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Giulia Paggiola
Giulia Paggiola

What do you get when you join green initiatives with Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Social Science? The answer simple, a powerhouse group called greenSTEMS founded at the University of York. The University of York has top rating scientific research and several dedicated centres for sustainable solutions. As well, ducks and more ducks… everywhere!

greenstems

At greenSTEMS we are dedicated to uniting people to find who are motivated and inspiration in research that is applicable to all of society. Research at York is very interested in sustainability. For example, walking around campus will likely result in encounters with people working on sustainability in cities or on how archaeology could teach us about greener practices. Tour a bit more and you’ll hear a little group of PhD students talking about special plants, which can clean up ground pollution, while others might be discussing how food-waste can be turned into all sorts of useful materials.

By the time you have crossed the campus you will have heard about cleaner transport solutions, the sustainability of palm plantations, policies of disruptive innovation, and safe and sustainable chemistry labs. At the end of your tour how can you not feel the urge to put these wonderful people together? This is how our group came about, and it is the incredible diversity of interests upheld by the common ground of values of sustainability that makes greenSTEMS so special.

Uniting diverse expertise creates BIG ideas

Six months after our launch as a group, we are now supporting 2 seminar series, a waste reduction bring-your-own-mug campaign and 2 public outreach programs. We are very proud of our projects, which have as much diversity as our group and support academic and public engagement. As greenSTEMS group we value everyone’s input and initiative. We seek to take advantage of the many perspectives and ideas for green solutions. This open-armed approach is one we have found to be truly effective as it allowed us to create, fund and put into action several impressive projects which have given us and our members-at-large the chance to develop invaluable skills and experience.

Starting a conversation

Many people told us: “Cross-departmental projects? No way it’ll get off the ground”. Each discipline has its own prespectives, language, priorities, and methods. It won’t be an easy task to conciliate everyone’s views. Yet it is on these difficulties that we build our strength: we learnt to be diplomatic and tactful. We have learnt to be careful with our language, as interpretations are many and diverse. We have built proposals to fund our initiatives and an identity. We have been promoting discipline-specific initiatives and increased their visibility and impact to a campus-wide audience.

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Outside the Ivory Tower

Our very first event and project was a very successful stall at the Researchers’ Night, a European wide outreach event that was also hosted in York. Our stall was themed around waste as a resource and featured both a chemistry and biology demonstration as well as general discussions over the global issues. This year we will be organizing a 1-day workshop for early-career researchers in association with Renewable Resources and Biorefineries (RRB11) Conference (York, June 2015).

We are also very enthusiastic for our upcominggreenReactions events that will seek to enable university participants to share and discuss their research in a 2-way-dialogues with the public.

 

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Making a change

Do you value the sustainable commitment of your University? We do, and we know we’re not the only ones. So, we asked:

“how many disposable coffee cups do you throw out a week while commuting to your lecture or studying in the library?”

The amount of coffee cups waste produced on campus is immense and we believe we can bring a positive change to this. Inspired by similar initiatives worldwide we have started a campaign for encouraging the use of reusable mugs. We are currently discussing discounts for bringing our own mug. We’re also developing our own proposal for greenSTEMS branded portable mugs.

What do you think?

We want to hear from YOU too. Like we said we value every opinion and input. Have you got suggestions on what we should do next? Or a cool name for our mug campaign? If you want to find out more or you’re thinking of setting up a similar initiative at your University get in touch with us!

- contributed by Giulia Paggiola & Jennifer Chapman