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PhD student shortlisted for renowned Green Gown Awards

Released: 24.08.23

Marjon PhD Student Katie Major-Smith

Plymouth Marjon University PhD student Katie Major-Smith has been shortlisted for the Student Sustainability Champion of the Year category in the 2023 UK Green Gown Awards. The awards recognise sustainability projects being undertaken by universities and colleges in the UK and Ireland. 

As a PhD student at Marjon, Katie has used her role to advance sustainability action across the University and throughout the higher education sector. Katie has introduced Carbon Literacy Training aimed at understanding the cause and effect of everyday carbon emissions. She has also supported the development of Marjon’s sustainability strategy which continues to inform the University’s progress towards its Marjon Zero project, with an end goal of carbon neutrality by 2023. 

Sustainability Champion of the Year nominee Katie said:  

“I’m really happy to be a finalist, it’s great to know that the work I’ve been doing to enhance sustainability at Marjon and more widely across the university sector is being recognised. My passionate work as a Student Climate Commissioner, participating in the Department for Education's Sustainability and Climate Change Youth Panel, representing the UK student body at COP26, and evoking discussions on sustainable research practices are key to development in sustainability.” 

Using her knowledge and through important research Katie has driven advancements in the Marjon Zero initiative, supporting the University’s sustainability task force through student voice and advocating for sustainable practices. 

Director of Academic Practice and Strategic Leader for Sustainability, Professor Debby Cotton, added: 

“It’s fantastic to see Katie’s impressive contributions to sustainability both at Marjon and across the sector, being recognised. Her cutting-edge research is a fabulous example of a living lab project which really makes a difference to the University’s activities, and delivering Carbon Literacy Training to the senior management team is an impressive achievement for a postgraduate student.” 

A living lab is a dynamic innovation environment where researchers, industry experts, and communities collaboratively design, test, and refine novel solutions in real-world settings, fostering rapid development and practical application of innovative ideas. Katie’s living lab study conducted in Marjon’s food and drink outlets found that making oat milk the default choice in the café tripled its consumption, cutting milk-related carbon footprint by up to 34% per drink among staff and students. 

In 2019, Plymouth Marjon University became one of the first major organisations in the city to declare a climate emergency, later holding a climate conference for students, staff, and the Plymouth community to discuss ways to build a more sustainable future. In 2020, the University unveiled its Marjon Zero project, which has since seen over 2,000 solar panels installed and 55 ground source heat pumps fitted in a £5.3 million project, funded by the Salix Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. 

Speaking on Katie’s shortlisting, Professor Claire Taylor, Vice-Chancellor at Plymouth Marjon University commented: 

“I am absolutely delighted that Katie has been recognised for her sustainability activism and influence across our community. This award comes at a pivotal time for the University and will provide further impetus and inspiration for realising our ambitions related to sustainable and ethical living, working, and learning.” 

The 2023 Green Gown Awards UK & Ireland ceremony will take place on Thursday 30 November in Liverpool. Find out more about the awards here. 

If you’re interested in research and PhD opportunities at Plymouth Marjon University, you can see more information here. 

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