The HNL 'Sustainability Olympics: a meeting between neuroscience and environmental awareness

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 - 11:19

The Human Neurobehavioral Laboratory (HNL) organised the 1st edition of the "Sustainability Olympics", a friendly competition aimed at students from the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) in Porto.

Developed with the aim of promoting education and environmental awareness among UCP students, the initiative took place on 5 December 2023 as part of the ambitious Bioshoes4All project - Innovation and empowerment of the footwear industry for a sustainable bioeconomy, of which HNL is a part, and which aims to promote the transition of the footwear industry to bioeconomy and sustainable circular economy.

As part of the “Sustainability Olympics”, HNL launched an invitation to all UCP students to participate in a friendly competition, in a “Pub Quiz” format. 20 students were selected to participate in the competition. Each student was part of a team whose challenge was to demonstrate their knowledge in sustainability for the footwear industry.

The winning team was BioPower, made up of students from the Escola Superior de Biotecnologia (School of Biotechnology), who answered 27 of the 29 questions in the “Pub Quiz” correctly.

Patrícia Oliveira-Silva, director of the HNL and member of the Board of the Faculty of Education and Psychology (FEP), explains that "to encourage our students to get involved with the topic of sustainability, we need to learn from their fresh and innovative ideas. This is the core of understanding human behavior. That's where neuroscience and environmental awareness meet.”


Educating and inspiring for sustainability

The “Sustainability Olympics” aimed not only to educate students on the topic, but also to inspire them. The event was designed to be, at the same time, a competition and a learning platform, allowing students to exchange ideas and expand their views on sustainable practices. At the same time, it aimed to emphasize the crucial role of the new generation of students in creating a more sustainable future for the footwear industry, thus building a bridge with the Bioshoes4All project.

Patrícia Batista, Professor and researcher at FEP, and the visionary behind the event, having originally conceived the idea, states: “The creativity demonstrated by the students at the Sustainability Olympics exceeded our expectations, demonstrating the commitment of the next generation when they are invited to sit at the table to discuss important issues. The event also clearly shows how environmental awareness can be effectively integrated into educational initiatives.”

She also adds that HNL's ambition goes beyond this event: “We aim to organize many other initiatives that can encourage ongoing dialogue and motivate action on sustainability in our community."

Pedro Ribeiro, another member of HNL and part of the “Sustainability Olympics” executive committee, where he was responsible for the logistical challenges, also shared his vision of this experience: "At HNL, one of our main focuses is education and applying scientific knowledge to society. Activities like the Sustainability Olympics enable us to do just that and share knowledge in a way that we know is exciting and engaging. It is why I am so happy that we are partners of the BioShoes4All project.”

Finally, Ana Moreno, also a member of HNL and the Olympics executive committee, and responsible for supporting the development of the “Pub Quiz” questions, stated: “My main aim was to go further traditional question-and-answer format and create an experience where learning about sustainability becomes an engaging, thought-provoking experience for every participant. I believe the questions were not just challenges. We tried to transform them into invitations for the students to explore and embrace sustainability in the shoe sector.”

“We hope that by encouraging critical thinking about sustainability in a specific sector, we're nurturing a generation to make sustainable choices in the future.", says the researcher who sought to challenge participants in the competition to think critically about sustainability issues in the real world.


About Bioshoes4All

The Bioshoes4All - Innovation and empowerment of the footwear industry for a sustainable bioeconomy, budgeted at around 80 million euros, represents a strategic partnership between the UCP Escola Superior de Biotecnologia and HNL and its partners are APICCAPS – Portuguese Footwear, Components, Leather Goods Manufacturers’ Association and the Footwear Technological Center of Portugal (CTCP).

The project aims to promote the transition of the footwear industry to bioeconomy and sustainable circular economy. Within the project, HNL assumes the role of contributing with its research line on the neural correlates of consumer behavior.

Patrícia Oliveira-Silva highlights the impact of the project: "Bioshoes4All goes beyond merely producing eco-friendly shoes; it represents a move towards a more sustainable way of living, impacting both the industry and buyers in a meaningful way.”

The professor highlights the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration present in this project: "The partnership between neuroscience, environmental science, and the footwear industry in the Bioshoes4All project exemplifies the power of interdisciplinary approaches in addressing global challenges. Neuroscience isn't just about understanding the brain; it's about applying this knowledge to create a more conscious and sustainable world.”

Bioshoes4All started in May 2022 and runs until December 31, 2025.

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