Award for St John’s sustainability star

“The College’s Gold award and this student leadership award reflect that St John’s is serious about sustainability and the climate emergency”

A student environmentalist has jointly won an award in the University of Cambridge’s 2020 Green Impact programme.

Jessica Tearney-Pearce scooped the special Student Leadership Award following praise for her ‘exceptional drive and enthusiasm’ in her nomination by Vicky Jeffries, the College’s Maintenance Payments and Utilities Co-ordinator. The pair organised the debut St John’s entry in the Cambridge Green Challenge, which saw the College win a Gold Green Impact Award in June.

Jessica Tearney-Pearce
Jessica on one of the student allotments earlier this summer. Credit: Nordin Ćatić.

The Green Impact Special awards highlight projects and individuals which have gone the extra mile as part of, and alongside, the Green Impact programme. Jessica said she was ‘surprised and delighted’ to be announced co-winner of the Student Leadership Award at the Green Impact Awards ceremony held online on 16 July. She shares the prize with Charlie Barty-King from Wolfson College.

Jessica said: “The College’s Gold Award and this Student Leadership Award reflect that St John’s is serious about sustainability and the climate emergency and is making bold steps towards decreasing emissions, improving biodiversity on the College site and reducing consumption.”

The PhD History student is one of the driving forces behind environmental and sustainability initiatives at St John’s. Vicky said: “She sits on the Sustainability Forum panel and the Climate Crisis Committee and is a great force for pushing things forward and is a fantastic link between the students and staff who really gets things done.”

Last year Jessica worked with Domestic Bursar Helen Murley to develop an in-depth Sustainability Framework for the College; meeting with heads of departments and relevant staff and gaining a valuable insight into all the green initiatives St John’s carries out and plans for the future. “This has been invaluable and has also helped to share all the good processes that the College has in place,” said Vicky.

In February, she sat on the Sustainability Panel at the annual staff briefings and gave a talk about sustainability at St John's, including the creation of the wildflower meadow and the provision of milk in glass bottles instead of cartons in the Buttery. She is involved with sharing information from the Catering Department with the College community regarding where the food is sourced from and its carbon footprint and has been instrumental in setting up student allotments.

1 Madingley garden allotment
The thriving allotment where students are growing their own vegetables. Credit: Jessica Tearney-Pearce.

Vicky said: “I’m pleased that all the dedication and hard work that Jessica has – and continues to – put into the environmental and sustainability issues within the College have been recognised with this award, well deserved!”

This is the eighth year of Green Impact and 46 awards were presented this year, despite the enormous challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis and the University shutdown. In a congratulatory video message, Ian Leslie, Senior Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor with special responsibility for Information System Strategy and Environmental Sustainability, thanked this year's participants who have taken 2,000 actions to improve sustainability across the University in the past year. He said: "Congratulations for inspiring others, for taking actions that will improve our sustainability and for helping to ensure our future."

Jessica said the ‘giant leaps’ made in green initiatives at St John's are the result of ‘excellent teamwork’. She explained: ”The St John’s Green Impact award submission was carefully curated by Vicky Jeffries, who has been achieving significant progress in this area for the College over a number of years, and our achievements in this are also thanks to progressively-minded heads of various departments including Bill Brogan in Catering, Adam Green (Gardens) and Joanne Smith in Housekeeping.

“In addition, without the dedicated and supportive leadership of senior Fellows, it is very difficult for students and staff to make meaningful change, which is why we’re so lucky at St John’s to have our Domestic Bursar Helen Murley as well as Professor Jane Heal, Chair of the Sustainability Forum, and Professor Chris Jiggins, Chair of the Climate Crisis Committee.”

All the winners in the Green Impact Awards 2019-2020.

Published: 31/07/20

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