Growing sustainable businesses with STEM

How can businesses operate sustainably? What role can business play in repairing environmental damage? Growing sustainable businesses with STEM is a video project developed as a partnership between the NSW Department of Education’s STEM Industry School Partnerships program and the Regional Industry Education Partnerships program.

The videos were produced by film maker Jill McCall from Piece Together Productions, who since the late 1980s, has been acutely aware that we were consuming the planet’s resources at an unsustainable rate.

“I was passionate about household ecology and informed myself about climate change, which at that time was known as The Greenhouse Effect,” said Jill.

After a couple of decades focussed on parenting, in 2019 Jill found more time to look in detail at recent reports and data about climate change, soil degradation, deforestation, ocean acidification, water security and declining biodiversity.

“For several months I was paralysed by fear,” she said. “How would the next generation, including my own children, clean up the environmental damage done during my lifetime? Could disaster be averted?”

A turning point for Jill came after watching Damon Gameau’s documentary 2040.

“I began discovering and following the progress of people working on extraordinary innovations and felt compelled to share these stories.”

Around the same time, Jill was working on an NSW Department of Education program designed to increase the aspirations, interest and participation of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Surely the most effective way to inspire students to study STEM, would be to tell them stories about how STEM can positively impact the things that really matter to them. I wanted to show students how the application of STEM skills can make a tangible and positive difference in the world.”

In July 2020, Jill established Piece Together Productions and created 35 short films for the NSW secondary school curriculum. The films showcase eleven enterprises developing innovative solutions to serious environmental challenges, including climate change.

About the businesses showcased in the films

The Growing Sustainable Businesses with STEM film series explores innovative solutions that have been developed by eleven businesses in response to their awareness and concern about serious environmental issues. 

From practitioners in regenerative agriculture to a world-first carbon capture utilisation technology, Jill hopes that the solutions featured in the films will inspire the next generation of innovators to see the role and potential of STEM to shape a regenerative future.

Macadamia farmer Rex Harris shares his journey transitioning from conventional monoculture to polyculture using regenerative agricultural practices such as cover cropping to increase the soil biology, build soil carbon and increase the water holding capacity on farm.

Mineral Carbonation International explain their world first carbon capture & utilisation process that can transform CO₂ emissions from industrial sources into solid materials that can be used to manufacture cements, mortars, plasterboards, binders, and emerging carbon engineering products.

Pablo & Rusty’s, the Sydney-based coffee roaster and wholesaler, discuss how they prioritise sustainability by applying a rigorous scientific approach to every level of their operation utilising the latest technology, software and equipment to maximise efficiencies and minimise impact at farm, factory and café levels.

“Students need positive role models, and they need a sense of agency. There are so many people doing amazing work,” said Jill, adding that STEM skills are critical to developing sustainable and regenerative systems and we need STEM communicators to talk about science in an engaging and meaningful way.

“I’m passionate about supporting young people to develop the aspiration, skills, abilities and resilience required to contend with the social and environmental challenges we are facing locally, nationally and globally.”

Watch the films

Head to the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer’s website to watch the 35 films

About the project

The films were produced by Jill McCall from Piece Together Productions as part of the STEM Industry School Partnership (SISP) Program with funding from the Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) Program.

Inspiring Australia NSW is partnering with the NSW Department of Education’s STEM Industry School Partnerships program and Investment NSW to launch this initiative as part of National Science Week 2021.

Feature image shows Louise Hardman (pictured centre), and the team at Plastic Collective who are working to change the economics of plastic recovery and beneficial reuse. Thanks to Piece Together Productions, STEM Industry School Partnership Program and the Regional Industry Education Partnerships Program for this sustainable business National Science Week campaign.