How students are championing the global sustainability challenges at UOW

A dream for sustainable and environmentally friendly earth for future generations.

Three University of Wollongong (UOW) students are dedicated to making a difference in the world by creating unique solutions for a sustainable future.

UOW student Helly Pham, who is studying her final year of a Bachelor of Marketing Communication and Advertising, founded a team called ‘Enviro Squad’ alongside fellow students Alex Nguyen, who is studying a Bachelor of Public Relations, and Jenny Pham, in her final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering. The trio from Vietnam took part in the prestigious L’Oreal Brandstorm 2020 Challenge.

This year, the theme of the challenge was to create innovative solutions by using environmentally friendly products. The aim was to reduce the environmental footprint of L’Oreal’s formulas, protecting biodiversity through a sustainable and responsible sourcing policy for raw materials and optimising packaging used by L’Oréal to support sustainable innovation.

The L’Oreal Brandstorm Challenge is a prestigious annual event where students get to meet and exchange innovative ideas with L’Oréal employees from many backgrounds, functions and expertise.

The students created teams of 3 to come up with the most innovative idea, sharpen it throughout the selection process and learn more about the reality of the industry from L’Oréal experts.

During the 2020 challenge, the participants were asked to find innovative business solutions and change consumer behaviours by helping people understand the importance of plastic consumption and plastic waste.

The team utilised the power of rice by-products and made biodegradable packaging for water and non-water based L’Oreal products.

Pic 1: Illustration of the biodegradable rice-straw paper packaging for water-based products.

Pic 2: Illustration of the rice-starch bioplastic packaging for non water-based products.

To reduce the carbon footprint, the team wanted to create a product which is environmentally friendly and reproduced out of waste.

“We want to make a bigger impact to our communities by reducing carbon footprint and adopting sustainable solutions for a better future,” Helly said.

To match the theme of their product, the team donned palm-leaf conical hats also known as nón lá – a signature look of rice farmers in Vietnam.

“As we were polishing our presentation, we realised our theme that centered around rice by-products was very close to home. The innovation we came up with evoked many memories. One of which was the image of beautiful rice fields in Vietnam. In those remarkable fields stands the familiar figure of rice farmers. They are the ones who diligently cultivate rice fields day by day, which in turn, produces quality grains to feed people. Indeed, they are the embodiment of assiduousness, dedication, and love,” Alex said.

“The outfits became so much more unique with the touch of nón lá that boosted our level of confidence. Although, the Enviro Squad did not win the top prize, we were definitely receiving an incredible amount of compliments on our idea and especially the attires we wore that day!”

Pic: Enviro Squad members Helly Pham, Alex Nguyen and Jenny Pham with their palm-leaf conical hats.

After facing tough competition from over 30 Australian unis and over 500 students participating in the challenge, Enviro Squad was the only international team to make it to the national finals due to their unique idea.

“Our team was dedicated to working on unique solutions that can make this world a better place and also reduce plastic waste that harms our environment and takes thousands of years to decompose naturally,” Jenny said.

Pic: L’Oréal Brandstorm Australian National Finalists 2020 with the juries and organisers.

“It was a fantastic experience learning from the experts from L’Oreal and the research and insights provided to us during the competition helped us refine our product at every stage of the competition.

“This competition provided us with an ideal environment for developing our skills and competing with so many talented students across Australia was a rewarding experience as well.”

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