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How you can have a green impact no matter what you study

Chester is helping change mindsets for a sustainable workplace in the future.

Chester James-Smith is a fifth-year medical student. He’s also the winner of the Australasian Green Impact Student Awards for 2020.   

Chester was always interested in his personal environmental impact, but it was during his time at the University of Tasmania that he became more involved in sustainability.  

“I had a friend a few years ago who took me along to a Fossil Free UTAS meeting, where I was welcomed by the group in a really nice way and straight away given some tasks to do."  

Since then, Chester has been both studying a Bachelor of Medicine and working with the Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS). This could mean studying biology and going on clinical placements one day, then working on sustainability projects and being involved with activations the next. These projects have taken him all over the state and will soon take him internationally.   

Chester will be speaking at the Virtual Global Climate 2020, held in the UK. He will form part of a panel talking about transformational student engagement, speaking alongside students in Austria and England, as well as Virendra Rawat, who’s the founder of the Global Green Schooling Concept in India. 

“I’ve never spoken at a conference before, so it’s an interesting first!”  

The more I do, the more I want to do. It was things like SIPS and the other experiences I’ve had at uni, and the people I’ve met, that have really set me up on this path.

In 2019, Chester was encouraged by one of his lecturers and mentors to join SIPS. It was through this extra-curricular program that he had the opportunity to design his own sustainability initiative. This led to him working alongside fellow medical students to redesign the way they live in university accommodation using permaculture principles.  

“We made a herb garden for the Atrium apartments in Burnie, where we were living, designed in a way to integrate with our community living arrangements. Heaps of people were involved, making for a great day and lots of earthy hands.”  

“My sustainability journey has been catalyzed by being involved in fun, hands-on activities, in welcoming environments. I wanted to offer that similar experiences to my peers and see what they got out of it.” 

The aim of Chester’s work with SIPs was to create hands-on and enjoyable experiences. He wanted others to really consider what it means to live sustainably, and teach them about the small things they can do to contribute in the future.  

“7% of the nation’s carbon footprint is from the Australian healthcare system” 

Medicine is about helping people, there’s great opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of people at the population level through sustainable practices and climate action.

“I often tell people my dream is to be a GP two days a week, leaving me heaps of time to pursue my public health interests of sustainability and climate change with groups like Doctors for the Environment Australia in my extra time.”  

Chester is spoke at the Virtual Global Climate 2020 conference on Wednesday the 18th of November 2020.

 If you’d like to learn more about the Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS) and get involved, you can read about the program here.