Tsinghua SIGS works towards a greener future


Each year, April 22 marks Earth Day, a global movement to raise awareness of environmental issues. From conducting cutting-edge research to community outreach programs, Tsinghua SIGS has been dedicated to addressing urgent environmental problems both in the local community and globally. 

Environmental problems require interdisciplinary solutions Prof. Zhang Xihui

"Environmental engineering is closely connected with our society, and involves multiple disciplines such as water conservation, ecological landscape, and water quality,” said Prof. Zhang.

Zhang’s research mainly focuses on drinking water purification and water environment restoration. During COVID-19, the rising occurrence of pharmaceuticals in water from drugs and medication raised public health concerns. Prof. Zhang and his team developed a ceramic membrane technology which can perform decontamination at the nanometer scale, removing 95% to 99% of pollutants. The technology has been put into use in Guangdong, Guangxi and other regions in China.

"Environmental problems are becoming increasingly complex. We need to solve them with interdisciplinary approaches, and nurture students who are globally competent to participate in global environmental issues,” said Zhang.


Prof. Zhang Xihui

Promoting waste classification at the source — Associate Prof. Li Huan

Since 2018, Associate Prof. Li Huan has been involved in a city-wide project that aims to improve waste sorting and recycling in Shenzhen. By identifying the city’s characteristics in domestic waste generation, the project has developed a specific waste-classification system for Shenzhen, enhanced current systems of waste collection and transportation, and also provided reference for laws and policies.

To improve participation rate and accuracy in garbage sorting, the project has teamed up with environmental organizations and volunteer groups to provide community outreach and education programs. Their efforts in promoting waste classification have been widely recognized by the public. 


Associate Prof. Li and his students promoting waste classification


Developing global visions – He Fangxin, Master’s student

He Fangxin, an Environmental Engineering major recently returned from her exchange at Kyoto University, where she focused her research on the remediation of arsenic contaminated soil. HE shared that rapid development in the 1970s caused a lot of pollution to Japan, but people’s emphasis on the environment and technology development has led to successful restoration of the environment.


He Fangxin during her exchange in Japan

She noticed that environmental education in Japan starts in kindergarten, and schools organize field trips so that students learn to explore and appreciate natural environments since young. Almost all households and enterprises make conscious efforts to classify garbage, and some supermarkets even recycle frying oil to use as fuel after treatment. 

During her exchange, HE also learnt more about different environmental policies and technologies around the world, and was deeply impressed. She is now working on a new research project based on the current environmental situation, and hopes to contribute to environmental restoration in China.


He Fangxin (first row, second from right) and her research group in Japan


Our school and Kyoto University established the Cooperative Research and Education Center for Environmental Technology (CRECET) in 2005, and over a hundred students have participated in exchange programs at Kyoto University. In 2018, the schools furthered cooperation, establishing a Double Master Program in Environmental Studies.   

“Environment and Ecology” is one of seven theme areas of Tsinghua SIGS, with the goals of solving major environmental issues, promoting research in ecological environment science, and gathering global talents in the field of environmental science and innovation. Many among the SIGS community are tackling environmental issues with their expertise. Let Earth Week 2020 serve as a reminder for us to embrace our responsibility, and to protect the earth for future generations.

Cover design by Cui Yuntao, supervised by Wen Xueyuan

Edited by Karen Lee