Why are you passionate about sustainability?
Our Earth is amazing and worth trying to improve for future generations. Of the 4,000 or so planets that have been discovered so far in our galaxy, we're unique in supporting life. And when you think about our awe-inspiring natural world and incredible cultures and people, it's such a rare and beautiful thing that we should all want to leave it a better place than we found it.
In your opinion, what's the biggest challenge society faces today regarding sustainability?
The more I learn about and work in sustainability, the more I think our biggest challenges are around connecting with people.
We already have lots of great technological solutions to tackle sustainability issues, and more will continue to be developed. However, they can only have so much impact if people with the power to drive change don’t understand how or don't care, and if everyday people don't demand certain behaviours from those in power.
Sustainability professionals need to be able to explain difficult concepts to a wide variety of people and have empathy for others - not everyone can easily implement certain changes in their behaviour or lifestyles, there isn't a 'one size fits all' approach.
The interdisciplinary nature of sustainability means that it's not just about the physical environment, but also about social and economic sustainability, and equity and justice for all. How do you convey the scope and the gravity of the situation when trying to engage with everyone from a group of students or community members to the CEO of a major organisation to the leader of a country?
In this challenge lies a great opportunity for those who work in sustainability to become better storytellers and create an engaging, global narrative on sustainability that people can relate to and will inspire action.
How did you become a Sustainability Manager?
As an undergraduate student in the US, I got hired as an intern at my university's office for sustainability. I fell in love with the work and was hired full time after I graduated. When I moved to the UK, I was hired by UEL and eventually became the sustainability manager.
Sustainability is an exciting field because there is nothing that doesn't have a link to sustainability in some way, so you get to meet and work with lots of people in different jobs and departments and organisations.
A university is a great place to be a sustainability manager, because with so many people, services and operations in one place, there are endless opportunities to engage with the UEL community, be creative, and have fun.
Tell us more about a sustainability focused project that you've run or been involved with?
My big focus in the 2021/22 academic year, and of critical importance to the university overall, is the development of UEL's net zero and sustainability strategy. I am leading on the development of the strategy and will call on the entire community of UEL students, academics and staff to have a chance to contribute and make their voices heard.
What does this project seek to achieve?
The University has made a pledge to become net zero carbon by 2030, so this strategy will be our game plan of how we are going to achieve that through changes to the physical campus, university operations and policy, as well as in the curriculum. It will be an ambitious vision, but also a realistic roadmap for how UEL can achieve our net zero goal.
Where can we go to find out more about this project, or to get involved?
You can follow the UEL Sustainability Instagram account (@uelsustainability), and keep an eye on official University communications for sustainability-related events and other opportunities to get involved. You can also email email@example.com if you want to get in touch directly!
Name someone or an organisation that people should follow on this topic?
Everyone should familiarise themselves with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are a 'shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future'. They are used by organisations all over the world as a framework for sustainable action and clearly illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability.
You should also follow the news on COP26, which is the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference and will be held in Glasgow from 31 October 2021 to 12 November 2021. It is an exciting time to have this important event taking place in the UK!
What is one thing people can do today to become more sustainable?
Get involved in your local community and seek out like-minded people. Individual actions are important, but we can achieve far more if we work together!