Behind the scenes at the 2022 Student Sustainability Research Conference

The 2022 Student Sustainability Research Conference was a great success! Student Sustainability Architect Eleanor shares her reflections on this year’s conference. If you missed the event, you can watch all the presentations online!

Hi! My name is Eleanor and I was appointed as one of this year’s Student Sustainability Architects, working alongside Laura Wilkinson-Hewitt to help deliver the 2022 Student Sustainability Research Conference on June 8th.  

I started my position in February and we got straight to work with encouraging applicants. It was great to be given so much responsibility and input with the conference, and especially rewarding seeing the turnout and how much my peers enjoyed it.  

Together for Our Planet

Orange banner with a graphic of an alarm clock, with the words 'Together for Our Planet, Student Sustainability Research Conference 2022, Wednesday 8 June'.

 The conference ‘Together for Our Planet’ had two parts – 14 live talks held on Teams with Lynda Simmons, Interim Director for the Sustainability Service opening the event, and a complementary in-person poster display exhibited at Parkinson Court.  

One of my favourite talks was from Yuwen Feng, on ‘Art of plastic clothes – an evaluation of plastic reuse methods’. This put the concept of fast fashion into context and was a very eye-opening talk.  

I also really enjoyed the talk by Ridhi Surti and Shiwei Ooi on Evaluating sustainable healthcare using the Planetary Health Report Card at University of Leeds’ Medical School, as it was interesting to hear about sustainability within Leeds and where we may be falling short.  

I even gave a brief talk on my work on remote sensing data for the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM). The attendees had some great questions, so it was a relief that the talks could be equally as engaging even when held online!  

The keynote speech from Professor Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, was also a must-see. It was an engaging speech on how our collective research is important and why we should be hopeful for our research to aid positive climate action.  

Poster exhibition in the Parkinson Court 

PIcture of attendees at the conference poster exhibition looking at the photography display.

The in-person display consisted of 25 posters as well as a photography display, clothing display and a table serving ‘eco soup’.  

The photography display was the work of Pip Tuffin, who showed her photography of nature on fabric scraps. She also displayed paper she had made containing seeds which she intends to plant and encouraged attendees to write their ‘letters to nature’ on them. This coincided with the conference well and it is encouraging to know people’s words will live on after the conference!  

Janie Tweddle from Leeds Arts University displayed her students’ clothing made from material used by previous years at the university, so that it wouldn’t go to waste.  

The ‘eco soup’ was organised by Leeds Beckett society, who served soup and smoothies made from fruit and vegetables which would otherwise have been thrown out. I can personally say it was the best smoothie I have ever had (the soup ran out too quickly for me to try it!). 

Behind the scenes  

Running the conference itself was an entirely new experience for me. It helped me come out of my shell when it came to approaching academics. This was a fantastic transferable skill when it came to messaging supervisors about my dissertation, and made the whole process a lot less daunting.  

There were some aspects I found difficult initially, such as asking for content to be put in newsletters. Asking for people to do things for you is not a skill you gain as a second-year undergraduate! My advice to anyone organising a similar event is to not be afraid to ask people for what you want. It is a difficult skill to learn initially but certainly helped me succeed in this position. 

Overall, the conference was a great success with 145 sign-ups and lots of in-person attendees. I look forward to both presenting and attending again next year.  

You can also watch the live presentations online here. Next year’s Conference will take place in February, so why not can start thinking about what research you might want to share yourself next year?

 

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