In the latest in our Life as I know it series, our sustainablility intern, Ella Perriton, shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
Sustainability was not something I grew up with. Although my dad once worked for a company that recycled Inkjet cartridges and my mum is super creative and resourceful (I wore my flamenco dress from the age of seven to 13 years’ old, where its last appearance was at my ‘dress up as what you want to be when you get older’ birthday party) – I didn’t have an upbringing where sustainability and the environment played a huge part.
I was led into the world of science simply because it was my strongest subject at school. When it came to choosing a degree course, I picked Environmental Science at Brighton University – somewhere that I considered to be the greenest city in the country. Sustainability became a passion of mine and I wanted to learn how sustainability and the environment played a practical role within businesses. Despite picking all the modules relating to this, it was not enough to prepare me for my placement year role where I worked within the sustainability team of a multi-million pound company.
After going into the job with great enthusiasm (and naivety), I was fully put in my place after seeing first-hand the complexities and effort needed to implement sustainable practices. Legalities, supply chains and office politics made everything so difficult, and any efforts made felt like a drop in the ocean of what needed to be done. After this experience I wondered if all companies faced the same issues and approached the topic of sustainability in the same way.
During my final year I completed my dissertation on the barriers to recycling at the Brighton and Hove Albion. After collecting my data, which involved spending a day sorting through bags and bags of recycling, I was very happy to find that progress was being made in the industry of events and sports arenas. Plus, the findings of my investigation were appreciated and recognised by the stadium. My positivity was restored!
After finishing University, I decided it was time to travel and ended up in Whistler, Canada. This turned out to be the most valuable of all my experiences as I learnt more about the human side of sustainability. In Whistler, consumerism was not a thing. As a seasonaire money was limited, being spent on rent, beer and food (in that order). If you were looking to buy a new pair of skis or item of clothing, you’d be searching the Facebook buy-and-sell page for a good deal, or you’d find yourself trawling through the racks at the re-use centre before resorting to the expensive shops in the village. If you needed to downsize your belongings, you’d try to flog whatever you could online before donating it or throwing anything away. This was something I’d never experienced and I found it super refreshing that much of everyone’s focus was on their next big adventure and not material things.
Recycling was an area that I discovered more about whilst being away. Whistler municipality had a deposit scheme for cans, tins and glass (AKA – a reward for drinking), something that I have seen in other European countries and wished we had in the UK. The restaurant I worked for even implemented a recycling system overnight – it caused no issues because people just got on with it. Examples like this made me feel more positive about the changes that are happening in the world and I try to remember these things especially when I find out that my friends don’t recycle because they ‘can’t be asked.’
Since being back in the UK and having the amazing opportunity of interning at Eco-Age, I’ve learnt that when it comes to implementing sustainability, it really isn’t one size fits all. Every company and town has its own strengths and weaknesses, and all need to strategise differently. I have found that there are indeed lots of amazing companies that are starting to make sustainability a top priority, and many start-ups are finding ingenious ways to save the planet. However, we can’t all be perfect and sometimes even the little triumphs should be celebrated. I can only hope that with all the current publicity around the subject (David Attenborough even spoke about plastic at Glastonbury this year), more companies and governments will look to make positive changes.
Personally, I’m making my way through all of my current make-up and beauty products before buying any more and have enjoyed rediscovering old items in my wardrobe instead of going shopping. Like many businesses and governments, there are many areas in which I can improve. Above all, I aim to continue my career within sustainability (and not as a flamenco dancer), and luckily have Eco-Age to inform and inspire me along the way.