Image for Sustainable Earth 2018

Standard rate: £80

The price is set at a nominal rate to encourage diverse participation.

Marketplace speakers, poster sessions and concessions: £50

Eligibility: Students from other universities, marketplace/poster presenters, over 60s, children, unemployed, disabled people and University of Plymouth alumni

University of Plymouth staff and students: Free

Eligibility: University staff and students, including those from partner institutions.

External collaborators: Free

Eligibility: Those who are currently working on or developing a research project with the University.

The Sterling Lecture: Selling Planet Earth: Free

Speaker: Professor Iain Stewart

Session 1, 28 June 15:30–16:00

Session 2, 29 June 10:30–11:00

Session 3, 29 June 11:15–11:45

Session 4, 29 June 14:30–15:00

Session 1: marketplace abstracts

Improving the environmental sustainability of the oil palm industry

Susannah Fleiss, University of York

Clearing land for planting oil palm is a major driver of tropical deforestation, particularly in Southeast Asia, and increasingly in other regions. Oil palm plantations are continuing to expand because global demands for palm oil are increasing, and its yield is over eight times greater than other vegetable oils, making it a highly lucrative crop. 

Recent concern over the negative impacts of deforestation have led to rules and regulations that aim to improve the sustainability of oil palm. For example, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has many criteria with which oil palm producers must comply in order to be certified as ‘sustainable’; it is the largest certifier of sustainable palm oil. 

During my PhD, I am assessing how the environmental sustainability of oil palm can be improved, in particular by assessing the effectiveness of current criteria for certification of sustainable oil palm. 

I present my research findings to the RSPO in the form of science-for-policy reports. I will summarise research on (i) mapping global locations that are suitable for planting oil palm, to test whether rules for zero-deforestation mean that other habitat types with high biodiversity (e.g. natural grassland) are at risk of being converted to oil palm plantations; and (ii) examining the quality (carbon stocks) of remaining forest patches in oil palm landscapes, which sustainable oil palm plantations are required to maintain as ‘High Conservation Value’ habitat, under the criteria for certification.  

I will hold a discussion with the audience on issues surrounding palm oil and deforestation, and whether sustainability certification is an effective way of tackling unsustainable practices.

Health and sustainability in rural Sub-Saharan Africa

Lucy Obolensky, University of Plymouth

Northern Rangelands trust is a community led NGO in northern Kenya with a mission to develop resilient community conservancies, which transform people’s lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources. 

My marketplace will focus on how do we integrate an effective health system to a rural area populated by nomadic pastoralists where health needs to be integrated with conservation, cultural beliefs, livestock and wildlife.

Session 2: marketplace abstracts

Changing policy and law on ivory

Jason Lowther, University of Plymouth

The paper will examine the evolving policy and law landscape in relation to the contemporary ivory trade. 

The UK has traditionally been a significant destination market and a volume transit state. Increasing focus on elephant poaching has prompted action to prohibit the trade in all but an extremely limited number of items.

Biomass smoke and lung health

Rupert Jones, University of Plymouth

In a series of projects we have examined the ways we can raise awareness of biomass smoke and its effects on the lungs. 

In a train-the-trainer project in Masindi District in Uganda we co-developed an education programme which eventually went out to over 15,000 people and 150 health professionals. 

In a current project we are evaluating a similar programme for midwives to teach pregnant women to reduce their exposure to toxic biomass smoke and also keep their small children safe from the smoke. 

Our educational materials have been approved by the Ministry of Health for national use. Illustration students from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business have also aided the project by designing educational materials.

Are e-textiles a gimmick too far? Exploring the sustainability questions that arise from the sale of these garments

Christine Cole, Nottingham Trent University

Discussion on the sustainability of e-textiles. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of garments that have in-built electronic applications. 

A number of these are useful and conduct medical observations, but most are fashion-led. In the face of fast fashion and the high turnover of garments, it is simply unsustainable to produce and retail these items simply as a fashion fad. 

Many e-textiles have connections to sport accessory retailers, with functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, calorie use etc. measured, often duplicating functions of most smart phones. 

Additionally, many of these garments simply have a fashion purpose e.g. Christmas jumpers with flashing lights on Christmas trees, or red light up noses for Rudolph the Reindeer. The discussion will explore consumer understanding of e-textiles.

  • Have participants purchased e-textiles?
  • How do they use e-textiles? 
  • Do they know how to dispose of e-textiles responsibly?
  • Do they know / understand that there is a problem with e-textiles, resource use and climate impact?

A Suitcase Full of Eels

John Kilburn, University of Plymouth

This creative collaborative project brings together two academics and artists from different disciplines to use their love of narrative and absurdity to make artworks that draw on the historical importance and cultural relevance of the European Eel, Anguilla anguilla. 

During our session we will present the writing and illustration we have created, as well as the workshops we have led, the research we have done and the publications we have made. 

A Suitcase Full of Eels is funded by the Sustainable Earth Institute's Creative Associate Awards and has been achieved in collaboration with the Sustainable Eel Group and Guillemot Press.

Learning through public engagement - using the campus and city as a living lab

Paul Warwick, University of Plymouth

Increasingly it is argued that what is required is a new vision of HE that realises more fully the potential of both teaching and research to contribute to the common good through public engagement. 

This marketplace session offers participants with the opportunity to share how we can better embrace the use of applied, place-based approaches to HE; that enable students to learn through being change makers in the communities within which they live. It highlights key findings from research with current students, alumni and community partners that has been exploring innovative service learning practice being developed here at the University of Plymouth. 

This capturing of participant 'stories' of sustainability education through community engaged approaches to addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, points towards the need for a step change in public engagement opportunities within HE. It also supports the need for new social learning spaces to be built on campus such as the planned Sustainability Hub in Kirkby Lodge, a ground-breaking development that this workshop will provide the latest update on. 

Drawing from the insights of this implementation research study this marketplace will seek to beacon the notion of students learning as ‘compassionate critical creatives’. 

With this approach comes the need for significant reform but also the potential to enhance the student experience, nurturing their personal development and future employability whilst contributing to the great story of global sustainability being outworked in the city that is this University’s home.

Taking the temperature of deep geothermal in Cornwall

Hazel Gibson, University of Plymouth

This marketplace session will provide a progress report on the new deep geothermal power development at United Downs just outside of Redruth. 

It will share the progress that has been made on site, but also the initial results from the data collection relating to the public perceptions of geothermal power in the immediate communities. 

The discussion will ask questions of what data we need to collect and share in order to provide the most effective engagement between various stakeholder groups when it comes to developing new energy technologies in the UK.

The problem with sand - local shortage or conflict mineral?

Ian Selby, University of Plymouth

Discussion around the increasing global awareness of sand shortages. Addressing resources, uses, governance and management. Do we need to do act - if so on what scale and how?

Session 3: marketplace abstracts

Plastics and sustainability - The Environment Agency perspective

Peter Long, Environment Agency

Having lobbied government hard to support us getting formally involved in work on the plastics agenda, we have received funding to create a brand new team within the Environment Agency. 

This session will be an opportunity for this team, along with some key partners we've been working closely with already, to review what together we've achieved thus far, share our ambition for the team (and the wider organisation) and seek opportunities to work with others to deliver shared objectives in this field, support critical work others are delivering and to invite input into developing the priorities and work areas that will form our initial three year programme of work.  

The session will be a perfect spring-board for this brand new team and permit early engagement with us from anyone wishing to influence or work with the Environment Agency in this rapidly growing area of work.

Save Gaddi sheep, save Gaddi community

Seema Chaudhary, Pearl Academy, New Delhi, India

The session is about the challenges being faced by transhumance Gaddi tribe of Himalayas in Chamba district in India. 

Their life-line is Gaddi sheep flocks that they rear. The sheep's wool is sold for livelihood, and also in making wool felt fabric for making home textiles and garments like overcoats. 

Due to hardships faced in a pastoral lifestyle, newer generation is giving up this activity in favour of jobs like travel agents, taxi drivers, computer operators etc. 

The author has done experiments on this unique wool and its fabric to make it more market-friendly and design intensive. The traditional method is using no chemicals for cleaning of wool and the fabric making process is based on handspun and handmade techniques using almost zero energy.

The design intervention is done by dyeing the natural ecru yarns in natural dyes from various sources like Walnut, Turmeric, Madder root, Indigo powder, Sappan wood and pomegranate rind to name a few. 

These were then woven into small samples for interior textile purpose. The colours and weaving patterns promise a new market for the Gaddi wool that can be sold to tourists in this region. 

The income generation has the potential to attract youth for jobs in textile sector using indigenous wool and traditional methods. The session will explore the possibility of the idea to be explored as design intervention as well as preserving the cultural and textile heritage of this tribe.

Optimisation of cob construction

Jim Carfrae, University of Plymouth

A traditional building method is being repurposed through an international research project with a view to constructing a new generation of energy efficient homes. 

Cob houses have existed in the south of England and northern France for centuries, however the construction industry has been unable to create a cob material that meets new thermal and structural building regulations. 

Now a cross-border research project led by the University of Plymouth aims to change that, and demonstrate that the ancient technique – which involves mixing earth and natural fibres with water – has a role to play in the future of the construction industry.

The CobBauge project (a merging of the English and French words for the technique) will run until March 2019 and has received €1,097,484.94 funding from the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It is the latest research undertaken by the University’s Environmental Building Group, with existing projects examining the thermal performance of buildings and ways to increase public awareness of how to enhance energy efficiency in the home.

Use of environmental sustainability education policy-making to support national sustainable development (goal 4) frameworks

Paul Ofei-Manu, IGES (Japan)/SOSAf Research & Consultancy (Ghana)

The recent launch of several international sustainability policy processes (initiatives) signifies an increasing trend in the importance of policymaking in environmental sustainability with education as a crucial part. 

Thus, the Environmental Education (EE) Act can serve as an important policy component in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 4. 

The purpose of the study was to evaluate the existing stand-alone National Environmental Education (EE) Acts in the world to serve as a contribution to/evidence-based environmental sustainability education (ESE) policymaking to support national Sustainable Development (Goal 4) frameworks. Results of this study will be presented with opportunities questions and further discussion.

Cold Realities: A photographic narrative highlighting the harsh reality of fuel poverty in Plymouth and a local solution to a failing energy system

Jemma Knowles, Plymouth Energy Community

A failing energy system has many devastating impacts, not just on our air quality, our climate and our environment but also on the everyday lives of people. 

More than 15,000 households in Plymouth live in ‘fuel poverty’. The reality of having to make impossible choices like heating or eating is real. It’s miserable, cold and life affecting. It’s poverty of hope, it’s unjust and it’s totally unnecessary. 

Our Energy Team works in the community, offering free support to residents struggling with energy issues. For every ten residents we help, six have one or more long term health conditions. Of those, half experience anxiety and depression made worse by their environment. 

The harrowing and haunting situations that we see regularly are difficult to describe in words or statistics. Our ‘Cold Realities’ images give everyone that witnesses them a taste of what this situation is like for real people in Plymouth.

Plymouth Energy Community aim to change this reality by creating a fair, affordable, low-carbon energy system for everyone; enabling people to heat and power their homes efficiently and affordably, increasing community confidence to engage in energy issues and increasing local ownership and influence over local energy solutions.

Session 4: marketplace abstracts

Making climate change and sustainability relevant to health professionals using innovative pedagogical approaches: A hands-on practical session

Janet Richardson, University of Plymouth

In providing healthcare we compromise public health and make a contribution to climate change. However practical action and future research will not be effective without first educating healthcare practitioners about the role they play. 

For example improving energy and resource efficiency, procurement policies and waste management are vital for a more sustainable health sector.  

This session will engage participants with evidence-based teaching and learning materials designed to build sustainability literacy and competency in healthcare professionals. 

Using key knowledge topics related to health and climate change, as well as managing the use of resources, innovative pedagogic approaches will be demonstrated. 

This includes the use of gaming and scenarios to raise awareness and consider decision-making about challenging topics. 

Most importantly the session will highlight how the topics of climate change and sustainability can be included in the education of healthcare professionals in ways that are interesting, engaging, relevant to practice, and fun.

The future for FABSOIL

Mark Fitzsimons, University of Plymouth

Soils made from waste materials offer an alternative to imported natural topsoils, notably in large-scale groundwork and reclamation projects. Benefits include diversion of waste from landfill and recycling. 

Nonetheless, there is limited information on the characteristics needed to support plant growth in the long term, particularly the existence of a sustainable nitrogen reservoir. 

In a study of the performance of a manufactured soil, constructed from waste materials, deployed by the Eden Project, Cornwall, we found that the soil performed as well as natural topsoils in some areas while in others, such as carbon sequestration and nitrogen retention, this was less apparent. 

The FABSOIL project provides an excellent opportunity for developing our understanding of the functioning of this prototype soil while providing partnership and expertise to businesses involved in the reuse of waste stream materials to optimise and deploy this precious resource to increase sustainability and reduce pressure on natural topsoils with the goal of developing a robust and sustainable soil accessible to many sectors keen to contribute to sustainable development.

How can academia help to make industry more resilient to the risks associated with Brexit?

Andrew Fox, University of Plymouth

Historically, the South West region has ranked as one the largest UK regional recipients of development funding from the EU and local enterprises have benefitted significantly from that investment. 

Following the Brexit referendum vote and the impending withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU), business enterprises in the South West region of the UK are likely to lose an important source of funding for local projects. As such, local enterprises will have to adopt a more pro-active strategy to help their businesses survive in a post-Brexit environment. 

That strategy may require enterprises to seek out business opportunities in new markets, where their experience is limited and their ability to assess the commercial risk is challenged. 

This marketplace session will outline details of a project being delivered by staff and students at University of Plymouth and that aims to provide a bridge between the University and the engineering business sector in Devon and Somerset. 

The project is coupling engineering and business expertise in the University with local company management skills to identify and assess new business opportunities. 

As part of the project, a cohort of MSc engineering students, evaluate the capacity and capabilities of the local enterprises, identify and assess business opportunities best suited to each enterprise and develop a strategy that will help local engineering enterprises effectively engage with the identified internationals business opportunities. 

In this marketplace session, participants will be engaged in a discussion assessing the extent to which business enterprises need to improve their resilience to market fluctuations that may occur in the post-Brexit economic environment and explore strategies involving academia-industry collaborations that may be effective in addressing that need.

Imagining alternatives with feasts for the future

Anastasia Somerville-Wong, University of Plymouth

Can community feasts inspire us to aim for more ambitious goals? Can they motivate us to take the decisive steps necessary to achieve them?  

We tend to look at our communities in the light of the past and all the environmental challenges we face because of it. At the heart of the ‘Feasts for the Future’ project, is the idea that if we look at ourselves from the perspective of possible future communities instead, we will take more positive action in the present. 

By sharing a meal and telling stories about the ground-breaking renewable energy and energy efficiency projects taking place successfully in our region and around the world, we can develop a realistic and cooperative vision of what our communities could be like in the future. 

This vision may be more effective than the ever-present threat of destruction and disaster in motivating communities to take on ambitious projects that will transform the way we live.

Open data and modelling in environmental research

Martin Howitt, The Data Place Ltd

As part of an Sustainable Earth Institute Creative Associates award we have been working with geomorphologists to help improve understanding and communication of coarse sediment (bedload) transport in rivers, which is fundamental to managing for river resilience and to reverse biodiversity loss. This project brings together academics and creative software technologists to develop an interactive approach to sharing, manipulating and creatively visualising natural resources data via an open data platform. The project allows for future expansion and collaboration with other scientists and river managers and forms the basis for potentially building a network of quality-assured data holdings in natural resource topics other than bedload.

'Exploding a mobile phone' - how data visualisation can help engage the public in important research

Antony Turner, Real World Visuals

Real World Visuals is an innovative data visualisation business that turns data into meaningful imagery and playful interactive tools to help everyone make sense of twenty-first century environmental challenges. We have been working on three Sustainable Earth Institute Creative Associates projects to help public engagement of Plymouth University research work. We will introduce our ‘concrete visualisation’ approach and show how this is different to conventional data visualisation. We will present examples including:

  • an animation showing sequestered carbon in Dartmoor peatland
  • work-in-progress animation of exploding mobile phone to show actual volumes of materials including rare metals in a typical mobile phone
  • work-in-progress imagery to show the NHS England carbon footprint and potential carbon and financial savings from clinical waste segregation