Green Week - 2023: Healthy Planet, Healthy People

March 20th - 24th 2023

A look back on Green Week 2023

Green week launch and leadership awards

Green Week kicks off with launch and leadership awards

The launch of Trinity’s 21st annual Green Week: ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ took place on Monday morning, 20th March, with a 21st birthday theme at Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace. We heard from Former President and Adjunct Professor of Climate Justice Mary Robinson, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Caroline Conroy, Provost Linda Doyle, Vice President for Biodiversity and Climate Action Jane Stout and Students’ Union Environmental Officer Erin O’Dowd.

Speakers stressed the need for leadership, collaboration and systems change if we are to avoid the tipping points from global warming and biodiversity loss. Prof Jane Stout added “This week, we want to provide platforms for difficult conversations, and stress that this is a problem for everyone to tackle. ” This year’s Green Week features a Q&A with Minister Eamon Ryan, stand-up comedy with Colm O’Regan, a swap shop, vegan food pop-ups, talks on transport, healthcare and much more. 

The launch was immediately followed by the inaugural Sustainability Leadership Awards, where Prof Jane Stout was joined by Sustainability Manager Jane Hackett in announcing 21 deserving winners.

Climate Leadership Workshop

Climate leadership workshop

Monday also featured a Climate Leadership Workshop in Tangent. The workshop was delivered by Gary Tyrrell from the Climate Ambassador programme of An Taisce. The workshop gave some great insights into how storytelling could be used as a tool for climate action and participants took part in ‘climate conversations’, developed their own story, learned about active listening and got some valuable communication tips. Gary used his own experiences as a climate activist and community leader to demonstrate how people can connect with personal stories. The event was a fantastic opportunity for participants to look at their own motivations and develop a personal story to share and inspire people to take climate action.

Peace Through Coffee & Chocolate

Coffee and chocolate talk

On Tuesday, 21st March, Alejandro Valderrama, founder of Ethical Origin gave a talk titled: Peace Through Coffee & Chocolate. Alejandro’s talk focused on his experience of working with former FARC combatants, indigenous communities and victims of armed conflict in Colombia and how he supported these communities to rebuild by becoming organic coffee and cacao growers. His talk highlighted the interconnections between coffee production, consumer behaviour, biodiversity loss and how we as consumers can influence change by undertaking small actions.

Green Routes

Green Routes alumni networking event

Also on Tuesday, a diverse panel of Trinity Alumni gathered in Tangent and shared their post-graduation experiences and "green routes" to their current roles in sustainability. Hosted by Dorothy Maxwell, Head of Davy Horizons Sustainability and ESG Advisory, the panel gave advice and insights to current Trinity students.

First up was law and Masters in Environmental History graduate Mark Thullier who is currently Sustainability Director at A&L Goodbody. Mark emphasised that although what you do at college and who you meet is important, internships are a great way to get your foot in the door of an industry you are interested in, for meeting people, and for getting experience of different roles. He also said that all jobs in the future will have an element of "green", despite the role or sector.

Next was Aine Keogh, currently head of sustainability with Grant Thornton Ireland. After loving doing her course in Trinity, being class rep and graduating with a BA in Environmental Sciences, Aine realised that the thing she enjoyed, and was good at, was working with people. So she took her passion for the environment and now works with large organisations to set ambitious sustainability strategies and works to get people on board with implementation, which requires people skills, relationship-building and trust. Her advice was to discover what you love doing, and your strengths, and to follow where these lead you. She believes that the best and brightest graduates, regardless of discipline studied (and indeed, all perspectives are needed), are required for achieving sustainability. Aine emphasised that getting top grades isn't the be all and end all, but that passion for what you do is most important to employers.

Colm Clarke, senior ecologist with Scott Cawley Consultants, who has a BA in Botany from Trinity, voiced a passion for his field and advocated building a good network of connections. Whilst studying, Colm volunteered to help PhD students and made both useful links and gained important skills. He advised taking advantage of opportunities to join external organisations like the BSBI and CIEEM to gain practical skills and make more links.

A graduate from English, Laura McDermott, advocated for getting involved in student societies during college. After several years of working in Spain in education and social impact, she recently founded a sustainability consultancy (Colectivo), but said the skills she gained during college were fundamental to developing her professional capabilities. Her overseas experiences were sometimes not what she expected, and she said that there is often not a clear path, but as long as you have curiosity and are willing to try different things, you will succeed.

Michael Noonan graduated with a Masters in Development Practice in 2020, but due to covid-19, this was not a good time to secure that first job. Instead, he worked for an Irish funded United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme working in Samoa for UNDP as a Environment and Climate Change Support Officer.. On his return to Ireland, Michael applied for a lot of jobs, which gave him the opportunity to identify what he was good at, and practice his interview skills, and he is now a Sustainability Policy Analyst at TU Dublin. He said not to be intimidated by big organisations - at the end of the day, they are just people and computers. And don't be afraid to fail, because there is always something new to learn from not getting a job.

Orlaith Delargy graduated from European Studies and after working for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, and there not being many jobs in the sustainability sector at the time, moved to London to do a Masters. She stayed in London, working for an Environmental NGO, before returning to Dublin and has for the last 2 years worked with KPMG, in nature and biodiversity, advising organisations on their biodiversity strategies. Orlaith said that as an employer, she looks for applications that demonstrate passion, and is impressed if an applicant has really thought about what the employer needs.

Peter Lefroy has a background is engineering, but is a graduate of the Executive MBA from Trinity, and works in the renewable energy sector (RWE Renewables). He emphasised the need for graduates from every programme working together in large multidisciplinary teams. With rapid growth in the renewables sector, he said there are a lot of opportunities at the moment and graduates should keep an open mind. Try things out and you will quickly realise what you don't want to do. He said there is no career template, if you love doing something, you will do it well and be successful.

Finally, Susan Rossney reminded us that her current role didn't exist when she graduated - the world changes and new opportunities arise. Susan has a BA in Art History and English, and the analytical and communication skills she gained during her degree framed her career, even though when she graduated she hadn't a clue what she might do. She said her one year Erasmus experience was fantastic, as was the year out she took after graduating - temping gave her good experience of organisations. She joined Chartered Accountants Ireland in a publishing/communications capacity, but has been in her current sustainability role since 2019. She loves her work, but emphasised that it's a very rapidly moving field and it's hard to keep up with everything that's going on. She said to be always open to change and learning new things.

Transport Forum: ‘Accelerating Active Travel; A Vision for 2030'

Transport Forum: Accelerating Active Travel

Wednesday, 22nd March, kicked off with a Transport Forum titled: Accelerating Active Travel; A Vision for 2023. We had a diverse panel of speakers who gave presentations focusing on active transport as a key solution to our climate crisis.

Speakers included:

  • Joe Seymour, Head of Active Travel Investment, National Transport Authority
  • Claire French, Senior Executive Engineer at Dublin City Council
  • Dr Robert Egan, Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin
  • Willem-Frederik Metzelaar, Head of Innovation Hub West at EIT Urban Mobility
  • Martina Mullins, Health Promotion Officer at Trinity College Dublin

The forum was a great opportunity to discuss active travel in a holistic way and the presentations discussed infrastructural projects, research around behaviour change and attitudes, how active travel supports health and wellbeing as well as European perspective on active travel. The event culminated in a Q&A panel discussion, hosted by Prof. Jane Stout and there were some interesting and insightful questions asked by members of the audience.

Climate Worrier comedy show

Climate Worrier comedy show

Wednesday evening featured a slice of climate comedy with Colm O’Regan performing his stand-up show, Climate Worrier. Colm’s show had the audience laughing at tales from his childhood, his insights into ‘Everything Being Broken’ and how we can turn our despair into action, all with the help of laughter. The event was a great way to take an evening off from being a climate warrior and the audience enjoyed the show considering the amount of laughter during the 60 minutes!

Business and Biodiversity Breakfast

Business and Biodiversity Breakfast

Thursday kicked off with a Business and Biodiversity Breakfast hosted by Trinity and A&L Goodbody. The event took place in the Executive Education unit in Tangent and participants ranged from business professionals to Trinity students. The aim of the event was to find out what businesses need to know about biodiversity and the relationship between business and biodiversity. The event took the form of a panel discussion with ALG’s ESG & Sustainability Lead, Jill Shaw, hosting the event. The panel was comprised of business and academic experts including:

  • Martha O'Hagan, Associate Professor, Trinity Business School
  • Lucy Gaffney, Lead at Business for Biodiversity
  • Mark Thuillier, Senior Associate with A&L Goodbody's Environmental and Planning Group
  • Stephen Byrne, Senior Environmental Scientist with Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Jill was a fantastic moderator and she posed questions ranging from ‘what are businesses currently doing to support biodiversity’ to ‘what reporting and legislative frameworks are in place’ and ‘how does this tie in with mandatory corporate sustainability reporting?’. The knowledge and insights shared by the panellists were thought provoking and inspiring, with Stephen Byrne giving a heartfelt closing statement as to why businesses, and indeed everyone, need to take our biodiversity crisis seriously. The panel discussion concluded with some questions from the floor.

Ministerial Address and Q&A

Ministerial Address and Q&A

Thursday continued with a Ministerial Address and Q&A with Minister Eamon Ryan T.D. who was invited to Trinity to give students and staff the opportunity to hear the latest on how the Irish government are acting to address our climate and biodiversity crises. The event took place in the Arts Block to a packed auditorium of 300+ students and staff members. Those who registered for the event were asked to submit questions in advance to enable the maximum number of questions to be asked in under an hour. There were over one hundred questions submitted with topics ranging from; ‘how will the agricultural sector reach its GHG targets?’ to ‘how can we restore our peatlands so that they can become carbon stores and biodiverse wetlands?’. The event was hosted by Prof. Iris Moeller who framed each question with great insight therefore ensuring that Minister Ryan’s responses were detailed and informative. All in all the event showed that there are many questions remaining to be answered and that students and staff are interested, engaged and eager to find out more.

Greening Healthcare – A Vision for 2030

Greening Healthcare – A Vision for 2030

The final day of Green Week started with a healthcare forum titled: Greening Healthcare – A Vision for 2030. The aim of the event was to examine the key issues facing the healthcare sector in terms of sustainability as well as to discuss the challenges and solutions available. The event was aimed at healthcare professionals with a view to supporting a vision for a Healthy Planet, Healthy People. The event was moderated by Prof. Susan Smith, Prof. of General Practice, Public Health & Primary Care at Trinity College Dublin. We had a diverse range of panellists including;

  • Dr. Ana Rakovac: Clinical Senior Lecturer, Tallaght University Hospital
  • Cian Murphy: Chief Operating Officer, Medical Supply Company
  • Prof. Debbi Stanistreet: Interim Head of Dept of Public Health and Epidemiology, RSCI
  • Dr. Brett Duane: Associate Professor in Dental Public Health, Trinity College Dublin
  • Dr. Philip Crowley: National Director of Research & Strategy, HSE

The presentations were very interesting with topics ranging from; the role of the healthcare professional, how research can support sustainable healthcare practices, how suppliers and customers can work together to support sustainability and healthcare’s role as an emitter. The link between human health and planetary health was discussed and the panellists shared their knowledge and insights around how we can mitigate and adapt to our changing climate, as well as how our changing climate will have huge impacts on individual health and wellbeing. The key takeaway message was that climate solutions can also be health solutions with examples given around air quality improvements, sustainable transport and healthy food systems. The event finished up with a panel discussion and some very interesting questions were posed by the audience – with prevention being a key topic of these questions. The event was a great way to link Green Week and Health & Sports Week as well as linking planetary health and human health – without planetary health we simply cannot have healthy people.

Climate Hope Workshop

Climate Hope Workshop

To round out Green Week, we offered a Climate Hope Workshop at lunchtime on Friday which was delivered by Gary Tyrrell, Senior Climate Action Officer, An Taisce. The workshop focused on how to process eco-anxiety, how more realisation about what is happening to our planet can result in disempowerment and how action can be an antidote to this. It was also a chance for like minded people to come together and connect in a relaxed and inclusive environment. The workshop was a relaxing way to process how we feel through moments of mindfulness, group conversations and looking at what we have achieved to date. In the words of Professor Sarah Jaquette Ray it is imperative to ‘preserve yourself for a lifetime of thriving in a climate-changed world’.

na Farraige Exhibition

Línte na Farraige Exhibition

All during Green Week, the Línte na Farraige Exhibition was displayed beside the Lecky Library of the Arts Building. The Línte na Farraige project is a series of light installations across Irish coastal sites. The installations reveal the risks of rising seas and storm surges and demonstrate the need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, to lower the line and adapt together to protect our coastlines. This project is a symbiosis of art and science, inspired by the astonishing light installations from Finnish artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta in collaboration with Dr. Zoe Roseby, Dept. of Geology, Trinity. The exhibition will stay in the Arts Block until May 2023.