Early Career: Podcasting for Dummies

Editor’s Note: NESSE is about to embark on creating a member-led podcast series. As such, we asked friends of NESSE, Early Career sustainable scientists and genuine podcasters Rebecca Thomas and Kieran Brophy, to reveal all about their experiences of recording and editing podcasts. The formidable double-act’s podcast, called “15 minutes into the future”, is an as-it-says-on-the-tin look at challenges to the environment and climate community in the years ahead.

Picture this. You’re listening to a podcast about something pretty cool, and a thought dawns on you “Hey, I have access to lots of really interesting people. Why don’t we make a podcast?!” Fast-forward 18 months and here we are, fully fledged podcasters with a microphone and everything. So, here are some things we picked up about podcasting along the way that we hope can help you start your own podcast. We found it useful to ask ourselves the following questions… 

Rebecca and Kieran

Rebecca and Kieran

Where do I start?

The initial planning of a podcast can be the most fun, but it’s really important to have a focussed idea at the end. Questions you should ask yourself are; Is the podcast going to be informative or entertaining, formal or relaxed? Will the podcast consists of interviews or monologues? How long do I want this podcast to be? Who is the audience? This last one can be tricky but is probably one of the most important in terms of the language used and the style of the podcast. Personally, we like to have someone in mind who we expect to be listening to our podcast and imagine they are in the room we are recording and editing. For example, we imagine we are having a chat with someone in a pub who knows a bit about science but not all the jargon.

How long have I got to commit?

You’re also going to want to think about how often you can record and release your podcasts. We probably spend about a day in total preparing, recording, editing, re-recording and re-editing our 15 minute podcast.

What equipment do I need?

The first thing you will need is a microphone. While the one on your phone might sound okish, a good microphone makes a huge difference to the quality and listenability of your audio. You can also get podcasting kits, but we have found the voice-notes app on a phone is fine.

What am I trying to tell people?

The best podcasts are ones that take you on a journey with an interesting or funny story. This is something to bear in mind when you are interviewing people, or writing your episode. You can start with the classics – Who? What? Why? When? Where? – to help you put together the story for your episode.

If you plan to interview people, like we do in “15 minutes into the future”, Kieran got some advice from Gareth Mitchell (or a book that he once read), that has certainly helped us out in the past:“The best advice I ever got on interviewing someone is not to get too caught up in the detail of each individual question but to decide what you want from your interviewee. An interview is at its core an exchange, the interviewer gets knowledge, kudos and hopefully a good listenership, whilst the interviewee has a platform to tell their story. As with all exchanges there is some degree of bargaining: deciding what you want, whether it be information, humour etc, decide which in particular is important to you and which are bonuses. It is up to the interviewee to accept or decline.”

What have I got myself into?

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of podcasting is your first interview. It can be very awkward, especially if your chosen subject has no experience of media either. The main things to remember are:

  • Always seem enthusiastic (even if you’re losing all will to live). Nod your head and smile!
  • Figure out how to open and close (this could get awkward if not thought of before). We often ask the person to say their name into the microphone. This also helps to relax the interviewee and get them used to the microphone, and you can use it as a chance to check all the sound is being recorded properly. Bonus.
  • Know what you want from them before you meet them. While it’s useful to have some questions written out to jog your memory, it’s best to only use this as a prompt rather than a script.
  • Editing is your best friend. If you mess-up a question, just ask it again and edit out the other one. This can also help relax the interviewee as they can do the same if they have messed up a response.

How do I add the finishing touches?

Once you’ve got all of your bits recorded, you’re going to need to do some editing. We use free software (Rebecca prefers Audacity, while Kieran prefers Reaper), but there are also lots of cheap podcast editing software out there if you want to buy some. The first thing you want to do is listen to all your audio, and note down any parts you particularly like or dislike – this will help you cut down the podcast to your final version. The best way to start editing is to first get rid of all the um’s and any parts you messed up, then you know what you’re working with. Don’t go too overboard though, so don’t get rid of all the breaths, otherwise the interviewee appears not to breathe, which can be very disconcerting! If you need to re-record some parts, try to return to the room where you made your recording so that the audio sounds the same (it is surprisingly obvious if you’re in a completely different room).

What do I do now?

Once you’ve edited your ‘final cut’, get someone else to have a listen through to make sure it makes sense. When you’re happy with it, you can upload it wherever you decide. Soundcloud host you for free, but there are lots of other hosting sites. You can also apply to have you podcast on the apple podcast app!

We hope you’ve found this podcasting guide helpful, and good luck!


You can listen to 15 minutes into the future on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/user-109603573 And follow us on twitter @15min2thefuture to get our updates.


Early Career: Celebrating Women and Girls in Science

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Beyond Benign for allowing us to share these exceptional interviews with some of the many inspirational women in science.

In recognition of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Beyond Benign’s Executive Director, Dr. Amy Cannon, spent time talking with extraordinary women scientists who share their passion for science, green chemistry and sustainability. Their varying backgrounds demonstrate to us the immense talent and vision women are contributing to science. We hope you enjoy these fireside chats.

4567c0da-b425-46ac-9323-f11f2734eab5Kate Horspool, Ph.D.
Program Director, Chemistry
Sustainable Business & Innovation

BS, Chemistry, George Mason
Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, Northeastern University

What do you believe is one of our society’s greatest challenges in sustainability today?
I think there are opportunities to make sustainable advances, but we need to be better at incentivizing businesses to take risks to try something new and to share between industries. And consumers need to be educated that if a company is taking a risk to do something new and different to impact sustainability, then to give them credit by choosing the greener option.

Tell us about your work in green chemistry and/or sustainability.
I am the Program Director for Chemistry in the Sustainable Business Innovation Group at Nike. It is an amazing group of people who are committed to making a difference in the Nike product. Whether it’s in recycled materials or in the chemistry we use or in manufacturing processes, the team is committed to decreasing our footprint and making the best product we can. Specifically, what I do is look at at all chemistries, including how we use chemistry in our supply chain for footwear and apparel and equipment. I help to provide direction to the business on what chemistries we could innovate to get out of and which chemistries are better chemistry options for our manufacturing processes season product lines.

How does your work contribute to sustainability?
I think when people think of chemistry they think of the drum of chemistry and the immediate hazard to the environment and the factory worker. One of the things that we consider when we look at chemistry is recyclability—or the life cycle of the product from a high level view of the chemistry. We look at how the chemistry affects the product and ask if we being intentional. So, the chemistry is not just the drum of chemistry but how it affects the product from the day the product is made to the day it’s put into the landfill.

What is the most exciting or satisfying part of your job?
Seeing our products on store shelves or being out in our supply chain or factory phase and knowing I contributed to making them better is really exciting. It is amazing to encounter an athlete on Nike’s campus endorsing a product that I influenced through chemistry. He probably has no idea that we changed chemistry 1 for chemistry 2, but does recognize the product feels and looks great and is meeting expectations. That is super cool. From the satisfying standpoint—I am coach 9 and 10 year old girls with the nonprofit Girls on the Run. I love watching their faces when they learn that I’m a Ph.D. in chemistry, because apparently I don’t look like what they think a Ph.D. in chemistry looks like. And, then it kind of blows their mind when I tell them I’m a chemist at Nike.

Have you had a mentor, or educator that was particularly inspirational whom helped to influence your career choices?
When I started to working for NAVAIR our department Stephen Spadora was amazing.He was really good at the balance of pushing the envelope and changing the manufacturing environment while understanding all the different groups affected by a change. He demonstrated how to listen and address legitimate concerns. It was not about forcing change rather to obtain buy-in and to get buy-in requires listening and addressing concerns.

Knowing what you know now, are there skills that you would recommend to a student pursuing training in that you wish you had upon entering an industrial career?
I think it is important for students to have some real-world experiences and problems to solve where there isn’t a right answer—or maybe there isn’t an answer at all. And to learn to come up with recommendations based on the information available and to relay those solutions to people who may even be senior leaders. Additionally, I cannot think of one example during my education where we had to find someone in the business department and the industrial engineering department and the chemistry department in order to work together on a problem statement and demonstrate a complete picture of a solution. That happens in industry all the time—rarely will one be successful working in a bubble. I don’t know if we do a good job of stressing this in school.

Have you noticed challenges within your own work/life balance that might be unique to women in professional careers? How have you addressed these challenges?
I believe in creating work-life balance. I think women may be more prone to becoming unbalanced. I think it is really easy for working moms to get the job done, to make sure the children have everything they need, and then forget the things that they need. My girlfriends and I train for triathlons together. We laugh and think it’s insane that 15 hours of training is what we consider “me” time, but it is. I think it’s important to dedicate time to do whatever it is that interests you. I think it makes for a better employee and mom.

What advice would you give to a young woman today navigating a career in green chemistry and sustainability?
To anyone I would say be passionate about what you do. Listen and learn from the people around you. And at the same time do not be afraid to speak up and contribute to the conversation. Be sure to find a mentor or someone you respect and make sure you are making time to connect with them. Finally, check in with yourself. It’s okay to re-evaluate and change paths. I had several different career path before I found the one where I said, this is it!


765bbc1d-e3d1-448a-a74a-2264967c383cSonja Jost
Founder and CEO
DexLeChem GmbH
Berlin, Germany

MS (Dipl.ling) Industrial Engineering/Technical Chemistry, Technische Universität Berlin

Twitter:  @sonjajost

What do you believe is one of our society’s greatest challenges in sustainability today?
We need to convince society that people who are working in the field of sustainability are not at war with them or with industry. Sustainability is important for all of us and we will benefit all from it–on every level; the economy (by obtaining new competitive advantages e.g. through resource efficiency), society (by getting improved products/ materials which are less toxic), and the environment (by being less harmed with waste, etc.).

Tell us about your work in green chemistry and/or sustainability.
I founded a startup in the field of Green Chemistry. It is a spin-off from university research where we discovered that water can be used as a solvent in more reactions than scientists formerly believed. I realized someone needed to convince industry of the benefits to this approach.  Now I am the CEO, but still working on technical projects, whenever I can contribute to them

How does your work contribute to sustainability?
To produce in a resource-friendly way we focus on:
• Reduction and re-using of precious resources (e.g. noble metals)
• Synthesis in aqueous solutions (substitution of organic solvents)
• Improved separation of mixtures (reduce energy and materials)

What is the most exciting or satisfying part of your job?
It is incredible to see how much one can influence. When we started, there was no chemistry startup scene in Germany at all. None of the big companies really wanted to talk to us. Now, everyone knows us–and they are realizing it more and more that there is a big potential market in Green Chemistry. Ten years ago I would have never dreamed of that!

Have you had a mentor, or educator that was particularly inspirational whom helped to influence your career choices?
Probably it was my first chemistry teacher at school. Mentorship is not that common in Germany, but he was inspirational nevertheless. I think I only chose chemistry as a main course later at school because he told me by chance that he thought I should do it. In this way he encouraged me a lot, just because he believed in my skills.

What has been one of the most rewarding achievements that you have realized professionally?
The founding point of our startup was definitely a very happy moment for me and also getting our first customer. Recognition with different startups prizes, or spontaneously being asked to speak at UNIDO are also very special moments for me.

Knowing what you know now, are there skills that you would recommend to a student pursuing training in that you wish you had upon entering an industrial career?
Definitely a training in negotiations–or even better: more than one training. Negotiations can be very tricky. People from industry speak a different language. When you have never worked in industry it can be really difficult to understand.

Have you noticed challenges within your own work/life balance that might be unique to women in professional careers? How have you addressed these challenges?
Well, there was a time when my partner complained a lot that I did not help enough in our household. I was convinced that I did as much and we argued a lot–but then someone told me that there are studies that the perception between men and women regarding this topic differ in general. So, I hired help at home which ended the discussions. I did this because I realized we all have limited energy and it should be spent wisely.

What advice would you give to a young woman today navigating a career in green chemistry and sustainability?
I would give her the advice to try to get a job in the core of the value chain where she can really change things. Pure sustainability departments do not have access to power at the moment but the technical departments have it.

21330543-1ee0-47fe-b11b-dcb58a9aeda0Laura Muollo, Ph.D.
Director, Life Sciences R&D
Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry

Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, Green Chemistry Option, University of Massachusetts Lowell
B.S., Chemistry, Environmental Studies minor, Stonehill College

What do you believe is one of our society’s greatest challenges in sustainability today?
If benign alternatives to traditional products and processes were glaringly obvious, and zero cost would be incurred by switching to these alternatives, we’d be in great shape. However, usually the benign alternative needs to be discovered, and that takes time and money, which not every person or industry is eager to invest. Unless a regulation or mandate comes down, or a particular traditionally-used material simply is no longer available, the immediate benefit can be difficult for some people to see.

Tell us about your work in green chemistry and/or sustainability.
I joined the Warner Babcock Institute in 2008, and have since worked on dozens of projects spanning a very diverse range of fields. I have led teams which have developed environmentally benign asphalt rejuvenating additives, non-toxic hair colorants, methods for recycling batteries and electronic waste, and methods to enhance water solubility of pharmaceutical ingredients having poor bioavailability, to name a few.

How does your work contribute to sustainability?
In many ways. Re-designing industrial processes to reduce materials, solvent and energy use, in turn reducing waste. Replacing petroleum-derived materials with renewable alternatives. Improving API performance to decrease dosing requirements, resulting in less material excreted into the environment.

What is the most exciting or satisfying part of your job?
I enjoy the variety of projects that I work on. There is no field of research to which sustainability is not applicable, so the number of potential projects is literally endless. I am constantly challenged, and learning new things. 

Have you had a mentor, or educator that was particularly inspirational whom helped to influence your career choices?
Yes, though oddly enough, she was not in the sciences. My high school U.S. history teacher was an incredibly brilliant, funny, strong, independent woman who constantly challenged me to be the very best version of myself. She instilled in me critical thinking and debate skills, a strong work ethic, and probably most importantly a confidence that I could achieve great things with enough determination.

What has been one of the most rewarding achievements that you have realized professionally?
Having led the research teams which generated two different products that are now on the market, Hairprint and Delta S.

Knowing what you know now, are there skills that you would recommend to a student pursuing training in that you wish you had upon entering an industrial career?
I wish I had taken a public health class. Chemistry, the environment, and public health are far more intertwined than I realized as a college student, and having a strong foundation in all of those disciplines can really be an asset, even if your career is primarily focused in only one of those areas.

Have you noticed challenges within your own work/life balance that might be unique to women in professional careers? How have you addressed these challenges?
I’m a mom, so absolutely. I felt that my maternity leave was too short, and felt guilty bringing my baby to daycare as young as he was. Having to figure out when/where to pump breastmilk while on business trips was a challenge, not to mention the guilt I felt about being on those trips in the first place. Now my son is 2, so it’s a bit easier, but I feel like I am neglecting my work when I’m at home and feel I’m neglecting my son when I work long hours. I address the challenge by reminding myself that the work I do is for my son – to give him a better life and improve the world around him. It’s also important to recognize that it’s ok to ask for help. At the end of the day, when my son’s face lights up when he sees me, it’s all worth it.

What advice would you give to a young woman today navigating a career in green chemistry and sustainability?
Stay confident. Science is still a male-dominated field, and while I have encountered little blatant sexism, subtle insinuations that women are inferior still persist. A male colleague may be given credit for an idea you generated. You may have to bite your tongue when a client “informs” you of facts that you already know. When you are referred to as an “emotional woman,” be proud that you are passionate. It is that passion, backed by your intelligence and determination that will change the world.

d2c3b804-bfaf-4433-bf9c-49a8852a91b3-2Kate Maziarz
Junior, Chemistry Major
Mt. Holyoke College

A.S., Chemistry
Kingsborough Community College

What do you believe is one of our society’s greatest challenges in sustainability today?
There are not enough environmentally-minded chemists in the world to impact global challenges and inform other chemists. We need to teach green chemistry to college and high school students. If we do not start educating chemistry students early on in science education, then we will never build a sustainable future.

Please share your history with green chemistry and sustainability.
My first experience with green chemistry was under Professor Barcena at Kingsborough Community College. He had his students follow procedures using the principles of green chemistry in the classroom and during research. Green Chemistry introduced the concepts of toxicology and prevention, which were interesting and extremely useful.

What was the most exciting or satisfying part of learning about green chemistry?
The most exciting part about learning green chemistry is the overall challenge. Green Chemistry isn’t just about knowing the principles, it’s about critical thinking. When starting a reaction and even before it is important to ask: How can I make this reaction greener? Green chemistry keeps one focused on how to constantly improve processes.

How has what you learned in your academic career and within your research contribute to sustainability?
My education instilled the idea of how important recycling is within chemistry. Once I learned the principles of green chemistry, I understood why I should care about waste. I understood that what I do as a chemist impacts what options are available for others to follow. What is really great is that through green chemistry anyone can contribute to sustainability.

Have you had a mentor, or educator that was particularly inspirational whom helped to influence your education and career choices?
Both in Poland and within the United States, every single educator I have encountered gave me the passion and inspiration to go into the field of chemistry. From elementary school on, my teachers helped to cultivate a love for chemistry. I could actually list all of their names as being a mentor, but Professor Barcena is the one who helped me realize that green chemistry is the future.

What has been one of the most rewarding achievements that you have realized during your higher education?
It was rewarding to realize that I could use the principles of green chemistry in my everyday life as a chemist. Professor Barcena showed us the big picture of how industry could recycle polymers for future products and that a plastic bottle, for example, did not have to become waste. I realized that I gained a special skill that could translate to anything I did within chemistry.

Have you noticed challenges within your own work/life balance that might be unique to women in professional careers? How have you addressed these challenges?
I have learned that I always need to be prepared, believe in myself, and act like myself even when I am feeling otherwise. The perception of women in science is improving, but I think the environment is still very male dominant. When you are the only woman in a room of men, it can be very intimidating. My confidence goes away even if I am prepared. I have attended conferences where it is mostly dominated by men even though the field is estimated to be 50/50 right now. Older men within the field do not come across as supportive. It feels as though you cannot contribute as a female chemist even if when knowledgeable. I selected an all female college which has helped me to find my own voice within the field of chemistry.

What are your future career goals?
My immediate goal is to finish my bachelors of science in chemistry. I want to learn as much as I can through my research. Then, I would like to go for a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and practice what I learn.

What advice would you give to a young woman today navigating an education and career that involves green chemistry and sustainability?
I would say, congrats! Green chemistry is the future! In a matter of time, every university will incorporate greener methods in their teaching, until it becomes standard practice. People may associate chemistry with toxic materials and chemicals, but we can change the way they think by  practicing green chemistry.

b20dd5de-8ee4-4144-862d-6b6db7f222f4Maureen Kavanagh
Technical Manager
Renewable Materials
and Sustainable Adhesives
3M Corporate R&D
St. Paul, MN


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
BS, Chemistry
The College of St. Scholastica
MA, Management

What do you believe is one of our society’s greatest challenges in sustainability today?
I feel people don’t understand what sustainability is. Simplifying what sustainability is so everyone understands how they can make an impact each day is essential. Sustainability is a broad term to me but encompasses everything from green chemistry, recycling, renewable feedstocks and much more. It takes everyone to make a difference.

Tell us about your work in green chemistry and/or sustainability.
I have always been a champion for sustainability, trying to develop new ways to help divisional customers meet their environmental challenges, along with ways to reduce our products’ environmental impact. I chaired a technical forum within 3M to foster additional growth in Green Chemistry throughout the organization. Also, being part of some great external organizations such as the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) and the Center for Sustainable Polymers is a great place where others share the same passion for green chemistry and sustainability as myself.

How does your work contribute to sustainability?
My team and I continue to be the experts for the company for renewable materials and strive to meet 3M’s sustainability goals but most importantly working day in and day out to show people how they can make a difference.

What is the most exciting or satisfying part of your job?
As a manager, my number one priority is helping my people build a career path that they are passionate about. My passion is also how to change the way we look at sustainability and green chemistry because making tiny changes does make an impact.

Have you had a mentor, or educator that was particularly inspirational whom helped to influence your career choices?
I have had many mentors and people that have been a true inspiration to my career. They may not even know how much they have shaped me to be excited and passionate about what I do and say each day. I continue to strive to be better each day and continue to take bits and pieces from people who have influenced me along the way. It also has been important for me to be my true self along the way. It just feels more natural that way.  I feel as if I am evolving each day in what I was meant to do for people and the world.

What has been one of the most rewarding achievements that you have realized professionally?
Seeing the growth in my people and leaving the greatness to them. It really is not about me, and once I had that moment of clarity everything else just seemed easy.

Knowing what you know now, are there skills that you would recommend to a student pursuing training in that you wish you had upon entering an industrial career?
You need to have an open mind and be coach-able. School gives you the foundation, industry teaches you application. You are creating your own story so be passionate about the skills that you are building and have a great resume.

Have you noticed challenges within your own work/life balance that might be unique to women in professional careers?
As a woman, I have learned to tell my most challenging stories about my career. Although, it is uncomfortable for me to share my story, I have realized how important this is to make a better path for future women.

What advice would you give to a young woman today navigating a career in green chemistry and sustainability?
We are at a crossroad, humanity and the earth needs your desire and passion to overcome the unsustainable lifestyles we take for granted.  We need highly trained, motivated passionate women to lead the charge of change. Green Chemistry and sustainability is a path that we need to continue to forge ahead with a future that is sustainable beyond my lifetime. You need to continue to teach and educate others on the importance of green chemistry and sustainability. Be persistent. Be patient. Lastly, be you!

Early Career: How to Write a Good Blog Post

We would like to encourage early career researchers to produce a blog regarding their work. As well as becoming increasingly recognized as a powerful tool for disseminating and making researchers’ work more visible, they can also provide a highly accessible digest for a larger, and less specialized audience.



  • Be short – around [500-800] words is an appropriate length
  • Adopt an informal, journalistic style rather than academic writing.
  • Be accessible to a less specialist audience, so any complex terminology should be explained clearly.  Simple examples, or even images, can help to provide context and clarification of terminology and research concepts.  
  • Make the purpose of the blog post clear in the introductory sentences.
  • Organize the content. Blog posts can have an overwhelming amount of information for the reader. Therefore, it can  be helpful to divide the post in subsections. Information can be organized into sections, questions, lists, or tips. To clearly organize the content, you can start with making an outline of your post. What points do you want to cover and what is the best order for it?
  • Make it clear whether or not you are writing on behalf of an institution. A blog entry can also be an opportunity to make a more personal statement about your interest in your research or work.
  • Provide references in footnotes or provide a link for readers who wish to learn more about the topic.
  • If you wish to include images from the article in the blog entry, then it is important to ensure that any permission sought should cover this additional use. Alternatively, royalty free images can be found in a number of online repositories such as Wikimedia, Commons and Morgue File.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you want further guidance or discuss your blog post at blog@sustainablescientists.org.


Sustainable Industry: 5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Editor’s Notes: Read what Jessica Kane, a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading waste oil heaters manufacturer believes we should stop throwing away.

5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Many people who recycle believe they are doing all that they can to prevent unnecessary waste. Yet, unbeknownst to them, they still consign products and materials that could be repurposed to landfill while recycling materials that cost more to recycle than reuse.

If you throw away any of the following five things, it is time to stop and reconsider your options:


Food Bags

In the grocery bag recycling area at your local grocery store, you can also recycle certain types of food storage bags, including plastic bread and produce bags, dried fruit bags and sandwich bags. Look for the triple arrow recycling symbol on the bags. Keep in mind that, since food bags are reusable storage, you protect the environment more and prevent unnecessary waste from fossil fuel energy generation during recycling processes by reusing food bags whenever possible.Food Bags


Cling Wrap

Recycling centers typically do not take film-style plastic wrap. That said, you can still upcycle and reuse it after wiping food splatter off of the plastic. For example, place sheets of used cling wrap on surfaces to protect surfaces from spills when working with potted plants and soil. If you need to smooth the surface of plaster or caulk when performing a bit of home do-it-yourself repairs, wrap a fingertip with cling wrap instead of dirtying a whole glove.

Produce Mesh

Mesh bags and foam sleeves used to store or protect various types of produce are perfect for other home storage projects. For example, reuse mesh bags designed to carry tomatoes, potatoeRecycling
s and onions during the holidays to carry wrapped desserts and gifts. Foam sleeves from around pears, mangoes and other fruits are perfect for protecting your fingertips from cold canned and bottled beverages. You can also use them as packing materials to cushion fragile collectibles, glasses and plates when moving.

Wipes Canisters

Instead of purchasing plastic canisters for organizing, storing and dispensing various types of items, clean disinfectant wipes canisters when you empty them, decorate them to match your home decor and fill them with loose items. For example, these canisters work well as plastic bag dispensers because the top ring prevents you from pulling out more than one bag at a time. You can also use them to store craft supplies and disinfect combs and hairbrushes.

Towel Boxes

Cardboard boxes that hold stacked loose paper towels are also perfect for home storage. Instead of buying cardboard organization boxes, upcycle your empty paper towel ones. For example, use them in dresser drawers to organize underwear and socks. Also, prevent endless searches for specific craft tools like pencils, markers and paintbrushes by filling a paper towel box with vertical cardboard toilet paper rolls, separating and organizing the craft tools by tube.Tiolet Rolls

Almost every item that you throw away can be used elsewhere. Start out with these tips and then look with a different perspective at everything else you toss to reduce wastefulness.



In Layman’s Terms: The Ant Mill Phenomenon – Why it’s Important to March to the Beat of a Different Drum

Editor’s Notes: NESSE Member Simon writes about the phenomena of the ant mill, and describes how we can use it to take a step back and think about the impact that our behaviour, as humans and researchers, is having on the world. 

This video shows the phenomena of an ant mill spiral. It was first described 1910 by the Harvard Professor William Morton Wheeler in his book “Ants – Their Structure, Development and Behaviour”

(You may need to head over to YouTube to view the video)

He wrote – “I have never seen a more astonishing exhibition of the limitations of instinct. For nearly two whole days these blind creatures, so dependent on the contact-odor sense of their antennae, kept palpating their uniformly smooth, odoriferous trail and the advancing bodies of the ants immediately preceding them, without perceiving that they were making no progress but only wasting their energies, till the spell was finally broken by some more venturesome members of the colony.

Paul Watzlawick uses this example in his lecture ‘When the solution is the problem’ to describe its link to climate change. He says that animals, but also humans, have the disastrous characteristic of stubbornly holding on once successful, or at least adequate, solutions, even in the case of changing environmental circumstances, in which these solutions are not longer appropriated.

Jared Diamond shows in his book ‘Collapse’, how societies like the Mayas, Greenlandic Vikings or the population of the Easter Island failed. “One common characteristic of such failing was that in the moment, when they realised that the living conditions became precarious, they intensified their strategies, which have been successful so far.” (Harald Welzer)

In our example above, the ant would start to run faster, akin to how we would behave. We accelerate the economic system after a crises, if the oil becomes scarce, we drill deeper with higher risks for the environment, we intensify our agriculture and fishery, or try to increase the efficiency of the resource use. Why don’t we change our behaviour and adopt to an environment with limits in space and time?

We can’t solve the problems that are caused by a growing economic system with even more growth of that economic system. This causes a societal tunnel vision.

As an ant in an ant mill, we have to stop and make a break, we have to look around and observe what is going on. We have to think about where we want to go and what we really need. As human beings with conscience and the freedom of will, we can resist those instincts, like greed, which trap us in such a circle, but we have to be aware and make use of these abilities.

Instead of decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth, we should think about decoupling human well-being from economic growth.

Green Curriculum: Five Reasons Why Studying STEM Provides Students for a Sustainable Future

Editor’s Note: Read five reasons why Kyle Martin from Florida Polytechnic believes that studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) prepares students for a sustainable future. 

Tomorrow is full of ambiguity; Technological advancements, climate uncertainty, clean water, food shortages and a global population nearing 8 billion are all on the horizon. This begs the question: How will universities prepare the next generation of students for a sustainable future? From hands-on collaboration to cross-disciplinary curriculum, here’s how we believe STEM education is championing a sustainable tomorrow.

  1. Hands-On Learning

STEM majors have a balanced mix of hands-on and traditional lecture-style learning. The blend of hands-on with traditional lectures encourages students to apply classroom material to real-world scenarios. From multi-functional workstations and technology incubators to 3D printing labs (some labs even use polylactic acid, a sustainable, sugar-derived polymer sometimes used in reusable plastics like cups and cutlery), students have access to technology that empowers them to put their ideas to the test and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

  1. Sustainability-focused Coursework   

In addition to hands-on learning, STEM programs actively incorporate sustainability into the curriculum. At events like the Industry Partner Summit, for instance, professionals, researchers and academics collaborate to develop new course material. During these summits, discussions typically cover emerging discoveries and challenges, policy updates, and tools and tactics that can be included in sustainability course curriculum. Summits occur annually to ensure students are learning the most up-to-date, relevant knowledge, thereby ensuring they gain the proper skills to be successful in their sustainability-focused careers.

  1. Revamped Facilities

Today’s cutting-edge STEM classrooms create a collaborative environment where issues of global sustainability can be addressed. Classrooms that were once stuffed with desks and chalkboards are now open-concept design that facilitate group presentations and brainstorming discussions. Conference style tables and technology-equipped stations replace standard desks, fostering group projects, problem solving and teamwork. Instead of chalkboards, whiteboards and dry-erase markers fill classrooms to encourage student visualization, ideating and project road-mapping.

  1. Soft Skills are Sharpened

In order for STEM students to excel in environmental-focused careers, they need opportunities to develop non-technical skills in addition to mastering core curriculum. As a result, many universities are ramping up requirements for STEM students to enroll in soft skill-focused courses. From public speaking to managerial classes, many of the nation’s top engineering colleges are offering up courses that prepare students for the business side of sustainability.

  1. STEM Education is Pivotal to a Sustainable Future

Sustainability is the future, and STEM education is the key to getting there. With a hands-on curriculum, innovative technology and a holistic approach to learning, STEM education is necessary for preparing the next generation of sustainability experts.

Kyle Martin - Author - Pic.jpg

Author Bio: Kyle Martin brings 11 years of storytelling experience to the content coordinator position at Florida Polytechnic University. In this role, Martin develops original content showcasing the University experience as a way to attract new students and faculty. He also lends editorial direction to University departments launching new projects and campaigns.


Beyond Benign and the Green Chemistry Commitment

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is written by Beyond Benign‘s Mollie Enright and Alicia McCarthy about the Green Chemistry Commitment. Mollie is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. and Alicia is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. We would like to thank the team at Beyond Benign for writing this piece for our blog.

 Background to Beyond Benign

Beyond Benign was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization by Dr. Amy Cannon and Dr. John Warner with the aim to cultivate a national and international “Community of Practice” and to bring green chemistry to pre-college and higher education. Our mission and vision is based on a holistic approach for providing solutions to the environmental problems our society faces by inspiring the next generation of scientists to become responsible chemists that can design and incorporate green, sustainable technologies.

This unique educational approach produces materials and trainings that are audience driven and address multiple learning styles from primary school through graduate school. We believe in providing resources that are free and publicly available online so anyone can have access to quality materials on sustainability and green chemistry. We hope to inspire college students to use green chemistry to innovate a sustainable future. The three main areas of focus within the organization are pre-college curriculum and training, community engagement, and higher education. The Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program and the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) Program are two ways our organization addresses those areas in partnership with higher education institutions.

Sustainable Outreach

Our Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program trains college students in communicating green chemistry concepts to the public using hands-on activities inspired by cutting edge industrial innovations. Undergraduate students are trained in green chemistry and are coached in communicating chemistry concepts to diverse audiences. The students encourage a positive message to future scientists that they can bring change and develop a safer and sustainable world through chemistry.

Fellows’ are given the option to create an outreach or research project based off their experience within the program. This academic year, two scholarships will be awarded to students within the Fellows’ program to participate and share their project at the 21st Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in June 2017. By bringing their projects to a professional conference, students can connect with the larger green chemistry community and can network with peers and faculty to share resources and gain opportunities.

1Beyond Benign Program Manager Mollie Enright leads our Outreach Fellows program and is pictured here talking with local high school students about the challenge of ocean plastics.

Throughout the academic year, the Outreach Fellows reach hundreds of students and community members through fascinating, hands-on activities to showcase innovations, and opportunities in green chemistry. During interactions with the students and public, the goal of the Fellows’ program is to not only empower consumers to make more educated choices, but to encourage students to explore a future career within the STEM field with curiosity and passion.

2Young Einstein’s Science Club visits Beyond Benign annually as part of the Outreach Fellows training day. Students are pictured above exploring a hands-on activity on the dying of fabrics.

Beyond Benign’s outreach program is a model for how students take on the role of a green chemistry ambassador. Their outreach and influence goes beyond the community and can reach their own chemistry department to join in the commitment to integrate green chemistry principles into chemistry education. The Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) has several student-led initiatives among the signing institutions of how students assisted their department in greening their labs and experiments through research and outreach.

Growing a Green Chemistry Community

The GCC is a consortium program that unites the green chemistry community around the shared goals and common vision to grow chemistry departmental resources; expand the community of green chemists; and improve connections with industry for more student opportunities and collaboration. By signing onto the GCC, colleges and universities are identified as schools that are committed to continual progress in the implementation and adoption of green chemistry student learning objectives. The signers agree that upon graduation, chemistry majors should have proficiency in the following essential green chemistry competencies: 1) Theory: Have a working knowledge of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, 2) Toxicology: Have an understanding of the principles of toxicology, the molecular mechanisms of how chemicals affect human health and the environment, and the resources to identify and assess molecular hazards, 3) Laboratory Skills: Possess the ability to assess chemical products and processes and design greener alternatives when appropriate, 4) Application: Be prepared to serve society in their professional capacity as scientists and professionals through the articulation, evaluation, and employment of methods and chemicals that are benign for human health and the environment. These student learning objectives are implemented in different ways within each of the signing institutions in accordance with their green chemistry experience level and department resources.

By having a platform for communicating with the signers, the GCC has a unique opportunity to track the progress of signers and identify common roadblocks many departments and student initiatives face when trying to incorporate green chemistry and toxicology into their curriculum and activities. Working groups and partnerships are utilized to create a resourceful network for creating and sharing new tools and models. One major area all GCC signers are very interested in is how to teach toxicology for chemists. Beyond Benign has observed four different models of adoption within chemistry programs: 1) department seminar expert speakers; 2) student-led resources; 3) stand-alone courses, and 4) integration within existing courses.

3Dr. Amy Cannon (far right) pictured above with regional green chemistry college faculty members.

Partnerships with diverse organizations like NESSE, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), and MilliporeSigma are important to the growth of Beyond Benign. These connections help develop and provide free resources and tools that can benefit all socio-economic educational institutions and communities. Beyond Benign is coming up on their 10th year in 2017, and we look forward to expanding our goals for chemistry education as our organization advances forward.


About Mollie and Alicia

Mollie Enright holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Gordon College. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. At Beyond Benign, Mollie leads all community outreach programming and equips volunteers to lead sustainable science outreach events through the green chemistry outreach fellows program. In her role, Mollie also supports all pre-college programming for Beyond Benign and seeks to equip teachers with the resources they need to bring green chemistry and sustainable science into their classrooms.

Alicia McCarthy holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Health from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and in the second year of her M.S in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. Alicia’s role is to communicate with potential and current GCC signers to address needs and celebrate successes among chemistry departments and students to further the goal of creating a community network of green chemists. By developing annual, flexible goals with schools, Alicia tracks the progress of specific learning and research objectives among the GCC signers and utilize their accomplishments as models for other schools.

This blog post was edited by Didi Van Doren




18 Tips for how to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Editor’s Note: Get prepared for the festive season by reading our 18 tips for an eco-friendly Christmas.  This blog post was written by Go Green’s Katarina Lajtban. Go Green is a site providing guidance for sustainable living and environmental news around the world that inspires readers to take action. Katarina create web links and online paths that enable future readers to find the Go Green site, follow the news and learn about important environmental issues to take action towards a more sustainable living.

During the holiday season, there is a world-wide skyrocketing trash output and in America alone, there is about a million extra tons of garbage every week. From food shopping to gift shopping and decorating, you can literally see the amount of trash increase in your own home. There isn’t any question that the holidays are a magical and fun time for those who celebrate.

What’s better than attending parties, buying and giving gifts, cooking up your best dishes, volunteering and sharing in a sense of community? There isn’t any other time of the year quite like it. The spirit is contagious because gratitude is a wonderful feeling. However, we all want to do our part to have a more eco-friendly Christmas. Here are some tips to help you celebrate the holidays in a greener way.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

1. Use food as decoration. It can be eaten at the end of the day, meaning there will be less waste to deal with but even if there is, it is biodegradable. Since food is a big part of the holidays, it can be used as table centerpieces. Think persimmons, cranberries and even pinecones.
2. Use LED lights. Looking at Christmas tree lights can be spellbinding; it is a sight to behold. Even for adults, Christmas tree lights evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. So this year, switch to LED holiday light strands. They consume 70 percent less energy than incandescent ones. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Energy–it costs just $0.27 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days! In comparison, it costs $10 for incandescent lights for the same duration. Fun fact: Did you know the first Christmas trees were lit up with candles? Talk about a fire hazard!
3. Stay away from inflatables. These decorations are fun, but they can cost around $2-$9 per month in energy costs. You can limit your energy use by displaying decorations such as ribbons, wreaths and other decorations that don’t consume energy.
4. Use extension cords. Some decorators use string lights to lengthen holiday displays. All that does is consume more energy. It’s eco-friendlier and more energy-efficient to simply use extension cords.
5. Use automatic timers. Don’t leave your lights on all night. No one will notice them when everyone is asleep. Set the timers to turn them off when you hit the sack.

Preparing food
1. Buy local produce as much as possible. For starters, the food will be fresher and taste better. Plus, they require less transportation–which, helps to conserve fuel and reduces carbon emissions. Look for local farms that produces turkeys, hams, cornish hens and chickens or the proteins of your choice.
2. Use glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These types of pans heat faster than metal ones. Thus, you can set the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe suggests. You also want to stay away from disposable pans and disposable plates, plastic flatware, and Styrofoam cups. This is the time of year to bring out the good china and cloth napkins. They are easy to wash and can be reused repeatedly. In addition, they take up little storage room until next year. When it comes to beverages, serve them from pitchers or gallon jugs instead of individual bottles or cans.
3. Use a slow cooker. For side dishes and small meals, slow cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens are much more energy-efficient than the oven.
4. Keep the oven closed when cooking. Why? Ovens lose a lot of heat when opened and then use more energy to heat back up to the right temperature. It’s better to turn on the oven light and look through the window.

1. Look for gifts that are eco-friendly. Ask a retail associate to help you. If you are shopping online, it is as simple as typing “Eco-friendly gifts” into your search engine of choice.
2. Look for energy-efficient electronics. Many of our loved ones would like electronics for holiday gifts. Search for the items that promote energy efficiency. A quick note: laptops require 50 to 80 percent less energy than a desktop.
3. Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances. Just look for the logo, as it is easy to find. These models can decrease energy usage up to 40 percent.

Keep the pests away
With all the cooking and sweets, you might notice a few unwanted roommates. The best way to keep bugs and other vermin out of your home is with ultrasonic pest repellents. They work remarkably well, without the damaging and harsh fumes that come with extermination. They are also much safer for our pets since they are non-toxic.
One of the most popular ultrasonic pest repellents on the market is the Crave Greens plugin, which can be found on Amazon. Although, there are many to choose from. Read the reviews and descriptions before purchasing. You want to get the most effective plugin for your needs.

Prefer to travel?
The holidays are for enjoying your time off. Sometimes, that calls for a travel adventure. To keep it eco-friendly, choose one of these greener destinations.
1. Costa Rica. This country is known for its eco-conscious boutique hotels. The country also has a sustainability policy which has resulted into hydro-power being its biggest source of electricity.
2. Galapagos Islands. These islands are located over 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are also almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. 90 percent of the islands are designated as national parks, pure heaven for nature lovers!
3. Bhutan. This country is deliberately developing tourism slowly so as to preserve their natural resources and protect their culture. They also have a set tourism tax that is returned to the communities. You will find breathtaking wildlife in its many conservation areas.
4. New Zealand. Who can forget the amazing scenery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings’ movies? In fact, 20 percent of the country is made up of natural parks. Why not spend Christmas surrounded by natural landscapes or going whale watching?
5. Slovenia. Its capital, Ljubljana, was voted the European Green Capital of 2016. It states that it is the first European city to move towards zero waste. They have installed special bins that charge users based on how much waste is disposed. Furthermore, its city buses run on natural gas.

As you can see, you have many options for enjoying an eco-friendly Christmas and they aren’t difficult to follow or implement. Plus, you’ll lose the guilty conscious of having too much waste or using too much energy.


This blog post was edited by Daniel Ddiba.

NESSE Webinar – Reverse Photosynthesis: A Game Changer In The Industrial Production of Fuels and Chemicals

Editor’s Note: Read about our webinar, hosted at 17:00 GMT on Monday 5th December 2016 by  David Cannella from the Unviersity of Copenhagen based on an article recently published in Nature Communications. Click here to attend the webinar!

Cellulosic biomass conversion into biofuels (ethanol) had for many years led the forefront research. Today we renamed these as advanced fuels, and despite several successful industrial demonstration plant applications, little of these products reach out the society. The reason is mainly due to the market competition against fossil fuels. Seeking new and more efficient ways of converting the renewable lignocellulosic biomass with enzymes into chemical building blocks (sugars and phenols), the energy of sunlight has been applied for accelerating the activity of the key role enzyme LPMO. LPMO or Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenase is a redox enzyme which cut the cellulose chains via an oxidation reaction: consuming a molecule of dioxygen and with the expenses of 2 electrons it cut the cellulose chain releasing one molecule of water. Working in synergy with hydrolytic cellulases, LPMO accelerates the conversion of cellulose to glucose or if used alone produce an array of oligosaccharides. LPMO is now a key component of industrial cellulase cocktails. Here it will be presented a new way of accelerating the activity of LPMO via transferring the electrons from the antenna pigments (chlorophyllin or thylakoids) upon excitation with sunlight. Given the utilization of plant photosynthetic components (pigments) and the consumption of their products (dioxygen and carbohydrate) this technology has been called in popular terms “reverse photosynthesis”.            

David Cannella is a biotechnologist granted by the Danish Research Council for independent research (DFF), with a strong interest in sustainable conversion of biomass in valuable products and energy. Graduated at University of Rome-Sapienza, has obtained his PhD in second generation biofuels production at University of Copenhagen, Denmark where is now enrolled as PostDoc. His multidisciplinary approach to research regards a mix of biochemistry, microbiology, bioprocesses integration, analytical chemistry and lately photo-biochemistry. At today he is seeking at light powered enzymatic biomass transformation into chemicals or food additives, and at the confirmation of the so “imprecisely called reverse photosynthesis” processes happening in Nature. He has been visiting various research institutes: CTBE-Brazil, Chalmers University-Sweden, University of Rome Sapienza-Italy.