Earth Day 2020: Our Sustainable Champions

To celebrate Earth Day, we thought we would introduce you to some members of staff who have really helped us, as a university, to become more sustainable.

Monica Kanwar, Director of Health Safety and Environment 

Meet Monica  

Monica is the Director of Health, Safety and the Environment at Herts. This requires her to lead a team of health and safety, wellbeing, occupational health, and sustainability professionals and direct on issues relating to occupational health, safety and workplace wellbeing.

Monica has been supporting Earth day 2020 by promoting internally what we have achieved at Herts over the year and what we aim to do over the next.  In the coming months Monica will be producing our annual environmental performance report. In this we are excited to share the work of our amazing students who have promoted green issues throughout the student population with the Students’ Union.  There will be further announcements on our new biodiversity action plan and how you can help us with recording what wildlife we have on campus or indeed when you are in your garden or out on your daily walk. If you're still on campus why not explore some of the walks nearby, the bluebells at Hazel Grove are really beautiful!

Monica says; “We are in difficult times now however we have continued to stay connected and our community has grown stronger through our new digital communications. I look forward to reaching out through Earth day 2020 online with others who have a shared environmental interest. I have also made more of a conscious effort to reduce my own environmental impact through a promise to myself to calculate my own carbon footprint so I may be ready for a new normal when I return to campus.”

Professor Mike Page, Head of the Centre for Research in Psychology and Sport Sciences 

Meet Mike 

Mike is the Head of the Centre for Research in Psychology and Sport Sciences. Much of his research focuses on the topic of pro-environmental behaviour change. He is a member of the Environmental Working Group, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, and was the London Technology Network Business Fellow.

Mike has recently been working on some research projects aimed at helping the environment by using low-carbon and low-energy microhomes.

Greentown: One project Mike has been working on is the concept of a Greentown. He has given multiple presentations on the concept of Greentown, a zero-carbon town designed as if it were to be built starting today in the UK. The presentation ‘Greentown: a detailed feasible study for a future low-carbon town’ was awarded best presentation at the 2019 Technical Conference of CIBSE (Chartered Institute for Building Services Engineers). This is really important research and such an amazing outcome! Well done Mike for all your work on this topic that is central to our fight for climate change.

The Cube Project: Another project Mike has been working on is ‘The Cube Project.’ This is a project to build a compact home in which one person or two people can live a comfortable, modern life with a minimum impact on the environment. This project has been in receipt of over £50k in development funding from over 10 participating companies. The first and second zero-carbon prototypes were both showcased at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. It has since appeared on Channel 4’s George Clarkes Amazing Spaces and Gadget Man! What an amazing achievement and an incredible effort in the fight to save our planet!

Mike has also worked on award-winning research and zero-carbon prototype’s and has so far received over £900k in funding for sustainable projects and collaborations.

You can look in more detail at Mike’s work here:

Veronica Edmonds Brown, Biological and Environmental Sciences Aquatic Ecologist and Academic Co-ordinator 

Meet Veronica 

Veronica is the university’s only Biological and Environmental Sciences Aquatic ecologist, so she is heavily involved with a range of ecological and sustainability issues. Veronica’s main role (apart from teaching and research) is as the academic coordinator for our Bayfordbury campus which is one of the most biodiverse areas in Hertfordshire! Veronica explains that “this campus is stuffed with protected species!”

Veronica is currently in the process of building a bat flight cage, with Herts and Middlesex bat group, to ensure rescue bats and hand reared bats are prepared for return to the wild, which is amazing! Veronica is hoping to complete the new Bayfordbury Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) by the end of summer. She notes, “We have several badger sets on site, recorded eight species of bat, have slow works and grass snakes, great crested newts and other amphibians, barn owls and kestrels regularly nesting and producing young.”

Veronica also chairs the Biological Recorders for Hertfordshire and says, “any records of any species in the county are most likely to come from our recorders.” She explains that “Herts Natural History Society web pages are a good source of information about what is happening in the county.”

(Herts Natural History Society promotes the study and recording of the flora and fauna in Hertfordshire and encourages interest in natural history including the conservation of wildlife, habitats and geological features!)

Veronica was the first to breed our native crayfish in captivity and provide advice to others on how to do this successfully – which has led to other successful programmes and reintroductions. She is also involved with the apiary at Bayfordbury, liaising with local beekeepers and gets involved with hosting the Healthy Bee day for the county.

Veronica is currently building up a data base of marine fish species impacted by waste plastic and will also be looking at this in relation to small mammals. As part of this research she teaches people ow to recycle plastic bags – for example how to create plarn (plastic yarn) and crochet or knit with it. Veronica advises that “Individuals need to decide for themselves how best they can become more sustainable, but using less plastic is certainly one.”

Phil Porter, Associate Dean Education, School of Life and Medical Sciences 

Meet Phil 

Phil is the Associate Dean of Education (Student Experience) and a Reader in Geoscience and Geoscience Education. Phil Porter is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Hertfordshire and has been active in glaciological research since 1993.

Phil has recorded a short video about Earth Day, explaining how the environment has changed during the lockdown and how we can continue to look after the environment after the crisis is over.

Phil filmed a short video to celebrate World Earth Day 2020, reflecting on this day in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the opportunities a change in behaviour holds for environmental impact in the future. Watch it here.

Phil also recently held a talk to the North Herts District Council on ‘Hertfordshire, the Himalaya and the High-Arctic: a message to all form the climate change front line.’ This is particularly relevant to what Phil talks about in his video about World Earth Day and is a very interesting watch. To listen to the talk, click below.

To find out more about Phil and his research, visit his website here.


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