Students create a carbon-neutral future for UC

10 March 2020

The University of Canterbury has big goals for improving its sustainability. Last week, 50 UC students were given the opportunity to produce new ideas to help reach these targets at the Greening UC Challenge.

  • Greening UC

    The Greening UC Challenge participants and judges.

Winning team Greening UC

The winning team and judges, L-R: Judges Tony Sellin (UC) and Jill Borland (Enable Change), the Lean Mean Grean Team, consisting of Patricia Coutts, Nadhirah Hisham, Savannah Egerton, and Samuel Sheung, and judge Michaela Balzarova (UC).

The Greening UC Challenge was the first two-day challenge in the UCE Disrupt series for 2020. Participants were asked to transport themselves to 2030 and design a venture that will help UC transition to being carbon net neutral, with the potential to be used in other universities and businesses in New Zealand and beyond.

More than fifty challenge participants came from a huge variety of backgrounds, from first year to postgraduate students, studying everything from education to engineering and economics to environmental science. Teams were randomly formed to allow for a multi-disciplinary approach, with each team’s range of expertise helping to produce creative solutions. 

The challenge involved two busy days of idea generation, speed mentoring, and pitching at the showcase, all fueled by sustainable and delicious food. At the end of the challenge, each team presented to a judging panel made up of Tony Sellin, Energy Manager at UC, Michaela Balzarova, a UC Associate Professor with an interest in business sustainability, and Jill Borland, Impact & Change Strategist at Enable Change.

First prize was awarded to the Lean Mean Grean Team, consisting of  Nadhirah Hisham, Patricia Coutts, Savannah Egerton, Samuel Sheung, and Charlie Barker. Their idea was to establish a pyrolosis plant at UC which could thermo-chemically decompose any organic or carbon-based material, such as food waste, plastic and paper into biofuels. It would provide ample research opportunities for the university as well as a potential income source, as excess fuel that is generated can be sold. 

Second place went to team Kayam, made up of Maliha Gangat, Alex Manikam, Yutika Rangari, Catherine Hattaway and Amelia McLuskie. Kayam impressed the judges with their solar paint concept, which involved painting buildings around UC with bright solar paint which generates electricity like solar panels. The team made a convincing argument for their paint idea over traditional solar panels, as it will be cheaper to implement, and would make the UC campus more attractive. 

Team Baby Fish took home third place with their carbon offset solution. The team was made up of Jessica Goodall, Josef Power, Kayla Drummy, Hamish Winstone and Kíra Lancz. They proposed a new approach to carbon offsetting, using a crowdfunding-style model. To offset the carbon emissions created by travel or other university activities, money is paid into a fund that goes towards supporting local offset activities, such as Student Volunteer Army tree-planting and other community projects. 

Other solutions included plantings on roofs of UC buildings to offset carbon and reduce energy use, fitness equipment for the UC RecCentre that converts people’s efforts into electricity and educates people on energy use while they work out, and an on-site compost plant for compostable food packaging. 

 

UCE provides a dedicated, student-focused space where innovation can flourish, stimulating the development of entrepreneurs through a combination of research, teaching and community engagement.

Applications are now open for the next UCE Disrupt challenge, the Event Marketing Smackdown, being held on the 20th and 21st of March. Sign up here.