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Nessa Skinner, SSC

Every year, the Environment and Energy Section are flooded with nominations as Green Impact teams let us know who has inspired them the most throughout the year. The success of Green Impact is, of course, down to the people behind it. The people who give their time, skills and energy to improving the environmental performance of their workplaces and communities. The Green Impact Special Awards are intended to recognise and celebrate these people. We know that being sustainability champions isn’t all glamorous, it can often include seemingly endless meetings, emails and to-do lists in addition to daily jobs or studies. Our Special Awards are a way of letting them know that their efforts really do make a difference, not just to the environment but to the people who surround them. We’re delighted to announce the 2020 Green Impact Special Award winners and hope their stories inspire you as much as they did us!

Sustainability Hero award

The Sustainability Hero award recognises exceptional individuals who have inspired others through their actions. The judging for this award was particularly difficult this year as we had some truly fantastic nominations but the actions of Vanessa Skinner, Ruth Carter and Ellen MacKay really stood out.

Vanessa has been part of Green Impact at Cambridge since the very beginning (eight years ago now!) and her energy has seen the University Counselling Services win a Bronze, two Silver, one Gold, and three Excellence awards over the years. She has been instrumental in turning a tired outdoor space into a mindfulness garden as well as initiating pen and crisp packet recycling schemes which many departments now contribute to. Since moving to the new Student Services Centre in March 2019, Vanessa helped establish a collaborative Green Impact team to represent the entire building and they achieved their first Green Impact award this year. Vanessa has since retired from the University but we are delighted to formally recognise her as a Sustainability Hero and want to thank her for her continual ability to include others, share her ideas and enthusiasm, and to put in the sheer hard work to take meaningful action – she will be greatly missed!

Over at Cambridge Assessment, Ruth Carter and Ellen MacKay have been inspiring their colleagues in both Cambridge and Coventry offices as well as creating opportunities for local sustainable traders. Ruth and Ellen have been key in setting up monthly on-site zero waste markets where staff can purchase refillable and eco-friendly groceries, detergents and toiletries. Approximately 300 staff attend the market every month, delving into zero-waste products and supporting local businesses such as Full Circle, Prospects Trust and BeeBee Wraps. Ruth and Ellen are truly our Sustainability Heroes for turning an ambitious idea into such a successful reality. Read our interview with Ellen and find out how you could set up your own pop-up market and follow in their inspirational footsteps.


Innovation for Engagement award

The Innovation for Engagement award this year goes to the Department of Geography for their work to decarbonise the department. Recognising the potential for academics to input into the sustainability of the department, the Green Impact team formed a sub-group focusing on not only the energy efficiency of the building but the carbon emissions related to flights taken by students and academics. The collaboration with academics has been immensely valuable, now two out of the four scheduled undergraduate fieldtrips in 2020-21 can be reached via train or boat instead of plane. Undergraduate and graduate students are now also asked to consider the environmental impact of the flights they take when planning their own research trips. Congratulations to Geography for taking such clear action and for recognising the potential in collaboration with colleagues to optimise sustainability impact.

We are also delighted to announce that Stewart Rosell from Girton College, has been Highly Commended in the Innovation for Engagement category. Stewart’s work has already been featured on our website and we are delighted to recognise his contributions to not just his College, but to the broader Cambridge community. During his years at Cambridge, Stewart not only took part in surveys at Cambridge University Botanic Garden but initiated a weekly moth survey at Girton where he trained other students and added valuable data to national citizen science databases. Stewart also reached out to the county moth surveyor and used his coding skills to streamline the process for uploading moth sightings across Cambridgeshire. Stewart’s commitment to engaging others and sharing his expertise is truly impressive and we are sure he will go on to inspire others in his career after Cambridge.

Environmental Improvement award

This year’s Environmental Improvement award goes to Fitzwilliam College for their work to tackle the carbon footprint of the College. Working with Cool Effect, a non-profit organisation, the College now takes part in a programme to offset the carbon emissions from all Fitzwilliam-supported travel. We commend Fitzwilliam for recognising the need to take action to ensure a sustainable future and special mention goes to Dr Rogier Kievit, Andrew Powell and the working group that supported this change. For further information on the initiative and what it covers, see the full Fitzwilliam press release.

Community Action award

Our Green Impact teams often contribute significantly to both local and national initiatives and have very real social impact.

Mark Smith from Cambridge Assessment, has gone above and beyond the norm however. Mark established a litter-picking group at Cambridge Assessment last year, known as the Litterati. Mark has led regular staff litter picks in the surrounding area and coordinated with the local council. The litter picks have resulted in a new Charity and Volunteering network at Cambridge Assessment and the actions of the Litterati demonstrated to the wider company how volunteering could be encompassed into their daily work. Congratulations on your first 12 months of Litterati Mark – your commitment to volunteering and improving your local environment is exceptional.


Student Leadership award

Every year we are bowled over by the initiative shown by Cambridge students and this year was no exception. We were inundated with nominations for this category but the judges felt that Jessica Tearney Pearce from St John’s College and Charlie Barty-King from Wolfson College have truly excelled.

Jessica is a PhD student who has been key to establishing collaborative relationships between staff and students on sustainability issues at St John’s. Jessica sits on the Sustainability Forum panel and the Climate Crisis Committee and has worked alongside staff to develop an in-depth Sustainability Framework for the College. As if that wasn’t enough, she has also been heavily involved in disseminating information on the carbon footprint of food served at College. We, like those who have worked alongside her, have been particularly impressed by Jessica’s proactive approach, her drive, and her enthusiasm to get stuck in to all things environmental.

Over at Wolfson College, Charlie Barty-King has been similarly busy alongside his studies. He has been an irreplaceable member of the Wolfson Green Impact team, spearheading their submission this year. He has also founded the Green Society of Wolfson College with membership from right across the College, set up a ‘Green Talk’s lecture series and supported other students in establishing their own sustainability initiatives. Charlie’s energy knows no bounds and, like Jessica, his commitment to collaborating with staff and students epitomises the leadership quality that this award recognises.


Thank you and congratulations to all our 2019/20 Special Award winners!