The majority of students are familiar with the Students’ Union’s sabbatical officers, but can the same be said of the SU’s part-time officers? Who are these faces from House 6, and just how do they work to contribute to student life in Trinity?
Q:What drew you to the role of Environmental Officer? Did you have much experience in the area prior to now?
A: Last year I ran for Environmental Officer and I didn’t get it. It was still a relatively new role then. Regarding my background, I grew up on an organic farm – we actually just planted two forests. I feel it’s something that’s been ingrained in me. I ran because I wanted to expand the role, make it more important within the Students’ Union because it’s certainly the time [for that].
Q: What does the position of Environmental Officer entail?
A: It had been very ill-defined. I see it as a way to bring together all of the environmental strands in college. One of the things I ran on was the idea to create a sub-committee. It’s being formed at the moment. It will include a representative from Enviro-soc, Fossil Free TCD, someone from the environmental lobby group. I chair it, and the Citizenship officer (Damien McClean) is the secretary.There are so many great things going on, environmentally, across campus, and it’s nice to bring them together into one strand. I mostly feel like a liaison – holding everyone’s hands!
Q: What are your plans for the year ahead? Are there any grand ideas in store for students?
A: So what Kierán (SU President) has asked us to do is to come up with three big things we’re going to do, though we can do small things as well. One of those three is the Sub-Committee, and the second is based upon expanding Green Week. It’s been moved, it previously took place along with sabbatical elections which, to me, was a really stupid time to have it. [The week] tended to fly under the radar unless you were working on a campaign team and then you’re like “candidate, go go go to this event, it’’s gonna make you look really good!” and that’s not really what we want. We want people to go of their own will. I want to expand Green Week to all societies. It’s looking really promising. We have four night events already planned, which hasn’t happened in previous years. There’ll be a lot of day events, some stuff hasn’t been confirmed yet but it’s looking good.
My other big plan, which is for the second semester, is getting rid of plastic bottles on campus, because there are so many bottles of water bought and then not recycled on campus. I’m guilty of it too! I couldn’t get that done by the end of the year obviously, but I look to put it into motion so that the next environmental officer and the one after that will continue to move towards it. There are various initiatives I’m looking into but at the moment [they are] not my focus. I’m looking to get Green Week out of the way first, which is the 14th-18th November.. It’s gonna be good! Though it’s far closer than I think it is..
Q: Fossil Free TCD is an environmental campaign that attracted a lot of attention last year and remains to be very topical campaign at the moment. What is your involvement with this movement, if any?
A: I went to their first meeting actually. It was the first kind of open meeting that they had, there were six of us there. I drifted away from it because I got involved in rather a lot last year. I always kept an eye on it, I was still in the group and stuff. It’s a magnificent movement, I mean the fact that divestment wasn’t even a term that you would have heard at the start of last year and now it’s everywhere, and they’ve really good plans going forward as well. There’s so much more that they can do with it if they can keep the momentum up. I recall someone saying that they’ve done more than any PTO has, separate to the Students’ Union. They’re their own force, which is wonderful.
Q: With the campaign hub launch having taken place recently and students given the opportunity to sign up to various campaigns, do you think students are as inclined to get involved with the environment as they might be with other issues?
A: I think they should! But, it’s not the sexiest of campaigns, I mean the environment is so so important, but selling it to the average person isn’t the easiest. Fighting homelessness, for example, is something where you see active progress physically happening. With the environment and such, all these [progressions] are in the small details. If we lower the planet’s temperature by half a degree we’ve saved it, but if it goes up by two degrees we’re all screwed. It’s so minimal and yet it has such vast effects on everything.. I understand why people are initially hesitant to go down the environmental line because there are no campaigns where you see further progress, but I’d like to change that. I’d like to continue expanding the visibility of the environmental campaigns.
Q: Do you think there is a big enough emphasis on the importance of the environment throughout the various aspects of college?
A: Actually I’ll be doing a review of college facilities very shortly. The GSU are introducing an environmental officer position very soon, which is great to hear, and I think it’s important that a similar position be created at Trinity Hall. They make a large contribution to College’s overall waste and that’s something I feel strongly about tackling. Because it’s most people’s first experience living away from home, it’s the ideal opportunity to build healthy habits that they will bring forward with them to their future households, simple habits such as knowing what to recycle. It’s a really crucial time to impress upon people the importance of these little things that can make such a difference and so that’s something I’m looking to draw to the JCR’s attention and hopefully make a move on soon.
If you have any queries for Thomas regarding the college campus and environmental issues then please get in touch with him via [email protected]