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Image of A photo of Charlotte Milbank, standing in the main entrance to Jesus College.

Green talks: Charlotte Milbank on sustainability

The MCR is hosting a series of six talks from postgraduate students on contemporary sustainability and environmental issues, every Thursday at 6pm outside the Roost. We spoke to MCR Green Officer Charlotte Milbank, who organised the series, about sustainability in College and beyond.

What’s the idea behind the Green Talks series, and how did it come about?

Events like the Graduate Conference and ‘3-minute thesis’ – which give our students the chance to present their own research and listen to others present theirs – have proved really popular in the past, and we’ve had calls to do more things like them.

I wanted to add the green spin on the event because the topic of sustainability and climate change is often overladen with a lot of doom and gloom. Here at Jesus, we have a wealth of students and academic staff doing fantastic work that positively contributes to addressing climate change, and we want to showcase that.

Over the course of six weeks this term, we’ll hear from students and staff in a diverse range of fields, including plant sciences, engineering, business, and chemistry. The talks we’ve had so far have had a strong turnout and were very well-received by attendees!

What else does your role as MCR Green Officer involve?

Perhaps the main responsibility is that I sit on the College Environment Committee, representing our graduate students and pushing for decisive change on issues of sustainability within College.

Students can also come to me whenever they like to discuss their concerns or suggest new green initiatives within the College. I work with various departments within College (e.g. catering, gardens) to try and implement these changes. The MCR also has an allotment that I look after, and we now have an active group of MCR members trying their hand at growing fruit and veg!

How has the pandemic affected wider sustainability efforts within College?

For College, I understand it’s been mixed. In terms of energy and water consumption, the dearth of students within College over this last year has pushed down our consumption. Flights taken by our College students and staff are also likely down as everything has moved online.

However, our use of single-use products has skyrocketed – the Catering department have only been able to serve takeaway food and until recently, haven’t been able to use keep-cups or reusable containers. We removed single-use takeaway containers from College catering outlets last Monday, which is a great step forward.

What other green events does the MCR have planned for this year?

Sadly my position as Green Officer ends very soon. We’re looking forward to the remaining 5 weeks of our green talks (each Thursday evening of term). There is also potentially a sustainable wine tasting on the horizon.

Michaelmas term 2021 will see the return of Jesus Green Week, seven days of green events including a formal, speaker and film screening events.

What’s the single biggest change that individuals could make right now to improve sustainability in College?

It often feels like we can’t do much to contribute or drive change as individuals, but this is definitely not the case. In fact, I think the Green Talks series is testament to the fact that individual students can make a real difference in contributing to sustainability efforts via their research.

Within College there are also many great initiatives seeking to reduce our individual and collective environmental impacts. For example, our menus now include a greater variety of non-meat options (which are also cheaper than meat options), and we’ve ended the use of non-reusable containers.

We also, and will continue to, encourage students and staff to be mindful of their energy and water consumption, as well as the types of transport taken to go on holiday or work trips. There are loads of groups for College members to join to be part of collective efforts to drive change.

The next Green Talk is on Thursday 27 May, with PhD candidate Carlos Español-Espinel (2020, Engineering). His talk, ‘The Seismic Response of Offshore Wind Monopiles in Liquefiable Soils’ is on designing wind turbines to withstand seismic activity. On Thursday 3 June, PhD candidate Scott Jeen (2020, Engineering) will give a talk on using AI and game design to help mitigate climate change, entitled ‘Space Invaders, Space Invasion, and Climate Change’.

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