Clothes swap for climate justice

Sabrina Verby, MSc student in International Development: Globalisation, Trade and Industry hosted a clothes swap at The University of Manchester, on behalf of the School of Environment, Education and Development’s Social Responsibility Catalyst Fund and Climate Justice Fortnight.

Her motivation for this was to raise awareness that we can exchange goods and services in an alternative way to the contemporary market system. The fast fashion industry demands clothes to be made as cheap as possible, allowing consumers to constantly purchase new items at cheap prices. Yet, reducing costs results in the exploitation of millions of garment workers across Asia. Individuals are stuck in precarious working conditions, on low wages, often with no formal contracts. By participating in a clothes swap you are reducing high street demand for fast fashion and sending signals to multinational corporations to change the way they produce clothing. In addition, you are contributing to less landfill pollution from clothes. The UK alone produces 350,000 tonnes of used but still wearable clothing each year, having detrimental effects on our environment. The perfect solution is exchanging unwanted clothes at a clothes swap or donating them to a charity. All the remaining clothes today were donated to Women Asylum Seekers, on behalf of The Refugees and Asylum Seekers Conservation Club.

ūüéĄ Levenshulme Community Christmas Windows ūüéĄ

Last year we trialled Levenshulme’s first Community Christmas Windows, it was great fun. It’s a lovely way to meet people, light up the dark evenings with some sparkle, get into the festive spirit, and eat a mince pie… or 7…ūü•ß

It’s a living advent calendar. Each evening in the run up to Christmas a new window is revealed that has been decorated by lovely Levenshulme volunteers. Often the ‘switch on’ is accompanied by treats, mulled wine, music, and general festival cheer.

One of last year’s windows

The windows are then lit up each evening until Christmas.

We’ll have a map so residents can trail the fairy lit delight (for free) over the festive period.

2018’s Christmas llama!

The glorious The Owl and the Coconut will provide crafting support & inspiration, but you dont have to be an artist to decorate your window. In fact, often bolder, simpler ideas have more impact as details are lost to the darkness. Last year some windows were made from entirely upcycled materials.

Some more windows from 2018’s trial. The third one is the window of The Owl and the Coconut (they’re pros!)

Local businesses can offer their windows, too. This was local estate agent Edward Mellor’s window, last year.

We are looking for window decorating volunteers! Message me with your preferred dates* if you are willing to host a window:

Or join our Facebook group

Some crafting kit will be provided. We need to have 24 windows by 19th November for the festive sparkle to go aheadūü§ě

If/when the 24 windows are booked we’ll share the map through here. Hard copies may also be available.

*some windows are already booked, please send me a few date preferences & I’ll do my best.

Thank you ūüéĄ

SEED Social Responsibility Catalyst Competition 2019-20

How could you make a difference in and around the School of Environment, Education and Development? 

Our SEED Social Responsibility Catalyst Competition offers seed corn funding between £200 and £1500 for ideas.  In consultation with colleagues, it has been decided that this pot will have a particular focus on funding initiatives that directly relate to:

– decolonising university activity

– addressing inequalities at the university

– environmental sustainability

Priority will be given to projects that fall under this focus but we are open to other ideas.  Feel free to talk to Jen ( or to submit an alternative application.

Funding applications can relate to teaching, research or other university activities in or around the University but need to relate to one, or some, of the five Social Responsibility strategic priorities of

– responsible processes

– engaging our communities

– environmental sustainability

– research with impact

– developing socially responsible graduates

If you would like to discuss your idea prior to application, please get in touch with SR Director, Jen O’Brien

Apply by clicking this link– (

How much is available?

Up to a maximum of £1,500 is available for each project. Applications need to be over £200.

When can applications to be fund be made?

There are two rounds of funding to maximise impact.

  • The first opens in October 2019 and closes on 14th November 2019 at 5pm. Decisions will be shared by 21st November 2019.
  • The second opens on 3rd February 2020 and closes on 28th February 2020 at 5pm. Decisions will be shared by 5th March 2020.

ALL claims for money must be submitted before 11th May 2020.

Who can apply for the fund?

All members of our SEED community can apply for the fund – all students, alumni and staff across our academic and PS communities. Students and PS colleagues are particular encouraged to apply. You are welcome to apply for both rounds of funding. Projects will be judged on their individual merits.

Apply by clicking this link– (


How will applications be assessed?

The following questions will therefore be asked of each application:

– What impact will the application have to Social Responsibility within SEED, and beyond?

– Does this represent value for money? And, are there any other funding sources that might be more appropriate for this application? (e.g. research impact sources)

– How sustainable is the initiative? Will it’s impact be greater than this seed corn funding? Have longer term plans be considered?

If successful you will be asked to write a short report about your initiative that will be shared with SEED external communications.


Another year begins….

….and there is so much in store!

I am delighted to be returning to the University after maternity leave with my daughter, Jess.  I am very grateful to Terry Hanley for keeping #SEEDSR going strong whilst I was away.

September always brings promise as several thousand students arrive and many more return.  Its wonderful that so many undergrad students took part in the Sustainability Challenge yesterday.


Whilst a thought provoking exercise in itself, undertaking the interdisciplinary challenge in Welcome Week affirms sustainability as one of our core priorities across the University, and particularly in SEED.  SEED prides itself on its social responsibility, much of which is supported by our research.  As the globe prepares to strike for climate this Friday I am making a declaration; this year SEED will review our operations and processes and become even more sustainable.

That is a challenge that needs to be understood in full.¬† There are trade offs and synergies to sustainability, a huge number of critical decisions to be made.¬† Fieldwork, for example, is core to who we are as a School.¬† This year colleagues in Geography, Chris Darvill and Jonny Huck are piloting a low carbon field option to the Isle of Skye.¬† It will be really intriguing to see how this is received by the students as an alternative to flying to a more exotic location, putting the aim of fieldwork into critical question.¬† Our pledge to make all SEED catered meetings vegetarian has encountered some resistance.¬† It is too easy to hide behind the popular ‘plastics message’; the University is striving to prevent¬†unavoidable¬†single use plastics.¬† Illustrating some of the complexities of sustainability, I would argue that plastic is a wonder product that has become an environmental villain only through poor use and disposal. Our gold Green Impact Award winning labs team, for example, experimented with reusable plastics in the labs but they contaminated results using significant energy in the process.¬†¬†Complex processes need thought and brave trials – which is what SEED will do this year and happily share our learning so that others might also benefit.

I’m also excited to be the new Chair of SEED’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee.¬† I have the large shoes of Dr. Susie Miles to fill who has become the Faculty lead for EDI.¬† Under Susie’s leadership and with particular thanks to Rosie Williams, our last Head Of School Administration,¬†and a strong assessment team, in 2017 SEED became the proud holder of a bronze Athena SWAN award for gender equality.¬† We have a lot of work to do to roll out the action plan that achieved the bronze award but I’m also keen that that action plan continues as an operational approach for SEED, rather than a tick box exercise.¬† I also believe that there is more to EDI than Athena SWAN.¬† In the next few months, with guidance and support from colleagues, I will be reviewing the structures of the committee, how often we meet, our roles and remit, etc to really critically consider what SEED’s EDI vision is, and how to achieve it.¬† ¬†I am particularly grateful for the support of Monique Brown, SEED’s Doctoral Services Manager, who is supporting EDI for SEED this semester. Together we are keen to increase the role of students and PS colleagues in these discussions. As I return to work, part time, and Mum for two young daughters, I feel immense pressure to champion a successful work life balance for academics everywhere. The dreaded chicken pox phone call from nursery on day 3 of welcome week (and my first working day) brought that into sharp focus……¬†

Indeed, I see a huge part of ‘Responsible Processes’ as working together.¬† To SEED colleagues – staff, students and alumni – I would love to hear more about your work and your ideas about how we can make SEED a more socially responsible place, for all.¬†Drop me a line, or come say hi.


Geography student as a (research) partner

Embodying the spirit of SEED learning which sees students as partners, final Year Geography student, Reuben Cutts, recently attended the UK Luminescence Conference in Sheffield. There he presented the initial findings of his undergraduate dissertation about lake shoreline sediments.  He was supported by his dissertation advisor, Dr. Abi Stone. Here Reuben reflects upon the conference and his experience of a broader research setting.


The longer I spend at university, the more about the world I realise I do not know. The day I spent at the UK Luminescence Conference in Sheffield represented one such juncture where this has been starkly apparent to me. I was presenting a poster on the initial research findings of my dissertation, which investigates the ability of a portable luminescence reader to identify the indicative age of lake shoreline sediments. Throughout the conference there were around 25 other poster presentations, as well a programme of  oral presentations.

At the conference I enjoyed being exposed to the cutting-edge of the research field that I am undertaking my dissertation in. It was interesting to see how the information we learn about in lectures is actually cultivated: years of unrelenting research, ultimately crafted into an abstract for students’ consumption. It surprised me to see that such a big emphasis of the conference was focused on interaction with other researchers, whereby people developed their own research efforts with the ideas of others. This collaborative approach to working was something that I had not anticipated. It demonstrated to me how my own dissertation research can be improved with the input of ideas from other researchers.

Reuben’s conference poster

In speaking to some of the UK’s leading thinkers in luminescence research, I gained lots of ideas as to how my research could be enhanced. It was also a really good way to have my own understanding of the work tested, and to have my thinking challenged by others’ different takes and approaches. I gave a two-minute presentation on my research to the conference audience, which although quite daunting, I definitely enjoyed.

Overall, this was nothing but a positive experience. I really enjoyed getting to know the UK Luminescence community, whom I found thoroughly supportive. I am especially grateful to Abi Stone for her encouragement and support with my poster, and of course the funding of the SEED social responsibility funds that made this experience possible.

Manchester Geographer bound for Antarctica


Through a hugely competitive international application process, Madeleine Hann, second year PhD researcher in Physical Geography, has a secured place on the prestigious global leadership program for women in STEMM.  In this interview she explains the challenges and opportunities ahead as she travels across Antarctica with women from 27 different countries which is driven by her passion to enhance equality across STEMM.

Madeleine Hann Twitter @Geomorph_Mad #HB3

Tell us about yourself and why you’re going to Antarctica?

I am a 2nd year PhD candidate in physical geography and I have been selected for a global leadership training program for women in STEMM called Homeward Bound. This New Year I will travel to Antarctica to promote women in science and leadership along with 85 other women from 27 different countries.  But it’s not just about the Antarctic expedition, in the 12 months leading up to the trip all participants learn about all aspects of leadership, from vulnerability to visibility. We do this through video conferencing (with up to 50 women at a time), coaching sessions, set reading, social media discussion and in-person meetings when geography allows!

What is Homeward Bound?

Homeward Bound is an unprecedented leadership initiative for women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine).  The big vision is to equip 1,000 women over 10 years with the skills and network to proactively address the underrepresentation of women in global decision making. The program has four core components: leadership development, strategic capability, visibility and science communication, and science collaboration.  Homeward Bound is part of the system change needed for effective leadership and has already gained recognition by media across the world including Nature and Vogue.

Homeward bound expedition
80 women on the first Homeward Bound expedition in 2016 celebrating reaching the Antarctic Peninsula.

Why did you apply?

Having been accepted to start my PhD in SEED I knew I had a valuable skill set and knowledge base to contribute to Homeward Bound. Having seen first-hand the damage caused by sexist and discriminatory working and social environments, I have known for a long time this is an area where I want to make change. Being part in Homeward Bound will vastly increase my opportunity and ability to do this.

group in Europe
Meeting other women in Europe I will travel to Antarctica with as part of the 3rd cohort: Madeleine (bottom left), Anne (from France), Stephanie (Belgium), Daisy (Switzerland), Steph (Australia), Lorna (Canada + Scotland), and Ana (USA). 

Why women?

At all stages of education and work there are systematic, conscious and unconscious bias facing women. This is particularly apparent in science disciplines, where equality between men and women is still far off. Pure meritocracy is not enough to overcome this bias; we need to actively pursue diversity. Homeward Bound is proactively supporting women to work through these barriers and progress to leadership positions.

on board ship
Women collaborating during intense group work on-board ship on the second Homeward Bound expedition in 2018.

Why Antarctica?

It is an incredible privilege to travel to Antarctica and I do not take it lightly. Regions of Antarctica are showing the fastest responses to some of the global sustainability problems we currently face. Antarctica offers a unique opportunity to witness the effect humans have on the planet and see what is really at stake in this rapidly changing world. Decisions on climate change, pollution and natural resources are the real challenges we will all face as leaders in STEMM, and these topics will form the basis of many discussions and outcomes of Homeward Bound.

How do you fund the expedition?

I will be crowdfunding in November to raise ¬£5,000 to get me to Antarctica to promote women in STEMM. I will be using the University of Manchester platform ‚ÄėHubbub‚Äô and am grateful for their support with the campaign planning so far. I have also received fantastic support from SEED SR in purchasing equipment to keep me safe and warm on the ice! Homeward Bound is also supported by several strategic partnerships including outdoor clothing brand Kathmandu and sustainable infrastructure group Acciona.

What will you gain from Homeward Bound?

As well as increased confidence, communication skills and leadership capabilities, Homeward Bound has given me a lifelong network of women as well as a platform from which to promote equality.  Looking beyond the expedition, I can’t wait to continue to share what I learn and the outputs of the program with communities here in Manchester and beyond.


Homeward Bound Project website

Madeleine Hann blog

Madeleine Hann Twitter @Geomorph_Mad #HB3

Inspiring the Future: Volunteering opportunity.

Rowena Harding, Research Communications Officer for the Global Development Institute, offers her time to motivate and inspire young people in state education.  She would encourage others to get involved to mutual benefit.

Inspiring the Future is a charity with an online ‚Äúmatch-making platform‚ÄĚ to connect schools and colleges with volunteers from a range of sectors and professions. Teachers¬†register¬† volunteering opportunity and volunteers register with a short profile. Volunteering opportunities are broad and can include giving a talk on career progression, conducting mock interviews or speaking at events and fairs. Volunteers are emailed opportunities and can make a decision to go ahead or not. Rowena recently conducted mock interviews for more than a dozen year 10s in the space of a morning! ‚ÄúIt was very worthwhile from both perspectives as I was able to give constructive feedback to young people about what employers are looking for but it also gave me a real insight on the pressures of being a school leaver.‚ÄĚ