"It is important to focus on the environment, there are so many things to do right now," says Elodie Lemaire

 Elodie Lemaire, PhD Candidate at the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF.

Elodie Lemaire, PhD Candidate at the UNESCO Chair ESCI-UPF.

“Open-minded and sociable person, easily adaptable to new environments,” this is how the new PhD student at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, Elodie Lemaire, presents herself. She holds a B.Sc. in Marketing, and a Master in Environmental Sciences and Management from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Focused on environmental issues, Elodie has now joined the Laura Batlle’s Agrifood Research Line at the Chair to apply the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology to analyse the environmental impacts of food throughout the supply chain in order to define and implement sustainable and healthy diets for society. Elodie is a PhD Candidate at the Chair, associated with the CERES-ProCon Project led by Batlle.

 

Why and when did you decide to focus on environmental research?

First, I decided to study a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing at the EPHEC Business School in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium). During my Bachelor’s studies, I went to California (United States of America, USA) to do an extensive and useful exchange of experience that allowed me to see things from a different point of view: by traveling, I was very shocked about the effect of human activities on the environment and at that moment I felt the desire to study the environment. I wanted to open the borders of my specialty because I was worried about being restricted only in marketing, I wanted to be a scientist. Thus, I did the preparatory year for sciences and after that, I started the master in Environmental Sciences and Management at ULB.

Before graduating from the master, I did an internship in a scientific institute of construction in Belgium, where I applied the LCA to compare a sustainable building to a normal building. Then, I participated in the European programme Eurodysseey working as an intern for an industrial Project at a waste management company based in Valencia (Spain), which consists of analysing smart containers and studying the plastic chain management improvement.


Have you always been interested in sustainability and environmental related issues?

Yes. My parents instilled in me the value of the protection and improvement of the environment. For example, regarding waste management, we have 10 bins to separate different types of waste at home.

When I lived at the USA, I realised that there were many things to do in terms of sustainability. During my master’s studies, I was strongly motivated and I decided to start a career in this field. Now, I still like marketing but I want to be able to join both studies: marketing along with sustainable and environmental studies.


More concretely, what is the topic and objectives of your PhD thesis?

My PhD thesis will be focused on food consumption strategies in Spain to mitigate climate change and to find a more sustainable diet model to be applied, including studies on how to make the customers adopt it. This four-year research work is part of the CERES-ProCon project, led by Laura Batlle, Technical Agricultural Engineer specialised in agrifood issues.

Thus, my research will be between management and sustainability areas: on the one side, part of the study will focuses on customers because I want to study their needs and how to introduce the selected sustainable diet to them; on the other side, I will make research based on life cycle assessment methodology to compare the different diets.


What led you to do a PhD in this fieldwork?

During my master’s studies, I begun to be interested in LCA, and that concern led me to do the master’s thesis on the environmental impacts of Belgian household’s consumption in the 3 Belgium’s regions: the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region. I did not focused only in food consumption, but also into other general consumption categories such as transport or energy.

As a conclusion, I realised that in all regions, people pretty much consume the same even though some socio-economic characteristics may affect the consumption of specific categories of products in some regions (for example, urbanisation degree, housing type and income). Moreover, the trend is showing an increase of consumption in all regions and the thesis confirmed other studies about the important environmental impact of the housing, transport, and food & drink categories.


What do you think your PhD training is going to be like?

I think that I will learn and get deeper in my skills as a researcher, both appling the LCA methodology and improving my academic writing abilities. I also feel that, by being part of the Chair team, I will get into the projects management’s branch learning, for example: how to get funding, work effectively in a team environment or develop a project work from A to Z.


What are your future expectations?

I have been working in a research environment for almost two years and I really enjoy it. In the future, I still want to be involved in scientific research. During my PhD thesis, I will try to improve as a researcher with the aim of being able to manage projects and be a good team leader in a research center or university.


What are your first impressions of the Chair?

I heard about the Chair and its specialisation in LCA before joining it, when I was performing the European project in Valencia, and that led me to apply to become a PhD candidate at the Chair.

My first feeling is that the team works as a family, and it’s very stimulating to work together in such a dynamic environment. I like it, let’s see how it goes!


Tell us more about yourself, how would you describe yourself?

About myself, I am an open-minded and sociable person, easily adaptable to new environments, like starting a PhD thesis at the Chair. Also, I really like sport in general: I run and cycle a lot, here in Barcelona all my routes are by bike and is the best. I like to travel and spend some time in other countries and cities, such as I did during my exchange in California and in Valencia. And now in Barcelona, I also want to have the chance to visit other Spanish cities. I also love spending time in the surrounding nature, either beach or mountains.


Reflecting on how you got here, what advice would you give to those students thinking in getting involved in research?
I would say that you have to find something that really interests and motivates you. In my opinion, it is important to focus on the environment, there are so many things to do right now.

 

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