Lauren speaking with the Colloquium's Brasenose student team
Lauren speaking with the Colloquium's Brasenose student team

Student blog: The Oxford Students' Green Plate

Lauren Neville is a second year Biology student at Brasenose and took part in the Vice-Chancellor's inaugural Colloquium on Climate in Hilary term. Lauren and her student team were one of the runners-up in the concluding ceremony for the programme, and in this student blog, Lauren shares more about their proposal - the Oxford Students' Green Plate sustainable cookbook. 

What interested you to sign up to the Colloquium?

As a biologist, climate permeates every aspect of my course – in almost every lecture we learn about another way that our changing climate is affecting the biosphere, and how we as humans will be able to live as part of it. So, when I saw that the Vice Chancellor’s Colloquium would focus on climate change, I knew I needed to apply and take the opportunity to be involved in the discussion.

Tell us about your experience on the programme

Although the science-based lectures were interesting, what resonated with me most were the humanities and social sciences focused parts of the course. One of my favourites was the lecture from a historical perspective given by Dr Amanda Power, discussing the patterns in humanity’s relationship with the biosphere.

It was insightful as I learnt that the way many of us treat the environment as a resource for exploitation has been a common ideology throughout human history, going back to the very first civilisations being characterised by their control over natural forces and radical reshaping of landscapes. This then links through to the themes we see today in people’s arguments against climate change action, which interested me as a scientist as I have an understanding of solutions from an ecological perspective, but the real challenge is implementing these measures. This requires understanding differing opinions, using skills from a humanities perspective, showing how we need collaboration to solve problems.

Who was part of your student team and how did you work together? 

One of the aims of the Colloquium was to have students form small interdisciplinary groups to work together on solving a local problem surrounding climate change. My collaborators were Eunice, a Biologist, Flo, a Chemist, and Oliver, a PPE student.

As we had a very science heavy skill set one of our first goals was to use the skills we learned from the other side of the Colloquium. We wanted to find a way to engage students in climate action because of how a workshop on climate delayism resonated with us. We saw this behaviour in ourselves and our peers, believing making changes would be too expensive or take up too much of our time as busy students.

What was your team's idea to pursue? 

Deciding to focus on food we created a cookbook, “The Oxford Students' Green Plate”, filled with sustainable recipes that students could easily cook on a budget, based on the key principles of no meat and low cost ingredients like using alternative protein sources such as legumes.

We also included Oxford-specific tips such as local food suppliers like the greengrocers at the Covered Market, as well as ways to reduce waste in your cooking. The idea is that our cookbook starts a conversation around sustainable food at Oxford and encourages students to both cook together as well as think about the impact of food served in our dining halls and at other University events. We want to show that it is easy to make small changes; a key message I took away from the Colloquium lectures was the collective impact that could be achieved by many people taking simple steps towards lower environmental impacts.

What are your reflections on the programme?

Overall, I’m so pleased that I signed up to participate in this year’s Vice Chancellor's Colloquium, and incredibly proud of my team’s hard work and what we were able to produce in just two short weeks. Although we didn’t win the overall competition none of us expected we would end up presenting together in the final, sharing our project with the University community.

Personally, the Colloquium has helped me develop greatly in my own public speaking skills, as I gained confidence throughout the workshops contributing to discussions and giving my ideas, which then enabled me to present to a large lecture theatre of people.

This will be invaluable to me in my future aspirations as a scientist and so I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity.

Next steps and get a copy of the cookbook

As a group we would love to continue our project and so we encourage everyone reading to download the initial edition of “The Oxford Students' Green Plate” and give one of the recipes a go!