should be a green week, this week in Hilary term provides a perfect opportunity to dip your toe in the waters. I hope to maintain an online dimension for green week this year, ensuring that events are accessible for all, blending in-person and online to optimise the spread of environmental awareness and conscientiousness.

In this role, I also hope to focus on education, in particular education for waste management, as this can be carried forward throughout life. The promotion of biodiversity will also be a key focus of mine throughout the year.

As we return to campus, amid all of the excitement and nerves, we must remember to make sustainable and ethical decisions, and I look forward to helping everyone on their environmental journey.
If you have any questions, ideas, concerns, would like to get involved, or would just like a chat, you can reach me at environmental@tcdsu.org.

How to Get Involved in Environmentalism on Campus

by Faye Murphy

Everyone has the capability to help to create a more environmentally conscious campus, whether it be through joining societies, creating your own eco-friendly initiative or just introducing your household to zero waste tips and tricks. Depending on what you are looking for, Trinity has many different ways for you to get more involved.

Green Campus
Trinity’s Green Campus Committee is part of the international green campus programme that supports environmental action, management and education in third-level education. Green Campus consists of 9 student lead subcommittees which correspond with each of the nine main aims of the Green Campus programme. These include biodiversity, communication and engagement, education and entrepreneurship, energy, resource consumption, green procurement, waste, water, and green week. Each subcommittee has its own team and initiatives; for example, the Biodiversity Subcommittee were responsible for the introduction of the wildflower garden at Trinity’s front lawns. This sustainability network not only inspires students to make positive change but gives you the opportunity to learn more about campus’ biodiversity and sustainability matters. The Green Campus Committee meets once every month during the academic year to discuss environmental issues. In addition, Green Campus monthly meetings are a great way to stay up to date with environmental initiatives taking place on campus and volunteer to get involved in these initiatives.

Societies are a great way to get involved in environmentalism, especially with earth-centred societies such as the Zoological, Botanical, Vegan, Joly and Environmental societies. These societies have fun events to get to know like-minded students and often have collaborations with external organisations to carry out beach clean-ups and discuss environmental issues in detail, such as rewilding. Most societies stay active on Instagram and Facebook throughout the academic year so follow them to stay up to date! Who knows, maybe a bee talk or pub quiz is what you are looking for.

Provost Sustainability Fund
Are you interested in creating and carrying out your own environmentally conscious project? The Provost Sustainability Fund, awarded by the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and Low Carbon Living, supports new initiatives that will improve campus sustainability and aid Trinity in achieving its 2030 goals. The fund provides up to 5,000 in funding to bring new ideas to life. Initiatives that the fund have previously financed include envirolend, the Trinity Green Labs programme and this very magazine.

SU Environmental Officer
The Environmental Officer of the Student Union’s main priority is to ensure the college and union is working to further and achieve their objectives relating to sustainability and environmental issues. As the Environmental Officer is a part-time officer for the SU, they can put forward a motion that another council member must second. If you have any environmental thoughts or issues that you would like the union to discuss and change, you can send your concern to the Environmental Officer at environment@tcdsu.org.