Category Archives: Seminars

Living Smaller, Living Greener – greenSTEMS Social Symposium Recap

One Planet Week was full of interesting events to attend, all supporting a better world and a better life. GreenSTEMS could not be left out of this inspiring week! Our Living Smaller, Living Greener symposium was a success and we had great feedback. If you enjoyed this afternoon and want a bit more information, or if you couldn’t attend, keep reading for a summary of the talks.

Matthew Redding educates the audience about Passivhaus and sustainable architecture.

The afternoon started with Jonathan Avery from Tiny House Scotland giving us an introduction to the concept of the tiny houses movement and its spread across the world. Tiny houses are not just gorgeous, they are also movable, greener and more affordable than normal houses.  Jonathan gave us a tour of his own tiny house, Nest House, and mesmerized all of us; after all, the best things in life come in small packages. If you want to learn more about this new housing concept and admire truly stunning photos of minimalist homes, check out Jonathan’s website at

Jonathan Avery’s NestHouse takes advantage of natural lighting and clever storage solutions to make a tiny space into a cosy home.

Our second speaker, Matthew Redding, opened our eyes to a unsettling truth: it’s not just our housing that needs to change, it’s our lifestyle.  Matthew walked us through the ways we can achieve sustainability with architecture and introduced us to the concept of Passivhaus, a set of architectural guidelines for building or retrofitting low-impact buildings. Then, we learned about LILAC, a low impact living affordable community. The LILAC project is an inspiring community in west Leeds, just a short train trip away, so don’t miss the chance to learn more about it and visit it. Check for more information, or explore this map of UK Passivhaus buildings to see if there’s one near you:

The leading members of YorSpace devote their free time to pushing for low-cost, sustainable community housing in York.

The afternoon moved on from architecture to community-based change with a talk given by Sue Bird and James Newton from YorSpace. YorSpace is a group of York friends and neighbours who are working to provide low-cost, sustainable, cooperatively-owned housing, with a cohousing concept similar to LILAC. We were all inspired by the sense of community and equality of this wonderful project, and excited to hear about their future success. If you want to be a part of YorSpace or learn more, just go to

Our next speaker, John “Compost” Cossham, shared with us the secrets of low carbon impact living. He has an impressive (and enviable) low carbon footprint; such a great achievement might have you thinking that you cannot do the same…Calm down! Making small changes in your daily life can make a lot of difference. Some of those simple ideas are: turn off electronics before go to sleep, and use a lid when cooking. Cycle or walk to work instead of using the car. Recycle as much as you can and compost your organic waste. Care about where your electricity is coming from, getting energy from reliable companies is a good step forward. As John said, “it is all about reducing the bad and increasing the good”. Check his blog for more information

Simple steps to reduce your “foodprint” echo the advice given by the North Yorkshire Rotters.

The next talk, by Ian Clare from North Yorkshire Rotters, was dedicated to another issue: food waste. It was shocking to hear that on average, we each throw away six meals per week! Students in particular waste a lot of food… However, this can be avoided by simple changes. Go to the market more often if you can, or plan two weeks of meals before shopping if you can’t. Another important thing is to keep track of the expiry dates. Make a list of what you have in the fridge and the use by date, it is not much work and will save you a lot of money too. In a pinch, you can freeze food up to 24 hours before it expires to make it last indefinitely! Finding ways to use leftovers is another important step, you can find great ideas at

Finally, we were introduced to two lovely initiatives at the university. York Edible Uni, as their secretary Apple Chew told us, aims to grow fresh, free vegetables for students and staff on university campus. They have built volunteer garden allotments on campus, and everyone is free to pick anything they find growing there. You can also come get your hands dirty at their weekly gardening sessions on Wednesdays. Have a look at  and find where the gardens are located and how to get involved. The university’s Green Impact team aims to reduce every department’s impact on the environment. It works through a set of tasks to be achieved annually and gives golden, silver, or bronze awards to the departments. Ask your department if you are already involved and find out more at

greenSTEMS committee members Anna and Tabitha (right) with Sue Bird, Matt Redding, and Jonathan Avery (left).

Thanks again to all of our speakers, and the sustainably-minded folks who came out to East Campus to learn, and contributed diverse viewpoints to the discussion. Hope to see you next time!



Behind the threads: unraveling the sustainability of the clothing industry

A few weeks ago we held our first social seminar of the year, “Behind the threads: unraveling the sustainability of the clothing industry”. Each year in the UK alone around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill but changes are being made in the fashion industry1.

We were given an overview of sustainable fashion by Justina Adomavičiūtė, who professes not to be an expert in the area despite blogging about it! Twenty minutes isn’t enough time to cover everything but Justina made a valiant effort and received some interesting questions about the psychology behind fast fashion and consumerism.


Next we learnt more about innovation in textile design from Laura Morgan, a PhD student at the University of Loughborough. Laura’s research concentrates on lasers and the various ways they can be used in textile manufacturing, from the lace-like designs we might associate with laser technology to new and unusual uses such as producing an already washed look on jeans. Lasers reduce waste and energy use in the creation of certain designs so their widespread use could help make some aspects of manufacturing more sustainable.

Paul Yuille, a PhD student from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion talked about fast fashion and how we could move towards a more sustainable fashion industry. As Paul pointed out, change isn’t going to happen overnight but are the methods we are currently using the most effective? Talking about sustainability often makes people feel guilty so if we could teach people to associate how much they are paying for a garment with how many wears they will get from it, for example, this might lead to consumers being willing to pay more for clothes.

After the break we heard from Mark Sumner, a lecturer at the University of Leeds. Mark raised some similar points to Paul using an example from his research involving a coat made from recycled jumpers sold by M&S. Whilst focus group participants liked the coat initially, hearing about what it was made from made them step away in disgust! Mark previously worked for M&S and it was interesting to hear about moves towards sustainability in the commercial world.


Charles Ross, from WRAP, impressively managed to condense an hour’s presentation into 20 minutes. His talk centred on the production cycle using technical or ‘outdoor’ clothes as an example. Whilst they might be associated with being closer to nature, the production of these garments certainly isn’t doing anything to help the environment; the number of countries and distances that garments travel before they reach their final destinations is astonishing.

To finish off our sustainable fashion event we learnt more about reusing clothes that already exist. Helen Moreton is Retail Manager at St Leonard’s Hospice, a local York charity and she told us about how donations to charity shops are collected, sorted and sold.

Thank you to the GSA community fund and Magic Rock Brewing for making this event possible!


First social seminar of the year – Sustainable Transport & Mobility!

It’s been just over a week since greenSTEMS held our first social seminar of the new academic year: Sustainable Transport and Mobility. We’d like to thank everyone who attended, from students at the university to local York residents, and especially our speakers who ventured over from the Institute for Transport Studies in Leeds.

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Our first speaker was Jean-Paul Skeete, who despite being a a self-confessed petrol head, talked about the need for sustainable transport systems and the challenges ahead for the motor industry.

Next, Tom Dugmore took a different slant on the sustainable transport problem, focusing on the problem of fuel. A chemist by background, Tom discussed the range of fuelsavailable and how we need to take advantage of everything from solar power to wind, using biofuel as an example of how not to do things!

Ian Philiips was our first speaker from the Institute for Transport in Leeds. As well as providing the technology to allow sustainable transport we need to enable people to use it, which means considering the social side of the equation. Ian’s research looks at transport resilience and the factors which influence whether people commute by bike, such as distance, fitness level, number of children, and inevitably, weather.

After a break we heard about the University of York’s plans for sustainable travel around campus and across the city. Fiona Macey is the Sustainable Travel and Transport Manager at the univeristy asnd talked about past successes such as recycled bike sales and the low emission buses currently on university bus routes as well as plans for the future.

Alvaro Guzman continued discussions of buses in his talk on Bus-Rapid-Transport systems. These systems can be quick and efficient but their implementation does not always benefit those who need it most; Alvaro studies the power systems which result in the building of these types of bus systems.

Kate Palmer was our last speaker before lunch and told the seminar about Intelligent Transport Systems, their benefits, and their aims: for example, cars which communicate with each other on the road to allow shorter braking distances. This sparked quite a debate on the ethics and dangers of Intelligent Transport Systems, particularly driverless cars!

After lunch Andriannah Mbandi presented some of her research on real-time vehicle emissions and how she is trying to capture these in Nairobi.

Joanna Elvy, our last speaker of the day, moved the topic to social capital and how this can be used in planning transport systems by encouraging people to get involved in the process. She then led an audience debate on participatory transport planning and the role and reliability of social capital to end the day.

A big thanks to Richard and everyone else who helped in the organisation of the event and on the day! Keep an eye out for the details of our next social seminar, and please like our Facebook page for details of further events.


Great Second Social Seminar Results in Food for Thought

It has been a week since GreenSTEMS second Social Seminar event: Food Sustainability: A hot potato?, and in this blogpost we’d like to thank everyone who participated, supported or attended the event. Some 50 people found their way to remote Derwent college and attended the event which was rated 4,5/5 by respondents filling out our feedback form! We are happy to hear that you enjoyed ”the variety of talks, the interaction and hearing about practical solutions”. To quote another respondent:

Interesting talks, food & beer – what is not to like?

Amen! 😀
For those of you who did not have a chance to attend the event, find a short summary below and like our facebook page to stay up-to-date about future greenSTEMS events!


I had the privilege as an exchange student from the Netherlands to be the main organiser of this event! greenSTEMS offered me a wonderful platform to turn my idea of a symposium on the topic of food sustainability into a reality. I could not have done without the help of my fellow greenSTEMS-ers, among which Maria M. Razalan who chaired the afternoon. Maria is a PhD student in Biology and had the honour of explaining the safety procedures in the event of a fire. Luckily the only fire that afternoon were the blazing discussions later on.

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Maria first introduced Prof. Sue Hartley who is director of York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI) who sketched the challenges of modern agricultural sustainability. She really set the tone for the afternoon by addressing vital topics such as stagnating crop yields, dependency on only a few types of crops and the problems associated with loss of genetic diversity.
Next up was Tim Doheny-Adams, a post-doctorate molecular biologist who spoke about both his current work and the research he had carried out for his PhD. The former was on ‘biofumigation’ which could potentially serve as an alternative to conventional pesticides and the latter is on improving plant water use efficiency by genetic manipulation. Both talks resulted in more than a few questions and luckily there was a break to continue the discussion.

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The second session started with a great talk from Maureen Wakefield from the Food & Environmental Research Agency (FERA). She spoke about insects as sustainable source of protein for animal feed. FERA is one of the collaborators of PROteINSECT which is an international multi-disciplinary EU program that aims to facilitate the exploitation of insects as alternative protein source for animal feed – and how about for human feed?! 😉
Maureen was followed by Joe Houghton, a PhD student in Green Chemistry who introduced us to the WasteValor project. The project aims to create economic value from foodwaste and has helped Joe to consider not only the scientific but also the business aspect of his research.

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Our last speaker was Margaret Hattam, a truly inspiring figure, with her talk entitled: Feed Bellies Not Bins. Margaret is the founder of YourCafé, a local initiative in Tang Hall neighbourhood where her team cooks a delicious three course lunch on every Wednesday, all from what is wastefully considered “food waste” but in reality is just a still fresh product that is past its Sell By date.. Margareth collects it from donor retailers, café’s and other sources and cooks it into wonderful dishes, giving it a second life! Food that otherwise would end up in a bin is turned in a truly magnificent lunch. You pay as you feel or contribute by volunteering in anyway you can. Her story was intense and inspiring so do get in contact with her (see the facebook link above) if you’d like to follow up and be involved!


After all these interesting talks it was a delight to see that people did not flee the warm room immediately but rather stayed to discuss what they had just heard. greenSTEMS really aims for its social seminars to be thought-provoking and to encourage discussion. The group chat was fuelled by refreshments and… sustainable nibbles in the most literal form: tasty insect-snacks!
Did you know that insects could also be a more sustainable form of animal protein for human consumption compared to meat? Crunchy Critters kindly provided us with edible samples for everyone to try! Lemon flavoured chapulinas (Mexican grasshoppers) were served as insect-nibble and thus were the true icing on the cake.




Were you there with us at the event? I hope this blogpost has captured the essence of the event and will work as a nice way to recall your memories! If you did not attend I hope I’ve persuaded you to coming to one of our future events! Because we will be back 😉 ! May you wish to stay up-to-date with our latest news or ask a question, do not hesitate to approach us on any of the following media.


Finally, I’d like to thank the wonderful people who made this event happen – some of them are in the picture below. Guys, it has been a pleasure working with you and I look forward to meeting you again in the future!


– contributed by Sytze Van Stempvoort

Career experience talk; Gail Shuttleworth, Biorenewables Development Centre

On Friday May 29th (4 pm, Biology M052– seminar room off main atrium), Gail Shuttleworth from the Biorenewables Development Centre is kindly proving an informal talk on her career experiences (, for PhD students in Biology, Chemistry and Environment.

Gail has a wealth of experience working with different sectors (academia, policy development, industry), and in different countries (UK, New Zealand), so it’s fantastic that she’s able to discuss this with us.

This talk with Q&A will be followed by pizza and beer to fuel discussion and networking.

A huge thank you to the Biology, Chemistry and Environment graduate boards and the Biology GradShare team for supporting and organising this event, and to Gail for kindly volunteering her time.
– contributed by Emily Johnston

Upcoming Social Seminar: Food sustainability: A hot potato?

Coming to the University of York on the 27th of May, greenSTEMS second Social Seminar. 

Come check it out on

Wednesday, 27th May in Derwent College D/L/047 from 1500-1700

and join the discussion about Food sustainability.
Book your place at the registration link:

And see the facebook event:


Early career researchers from Green Chemistry & Biology will showcase their research projects giving a cross-disciplinary overview around the theme of food sustainability. 
Our keynote speaker will be David Gee from EEA who will address the problems associated with conventional farming and promote agro-ecological farming. Maureen Wakefield from FERA will elaborate on the PROteINSECT project which aims to exploit insects as sustainable source of protein for human consumption. 
The mini symposium is FREE for everyone to attend and will have an informal and a more interactive approach aimed to fuel discussions and build networks.

This mini-symposium received funding by YuFund and the York Alumni Association that will support the greenSTEMS’ goal of building a sustainable science community of early-career researchers on Campus.

The presentations are as follows:

“Some Late Lessons from Early Warnings on agricultural hazards”

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“Late Lessons from Early Warnings” was released by the European Environment Agency in 2013. It analyses historical hazards, such leaded petrol pollution, as well as emerging issues, such as pharmaceuticals in the environment and GM feed.
Concluding chapters provide insights into “false positives”, costs of inaction, why businesses usually ignore early warnings, and whether more or less precaution would be wise. In his talk David will address some problems associated with conventional agriculture.
Speaker: David Gee, is the originator, a co – author and co-editor of the Late Lessons from Early Warnings reports.

“Genetically engineering plants to make better use of limited water supplies“


Agriculture accounts for the use of 1.54 bn hectares of arable land and 70% of global water withdrawal. The scale of our dependence on water to grow our food puts strain on ecosystems of and surrounding several major river systems. Making agriculture sustainable requires improving the return of yield per input of water. By manipulating the expression levels of genes involved in leaf development, we have improved plant water use efficiency and drought tolerance.
Speaker: Tim Doheny-Adams, who is a Post-Doctorate molecular Biologist.

“Insects as a sustainable source of protein for animal feed”


The growing global population coupled with a change in dietary patterns, with increasing consumption of meat and fish, requires that alternative protein sources are available. Insects offer a promising alternative to conventional protein sources in animal feed for poultry, fish and pigs. Insects can be reared on a range of organic waste products and in addition to providing valuable products, can also reduce waste volumes, adding to the environmental sustainability of the system. PROteINSECT is an international and multidisciplinary EU funded project that aims to facilitate the exploitation of insects as an alternative protein source for animal feed.
Speaker: Maureen Wakefield is senior applied entmotologist at Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA).

“The Wastevalor Project”

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The Wastevalor project offers two days no cost consultancy to SMEs in the Yorkshire and Humber region who process or manufacture food stuffs or who can use food waste streams or derivatives of these. The project aims to create economic value from food waste and draws on the expertise of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York. WasteValor is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and therefore there is no cost to participating businesses.
Speaker: Joe Houghton studying for a PhD in the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. He performed both his 3rd year mini project and his 4th year MChem project within the group, specialising in food waste.

“Yourcafé: feed bellies not bins”


YourCafé started on the 9th of april and is a weekly lunch on Wednesdays in Tang Hall community centre that is fully made from ‘Food-waste’. YourCafé receives food that otherwise would have gone to landfill. In her talk Margaret Hattam will explain why she started YourCafé.“My challenge is to raise awareness about that is being wasted every day With YourCafé I hope to make a difference and I invite each and every one of you to come down on a Wednesday and tackle this problem together”.
Speaker: Margaret Hattam  has lived in York for 26 yearsand wants to contribute to the society she lives in.

– contributed by Sytze van Stempvoort

Premier Social Seminar Success!!

The greenSTEMS team would like to thank and congratulate everyone that participated in, supported and attended the first social seminar event. The event, “Health: you, me and the environment” showcased 6 early career researchers from interdisciplinary backgrounds and was a healthy success. We had approximately 60 people from many different departments come out to show their support and interest. The feedback was all round positive and we already can’t wait to hold a new event! So keep an eye out if you’re interested in getting your research out there. In case you couldn’t make it out we’ll give a short recap, and hopefully see you at the next one!


Emily Johnston, final year PhD student in Biology and main coordinator of the event, opened the event with an inspiring background of the greenSTEMS background and current projects. We hope you might have seen something you’d be keen to join in on or gotten an idea that you might want our support with. Jen Chapman, 1st year PhD student from Environmental Science, later introduced our Social Seminar series and each speaker’s talk, aiming to increase interdepartmental awareness, discussion, collaboration.

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First to the plate was Sian de Bell, whose talk, “More green less grey”, fueled our desire to contribute to our own health and get outdoors maybe even hug a tree. Michela Smith continued the green vine with a discussion on changing our behaviors to create the green. Elizabeth Gothard had us reaching for our calculators and wanting 3D cameras after we learned how they could help us understand wound repair.

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To help us swallow all the new information we took a discussion and beverage beak. We felt the break was not only healthy but a feature we wanted to focus on and use well. We were very eager for people to meet and discuss the talks from an interdisciplinary perspective and we were not disappointed.

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Giulia Paggiola, founder of greenSTEMS and PhD student in Green Chemistry, started our second session. From her we learnt that making pharmaceuticals can also be made more green and increase both environmental health and our own health. So, you might be wondering what about pharmaceutical resistance? Robert Howlett, postdoc in Microbiology provided insight into antibiotic resistance and the research he is conducting as a postdoc. Finally, Angela Privat Maldonado taught us what plasma is and how it might be the “new antibiotic”. After all that health we figured it was time for a healthy pizza snack to help us digest and discuss.

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Overall, we learnt A LOT and were very excited to see so many people come out to learn with us! We can’t wait to have another Social Seminar, and will keep you all updated! Thank you very much to the team that made the event possible!! : Emily, Giulia, Maria, Jen, Ruth, Ana, Sytze, Rosa and Karla!


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– Blog article contributed by Jen Chapman, Photos by Sytze van Stempvoort

Upcoming Social Seminar: Health: Me, You and the Environment

Coming to the University of York for the first time ever, the greenSTEMS Social Seminar Series. Come check it out on

Tuesday, 24th March in Biology B/M/052 from 1500-1700

and join the discussion about health science & the environment, immunology, green chemistry and biology. Book your place at the registration link:

How our health is related to the environment, the development of better medicines and the impact of the pharmaceutical industry on the environment will be presented by our multidisciplinary team of speakers. The mini symposium is FREE for everyone to attend and will have an informal and a more interactive approach aimed to fuel discussions and build networks.

This mini-symposium, and others to come, received funding by YuFund and the York Alumni Association that will support the greenSTEMS’ goal of building a sustainable science community of early-career researchers on Campus.

The presentations are as follow:

The healing power of mathematics: quantitative studies of wound repair


The use of mathematical models to complement in vivo and clinical studies, gaining insights into experimentally intractable systems and how to improve the financial, ethical and resource-based sustainability of research into wound healing outcomes. Speaker: Elizabeth Gothard, a PhD student working between the Department of Mathematics and the Centre for Immunology and Infections.

Harder, better, faster, stronger: how do we take on the rise of antibiotic resistance bacteria?


The UK’s chief medical officer has recently described the growing resistance to antibiotics as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and ‘as big a risk as terrorism’ to the nation. This talk will look into how this has become such a hot topic and explore some of the research being performed at the University of York. Speaker: Robert Howlett, a post-doctorate microbiologist looking at methods of antibiotic resistance.

Greener medicine: Pharma and the solvent challenge


This talk will explore the important role that solvents play within the chemical preparation of drugs and present what are the key challenges and opportunities for making it greener and more sustainable in the long-term. Speaker: Giulia Paggiola, a PhD student working with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the Stockholm Environment Institute as part of Innovative Medicines Initiative, CHEM21.

Kiss kiss, bang bang: when plasma physics kisses bacteria goodbye!


Scientists are using the ionized gas called “plasma” to kill microbes in the lab. We will discuss the potential use of plasmas to eliminate pathogens that cause or live in skin wounds for example, considering what makes plasma suitable for human treatment, its safety and its long-term effect on microbes. Speaker: Angela Privat Maldonado, a final year PhD student working on an interdisciplinary project between York Plasma Institute and the Centre for Immunology and Infection.

 Linking health and environmental outcomes through behaviours with co-benefits


This talk will investigate some of the reasons why we continue to engage in behaviours with negative impacts on ourselves, particularly from a public health perspective, and suggest research and policy directions for shifting patterns of human behaviour towards those which are jointly beneficial.Speaker: Michaela Smith, a PhD student in the Department of Health Sciences and also part of the Health of Populations and Ecosystems (HOPE) project.

 More green, less grey: the benefits of urban green spaces


This talk will discuss the association between the health of the natural environment and human health could inform the restoration and conservation of green spaces and ensure the provision of ecosystem services which are essential for human health and well-being. Speaker: Siân de Bell, a PhD student studying the links between the ecological health of urban green spaces and their impact on the health of local populations, part of the HOPE project.

– contributed by Ana Pacheco & Jen Chapman