Chemists Go Green

By Penny Carmichael, on 15 January 2014

- Article by Mark Fields

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In the UK a new initiative has been set up with the aim of accrediting departments in universities on their environmental impact. This scheme is called the Green Impact Scheme and it aims to encourage progress and good environmental citizenship within university education. There is nothing quite like competition to encourage progress (and this scheme does just that) by setting up inter-departmental competitions within universities. The currency is a range of awards, for action plans which improve the environmental impact of each department and these are banked using an online workbook. Furthermore, to stoke participant’s creativity, special awards are given for unique projects which have been implemented as opposed to those which are already in the workbook. These unique projects encourage the discipline of each department to flourish and be shown be translated in the green impact work. For example, a biology department planting a wildlife garden (fat chance of that in central London where a square meter costs an arm and a leg). The scheme at UCL is run by the sustainability department. In the spring of next year, ambassadors for the department assess the implementation of the awards proffered in the workbook by each green impact group, and then the results of the Green Impact competition winners are announced.

The chemistry department of UCL has a Green Impact team which grows in numbers every week and consists of research students, staff and undergraduates. This team is a true representation of the departmental demographics, and so the effects are far-reaching. Weekly meetings take place in the Nyholm room on Thursdays between 1 and 2pm, where this team plots and plans to tackle the latest green issues in the department of chemistry.

The last two years have seen the department for Civil Environmental and Geomatic engineering take the winning spot within UCL. Of course, this discipline is implicit in positive environmental impact, but, no less so than the discipline of chemistry. Environmental chemistry, for example, is a field of chemistry in its own right, responsible for the discovery of DDT and CFC’s, detrimental substances which are now banned. James Lovelock, one of the leaders in the field of climate-change science, and founder of the Gaia theory, was a chemist himself; so, chemists are vitally important in environmental impact projects and hence great contenders in this competition. Green Impact actions we instigate could even lead to pilot schemes which become universal.  Indeed, a project which bring’s more improved and more environmentally printing has already commenced in the department. For an even greater impact, we should seize this opportunity to start disseminating our chemical wisdom and start to lead climate change action by example. This is the long-term aspect to this scheme. Most importantly, we aim to cause a modest revolution in the way that we perform chemical research and teaching on a day-to-day basis, and who knows, maybe one day there will be a roof-top garden/ laboratory.

To find out more:

Visit the UCL Green Impact Site

Keep updated on our Blog

And to get involved, e-mails to the author: mark.fields.11@ucl.ac.uk

What’s you green resolution? Here are some from the UCL community, including our very own Prof. Andrea Sella, research fellow Dr. Charlie Dunnill and PhD student Pragna Kiri.