My social impact sustainability journey: From Devon’s nature to Cambridge’s laboratories
In the picturesque and green hills of Devon, I spent my childhood surrounded by an abundance of nature. I was fortunate to grow up with the influence of my mum and granny, who both harboured a love for nature and instilled in me a sense of thriftiness, teaching me to mend, reuse, and hold onto things. Unbeknownst to me then, these were the seeds of my journey into sustainability.
This realisation dawned upon me when I moved to Nottingham for my undergraduate studies in Natural Sciences. Suddenly, I found myself exposed to the reality of the climate crisis through social media, and the word ‘environmentalism’ continually echoed around me. I understood then that my childhood values of thriftiness and respect for nature aligned with the principles of environmentalism. It prompted me to redirect my academic journey towards sustainability, resulting in my pursuit of a PhD in the physics of sustainability and lithium-ion batteries at the University of Cambridge.
I arrived in Cambridge in 2020, during a time that many will remember as socially challenging due to the pandemic. Struggling to find a sense of community, this feeling rekindled another Nottingham memory — the power of an engaged and supportive community, which I had previously experienced when leading peer-to-peer mentoring. In the hopes of replicating that sense of connection in my new college, I seized the opportunity to serve as the Green Officer for the Students’ Association.
Being the Green Officer provided me an opportunity to engage with people beyond academia. From students of conservation leadership, participants of the Engage for Change programme, to experts in bats, I was constantly learning from others. This community engagement led me to become involved in various projects focusing on biodiversity and sustainable consumption. One such initiative was the college Green Week, aimed at increasing awareness and action towards sustainability.
Alongside my PhD, I found myself deeply involved and fulfilled by these community projects. I took part in the DarWild project on biodiversity monitoring, which effectively engaged people with the natural spaces around them. I also joined Project Second Life, which collected items at the end of the academic year to redistribute among new college students, reducing waste and saving over 500 kilograms from landfill.
From the wild, nurturing environment of Devon to the colleges and laboratories of Cambridge, my journey thus far has centred around biodiversity, sustainable consumption, and the undeniable importance of community involvement in these projects. I look forward to further exploring these themes and learning from others, while maintaining the hands-on approach that I have enjoyed so much.