Cambridge Hub supports pioneering students to develop real-world, practical solutions to climate change.
Cambridge Hub’s ambitions aren’t just big, they’re global. “Our vision is to be a society where every student gets involved with social and environmental challenges, empowering them to become leaders in sustainability,” says the 2020-21 President Megan Lloyd (Lucy Cavendish 2018). Their flagship 12-week Engage for Change programme has so far supported 150 students to design and execute a project of their choice.
For Luisa Deragon (Girton 2016), it all started with Instagram. “Because of the pandemic, everyone switched to disposable containers, and the amount of waste was incredible,” she says. “When I saw a post about a company in New York that had replaced single-use food containers with a reusable system, a light bulb went off. I thought, surely we could do something like that at Cambridge?”
Weekly Zoom meetings with her cohort helped to keep her on track as she broke down her plan into actionable steps, from researching manufacturers to approaching Colleges’ environmental officers about getting their catering managers on board. “I didn’t want them to have to do any extra work; I wanted to present them with a solution that meant they just had to say ‘yes’.”
Her selling point? Digitally traceable containers integrated in a reusable system that could be used 1,000 times before being recycled, making this the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly option available. She faced challenges along the way, including the difficulty of trying to convince people she couldn’t meet in person that this was an important issue. But she turned to her peers on the programme for support. “It helped me feel less alone to know we were all trying to improve the climate crisis.”
Deragon’s RE.USE scheme launched at Darwin and Girton Colleges in April to what she describes as a “fantastic” response. No wonder, then, that she was awarded the Cambridge Green Impact Special Award in Student Leadership. The goal now is to expand to other Colleges – and beyond.
Thanks to support from Cambridge Judge Business School’s Accelerate Cambridge programme, Deragon is now running RE.USE as an early stage startup with co-founder Lisa Kent (Clare 2013). They plan to create a city-wide interconnected network of reusable food and drink containers, making it fun, convenient and sustainable for all users through innovative technology.
Although Deragon’s science background contributed to her project’s success, Engage for Change welcomes students from all disciplines. “We’ve got people with technical skills and others whose strength is communications,” says Lloyd. “There’s a wide range of ways to make a difference, which is one of the programme’s strengths.”
For information about partnership or funding opportunities at the Hub please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about RE.USE, please email email@example.com.