Meet our alumni working towards a sustainable future

The Sustainability Report 2022 sets a path for the University’s ambitious, collaborative approach to advancing sustainability.

Through enacting the University’s 2030 Sustainability Plan, the report tells the story of how our community mobilised for sustainability action in 2022.

Among the forward-thinking initiatives and projects outlined in the report were many key milestones the University achieved towards a more sustainable future last year.

Among these were: the 139 sustainability or climate-themed events that were hosted at the University; the four new subjects and courses that developed sustainability-focused curriculum content; the support provided to affected communities during the October 2022 Goulburn Valley floods; and many more.

As the University strives to mobilise its community for action, many alumni are embodying the objectives set out in the Sustainability Plan 2030 as changemakers in their own industries.

Here, we learn more about some of the alumni who are working to create a brighter future for our planet.

Creating circular economies

After Kunal Khanna had completed his undergraduate degree in economics at the University, he spent an extended period travelling. It was during this time that Kunal learned what direction he wanted his career to take.

Kunal Khanna Kunal Khanna

“The fragility of the ecosystems we depend on became very clear to me,” said Kunal, “at the same time, the impact we are having as a species continued to become increasingly apparent. I decided then that this was the greatest issue of our time.”

Now a Senior Consultant in Circular Economy at Aurecon, Kunal helps his clients implement circular economy principles into their practices.

“Most recently I put together and delivered a Circular Economy framework for the City of Melbourne. This outlines the pathway for the city to adopt and build circularity in all its operations and functions in delivering its services to the community,” shared Kunal.

“Once adopted, Melbourne will become one of the biggest cities in the world to adopt circularity.”

Also the Co-Founder and Director of The Odd Gumnut, a permaculture farm in Western India, and Director of All Living Things Environment Film Festival, Kunal learned valuable skills and life lessons during his time at the University that have helped him thrive as an entrepreneur.

“The opportunity to meet, interact, share and collaborate with students from all over the world was a highlight,” he shared. “In the realm of sustainability, this meant gaining a global understanding on this issue that requires cross-border cooperation and action to find solutions.”

Green product creation

As Director at Alcmene, Kate Forbes delivers consulting services to clients looking to improve their sustainability practices in developing consumer products.

Dr Kate Forbes Kate Forbes

It all started when Kate completed her undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University, followed by a PhD in physical organic chemistry. At this time, she learned how the physical makeup of a product can impact the environment for better or worse.

Following her studies, Kate became a formulation chemist at Australian luxury cosmetics brand Aesop. There, she learned to connect her scientific knowledge to business.

“Creating physical products that have a visible impact on the world, both socially and environmentally, was how I first became involved in sustainability,” said Kate.

“This involved a consideration for how we could improve all aspects of our operations – from sourcing, to shipping, to packaging, to production, to product use and then end of life.”

One of the key ways that Kate now helps her clients move towards a more sustainable approach in their product development is through the B Corp certification process.

“B Corp certification looks at the whole of your business operations including governance, employees, community, environment and customers to measure how you are creating a positive impact,” said Kate.

Uniting communities for change

For Ariadne Gorring, her love for the natural environment started in childhood.

“I grew up in nature and had the privilege of enjoying the freedom, creativity and safety that comes from playing and exploring in the bush, and my early experiences impressed on me a love for nature” she shared.

Ariadne Gorring

Ariadne Gorring

“What I carry with me is a belief that everyone should have the opportunity to connect and understand how important nature is to the future of humanity.”

In 2018, Ariadne completed the Atlantic Fellowship for Social Equity at the University of Melbourne – an Indigenous-led Fellowship for Indigenous social equity in Australia, Aotearoa and the Pacific region.

Following the foundational year of education, Fellows enter into a lifelong membership in a global community of change-makers across seven international Atlantic Fellows hubs.

For Ariadne, being a part of this network has been invaluable. “A handful of Fellows have become lifelong friends and many collaborators,” she shared.

“Amanda Young has joined my workplace as a colleague, Janine Mohamed is a board member of the not-for-profit foundation I co-lead, and through our work, we’re exploring opportunities with the First Nations Clean Energy Network founded by Karina Nolan and now supported by Jonathan Kneebone – all fellows from the Atlantic Program.”

As Co-CEO of Pollination Foundation, Ariadne’s work connects global thought leaders with place-based communities together to accelerate the transition to a net zero, nature positive future. “Cooling down the climate and repairing nature is at the heart of all our work,” she said.

One of Pollination Foundation’s key initiatives was incubated by Ariadne during her foundational year in the Atlantic Fellowship.

“Ampliseed is a global peer-to-peer ‘learning while doing’ network that connects conservation practitioners and local communities who take a rights-based, people-centred approach to achieve enduring conservation outcomes,” said Ariadne.

While the work is ultimately about landscape conservation, Ariadne says the work of Pollination Foundation is people-centric – from multistakeholder collaboration to weaving data and narrative to craft powerful stories of impact and change.

“Through our learning we continue to hear that climate change is a crisis of humanity not the environment,” said Ariadne.

“My vision is that as a global community, we learn to value nature and invest in Indigenous Peoples – the most skilled stewards with a millennia of experience – to look after and steward nature for the benefit of us all.”

Learn more how the University is mobilising for action in the 2022 Sustainability Report.

Give Read more - Students & Alumni Impact