What makes a Green Hero? While an emerald coloured cape might cut it in some circles, at UTS it’s all about the action taken to improve sustainability on-campus or in the broader community.
Our annual recognise and celebrate the impressive work being done by UTS students, staff and alumni to contribute to sustainable outcomes and inspire others to get involved.
The 2018 winners were announced in June on World Environment Day. Their efforts are bringing real-world outcomes that will have impacts on climate, native habitat, social sustainability and sustainability education and research.
First place – Angelica Liem
Angelica is a UTS student dedicated to working on environmental issues on campus. Her passion for climate justice and sustainability has helped revitalise the group, who are campaigning for sustainable investment practices, divestment from fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewables across the university. Angelica also co-ordinates the .
So what inspired Angelica to take action?
“I used to blame myself for all my contributions to climate change. I saw the issue through an individualistic lens, as a problem that was too big for me to tackle,” she explains.
“What changed was meeting passionate and inspiring individuals in the climate action space. I chose to take the initiative and approached my peers and societies in the university who are focused on sustainability campaigning and activism, and asked how I could help.”
Angelica says that, while it can feel intimidating to make the first approach, she’s found climate action groups to be encouraging spaces that welcome passionate people. She’s now working to engage UTS students who care about climate but are unsure how to take action.
“We re-introduced Fossil Free UTS as a platform to engage with students and the wider community. Our goal is to start conversations about the devastating impacts of the fossil fuel industry.”
UTS currently operates within a Responsible Investment Framework where environmental, social and governance (ESG) dimensions are integrated into our investment process, including our investment approach to fossil fuels. We work with our investment fund manager, TCorp, to align investment policy with the principles for responsible investment (PRI).
Fossil Free UTS are encouraging the university take further action and fully divest.
“We are doing this for climate justice, for those who are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but contribute the least,” Angelica explains. “I believe that by using our powerful platform as university students, we can demonstrate the power of the people and the redundancy of the fossil fuel industry.”
Second place – Alice McAuliffe
Thanks to Alice and her collaborators, the UTS community now has a space on campus to learn about plant species native to the Sydney basin and how they can be used to create sustainable gardens.
The on the north-facing level 6 balcony of the UTS Tower is a collection of plants native to the region and planted ‘in association’. When brought together, the leaves of one plant provide nutrients to the soil that are essential to its neighbours.
“When growing these plants, the main thing to remember is that they grow better in a cluster of natives than alone and Eucalypt leaves need to be mixed into the soil,” Alice advises. “It can be poor soil and your watering habits can be terrible, but the natives will still thrive in companion with Eucalypts.”
The physical garden is enhanced by where people can learn about the native species selected for the garden by botanist and D'harawal Senior Aunty Fran Bodkin. There is information on the properties and uses of the plants, as well as stories that accompany their history.
“We have included oral recordings of Aunty Fran speaking about the plants and their uses, so visitors can use headphones rather than have their eyes on their iPhones when they’re visiting!” Alice explains.
And she says the project has been embraced by the UTS community. “I have found that people are very interested to learn more about both Indigenous culture and sustainable practices. Being able to do this at work on a lunch or coffee break while smelling the vapours of a crushed Eucalyptus leaf has received very positive feedback so far.”
Alice’s work with the Waraburra Nura garden has been recognised by Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS), who have shortlisted her for an award.
Third place – Melissa Edwards
Melissa Edwards is a Senior Lecturer at the UTS Business School and a Research Director at the Centre for Business and Social Innovation (CBSI). As well as researching and teaching about sustainability, sustainable enterprise and social impact, she helps manage , a nationwide online tool for sustainability in tertiary education.
The open sharing platform enables tertiary sustainability educators across all disciplines to share teaching materials, while informing the broader community about sustainability issues.
“Educators can register to create a profile and share teaching materials, including lecture materials, case studies, course outlines and videos, either within the community of registered users or openly to all public site visitors,” Melissa explains. “Then visitors can search sustainability issues by topic (such as food, climate, energy efficiency etc.) to discover courses, teaching materials and resources that have been shared.”
The site also helps visitors to find sustainability courses and leading sustainability academics in Australian higher education institutions.
Sustainability is firmly embedded at UTS, with all faculties now offering related courses or subjects. The Business School has implemented a specific sustainability program learning objective that guarantees that sustainability is a focus in all undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
“We ensure sustainability is embedded within the teaching programs through a community of practice approach whereby academics from different disciplines meet regularly to discuss how sustainability is being integrated into the programs and suggest improvements,” says Melissa.
Platforms such as are bringing further opportunities for collaboration, encouraging advancements in professional practice and developing better awareness of critical sustainability issues.