Lucy’s Green Aspirations
by Cat Darsley on 25 January 2019
I worked in university sustainability for the last 10 years, first at Cambridge and then at the University of East Anglia, before deciding that I’d been challenged enough by bins and bikes and that a PhD sounded entertaining. It’s been fantastic seeing how the dialogue around environmental and social issues has evolved even in that time, leading here to Cambridge’s first collective Green Week (20-27 January, 2019).
When we think about ‘green’ issues, even within a university (or College) context, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of things that could be improved. Something that keeps me excited is that there is a huge amount of positive energy to draw on if you get frustrated, and if you ever get bored then there are other themes that you can turn your attention to – if bins and waste segregation for recycling aren’t your thing, how about sustainable fashion or ethical finance? If water saving and biodegradable cleaning products switch you off then how about the wellbeing benefits of getting outside for a cycle, or to appreciate the various species visible in the College gardens?
The fact is that we face a global crisis. Climate change is a social justice issue, a public health issue and a developing catastrophe for biodiversity. Whatever your field of study or personal interests, it will (and may already) impact on them – from seeking alternative energy sources to fossil fuels to drawing on understanding how societies in history dealt with environmental change; from changes to global weather systems changing growing patterns and raising food prices, to water insecurity impacting on lives and resource availability around the world, to climate refugees forced to leave their homes due to environmental changes or disasters. Our purchasing decisions have whole-life costs that we don’t often consider (where materials come from and the treatment of those involved, how items reach us, how much energy they use in their lifetime, how we dispose of them). The interlocking crises of environmental, economic and social areas of concern are considered by many to require interconnected and transdisciplinary approaches to resolve them.
This can get depressing. So, how about some of that positive energy I mentioned?
There are so many organisations and individuals out there who are fighting for climate hope, for climate justice and by using the interdisciplinary and systems approaches that we need. The programme for this week’s Green Week highlight some – see the Ethical Affairs in Cambridge Facebook page. There’s an annual Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum event, tickets just released here. My top recommendations for films to watch in that elusive free time include ‘Before the Flood’, ‘Racing Extinction’ and ‘This Changes Everything’.
Lucy Cavendish is taking part in the international Green Impact Awards programme to make a difference and be part of Cambridge’s fight for a sustainable future. Actions range from improving recycling and cutting single-use plastics to putting sustainability strategies and policies in place, from catering and grounds to College administration. Staff from across the College have signed up, and students can find out more this week.
Join me at Lucy's Green Impact student launch – Friday 25 January, 5.15-6pm in the Paul Paget Room!
Here’s to a year of Green Impact actions and being able to showcase our work with other College and department teams at the end of the programme. Come along to the meeting to hear more, and to share any ideas that you’ve had. If they’re not able to be picked up by Green Impact then we can make a note for next year, or for the SU!