UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Meet STS's New Green Champion

19 January 2011

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By Alex Mankoo

Most of us at STS know Jo Pearson as the friendly face (and saving grace) of student enquiries: if we have a problem, she can solve it. Rogue photocopiers, frozen computers and bewildered freshers are no match for her administrative genius. Yet she’s got more up her sleeve: Jo recently became the Staff ‘Green Champion’ for the STS Department, so I organised a chat with her to find out what her latest endeavours entailed…

AM: What does it mean to be the Green Champion?

JP: I became the STS green champion through a scheme set up by UCL to promote green initiatives. It was initially set up a number of years ago when separated recycle bins were introduced and people were disseminating and promoting that information, and its something UCL is trying to breathe new life into as environmental concerns are becoming more prominent all the time. UCL is going for a green campus award – it actually just won the bronze medal. They have this volunteer network of green champions from each dept (a staff one and a student one), who have meetings that discuss UCL green issues..

AM: What is your role?

JP: My role is to promote the green initiative coordinated by UCL as a whole, to feed ideas into the Green Champion meetings, and to make people more aware of environmental issues. I’ve signed up to Green Champion emailing lists, which can involve things like ‘I have filing cabinets we don’t need anymore, does anyone want them before we get them taken away?’ I’m also currently recruiting a student green champion.

AM: Why did you choose to do it/what attracted you to it?

JP: I’ve been environmentally aware and campaigning for a while. The winter before I joined UCL I was involved in the ‘I Count’ campaign, organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. We had a demo and a concert in Trafalgar Square, and I did volunteer work publicising and stewarding that. I’m a member of Friends of the Earth… I cycle to work when the weather isn’t too cold, I think really hard about every flight I take, and try to save energy at home. I think I’ve been brought up with it – my dad’s always been a gardener; he grew up during and after the Second World War so always had that ‘make do and mend’ philosophy of recycling and reusing things. I kind of picked it up from them, not wasting stuff… I really don’t like wasting stuff!

AM: What are some things that staff and students can do to green up the place?

JP: It’s the little things – turning the lights off if you’re the last to leave the room, saving paper, turning computers off – sometimes people don’t realise with WTS you can just push the button and it turns itself off. Central London is very compact so it’s easy to walk places but it takes a while for people to figure this out – that Covent Garden is just 15 minutes’ walk. I love cycling in London, but I think you have to be a bit brave to do it; it’s a very good way to get about London because it’s a relatively flat city, and cycling is really cheap.

AM: Do you think universities can set the example and lead the way in this area?

JP: I think they can and probably should. They have a dual role to play – first as setting themselves up as good examples of bettering practice in terms of managing their estate – that especially will become more important as the money we’ve got decreases, I suspect we’ll have to be really accountable about energy use and things like that. Secondly, on the innovation front: the UCL Environment Institute and the Bartlett School of Architecture have a big role to play in research and bringing out discussions on topics like climate change.

AM: Is STS contributing to some of that discussion at the moment?

JP: I think it certainly does through some of the global citizenship courses that provide a different kind of focus on climate change, helping students to see new sides of the debate so that it’s a more informed discussion rather than a polarised one (where sceptics say ‘oh it doesn’t exist’ every time somebody questions the data, when weather is obviously an incredibly complex system).

For more info on UCL’s green initiatives see www.ucl.ac.uk/environment, and to find out how to become an STS Green Champion, contact Jo at sts@ucl.ac.uk.