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.

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 envirolendtcd@gmail.com. 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

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!

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. 

Biodiversity

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. 

Communications

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. 

Education

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. 

Energy

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. 

Events

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!

Waste

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

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.

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