Science graduate (and soon to be Philosophy student) Thomas Crawford is passionate about sustainability.

And his efforts have just been recognised by Green Gowns Awards Australasia. Thomas is a finalist in the category of Individual Excellence (Student), news he said was “unexpected.”

Thomas has been investigating food waste at University of Tasmania food outlets  as part of his Honours project in the School of Geography and Environmental Studies.

I’m really passionate about waste management and looking at ways in which we can reduce our imprint through minimising waste, so that we are recycling as much as possible, and diverting waste that shouldn’t be going into landfill.

“Finding out that I was a finalist serves to show that what I’ve been doing is considered to be nationally recognised, so it’s really great to see. 

It’s a positive thing for the University and it reflects the academic willingness to participate in sustainability goals. Many lecturers in the School of Geography and Environmental Studies are passionate about sustainability and want to see it put on the agenda more.

Thomas investigated solutions like separating food waste and having it collected by a private waste company, or even having a composting facility on campus. 

He recently presented his findings to the Sustainability Committee meeting. 

“They were very interested and were willing to follow up with the Commercial Services and Development department and review current practices. I’m now waiting to see what response is.”

There could potentially be student involvement in composting on campus, for example. It could be a really great way of bridging that problem and providing a great opportunity for students to engage and learn about sustainability.

Thomas’ Honours project was integrated with the University’s Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS).

“SIPS provides a platform for students interested in sustainability to do extracurricular work to get practical experience. 

“You can also get academic credit for your work. 

It was supported and promoted by the Sustainability office, and it was great to have that, and to be able to meet regularly with the staff to discuss my ideas. I was able to call on them to provide me networks of communication within the University and food outlets.

“It’s great they’re making an effort and I think it will only increase as the University progresses its sustainability aims.”

Thomas has been interested in wildlife conservation since he was a child.

I moved to Tasmania to study Zoology. I initially had a real focus on wildlife conservation, but my views started to shift to encapsulate overall, holistic, sustainability through my learning in Geography and Environmental Studies. I wanted to expand my understanding of that.

“By the end of my degree I was more aware that conservation management is almost more about managing humans than it is about managing animals. I think if we can minimise our impact then it gives a greater opportunity for the environment to be protected.”

Thomas plans to complete a Bachelor of Philosophy, which will let him expand on his interest in the philosophy of human/animal interactions.

“The Bachelor of Philosophy was actually opened up through my Honours project. They offer you a couple of units within your Honours degree. I’ve been very interested in the ethics of how humans and animals interact.

“I’d like to learn more about those issues, and try and articulate those views well so I can effectively communicate that to others.”

The University of Tasmania made it to the finalist lists in all four categories entered for the Green Gown Awards Australasia.  The winners will be announced at the ACTS Conference on 02 November.

• Learning, Teaching and Skills – Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS).

• Built Environment – NRAS Inveresk accommodation development

• Student Engagement – Source Community Wholefoods on the Sandy Bay campus.

• Individual Excellence (Student) – Thomas Crawford