Students delivering positive change for environmental sustainability

We asked five students from the University of Oxford about their experience taking action to deliver environmental change and how other students can get involved.

What do you do, and what drew you to take part in this activity to begin with?

Nell: I am an Ethics and Environmental (E&E) rep for my college, Hertford. As such, I promote these issues within the college, working with students and the college staff. I work closely with other E&Es from other colleges and with the SU.

I really wanted to make a change in my college; initially, the first time the applications came around, I didn't apply because I was worried I wouldn't have time to do the role along with my studies and other commitments. Later on, I figured that someone needed to do this work and doing something, even if it is not perfect, is better than doing nothing. Even though there are lots of people around the University who are interested, there are fewer people who are willing to translate that into action and leadership. I nominated myself and was elected.

Abdullah: As the President of the Oxford Energy Society, I have observed that while the energy transition is widely seen as a positive development, its implementation varies greatly between different regions. This has fuelled my desire to connect myself and my fellow students to the ongoing developments and commercialised technologies within the energy industry. My involvement with the Energy Society allows me to deepen my understanding. By participating in its events and initiatives, I believe I can make a positive impact on the future of energy. 

Cassian: I like the approach of marrying the world of entrepreneurship and business with resolutions for the climate crisis. Rather than amidst the gloom of perhaps lack of government action, there’s a role that every individual can take in and guide their own decisions.

What is the achievement that you are most proud of?

Mia: The Oxford Climate Society has done a lot of work through the years, personally, I think that knowledge is power, so delivering and sharing the information we have on the climate and biodiversity crises is very empowering.

I am very proud of a recent event that I chaired to acknowledge the work of women and non-binary researchers, activists, academics and workers who are in climate spaces. This event showcased that the environmental sector is growing more inclusive. 

Nell: Pushing Herford college to produce its sustainability strategy was a massive win since not only did it take a lot of communication and coordination, but it also showed transparency in what the college is doing and created a clear plan.

Yasmin: We have doubled the membership of the OSBE society in just a few months and organised some incredible events with sustainable consulting companies. We receive great feedback from students, which is very encouraging and satisfying to know we are promoting this field.

Cassian: I’ve brought the real world of climate journalism and entrepreneurship together through organising the George Monbiot event, which the society is hosting during Green Action Week.

What did you personally get from this activity?

Nell: It's rewarding to do something that I’m passionate about, and it's a great experience for my future career. I imagine that companies would hold that to a high level, so if I am delivering change, as local as it may be, and gaining experience, it’s a win-win. My studies are also supported as I can see the bigger picture and issues affecting the world.

Mia: Taking part gave me the chance to network and meet like-minded people who are invested and want to get involved. Having a supportive network helps me feel that we’re not on our own with our concerns and passion for doing better.

Abdullah: The Oxford Energy Society's events provide students with valuable opportunities to network, learn from industry experts, and explore potential career paths through internships. These experiences bring students closer to their desired future in the energy industry. 

Yasmin: I’m constantly learning how I can pursue my career goals without jeopardising my morals and wanting to do better for the world. 

What would you tell other students who care about the environment and want to take part in the positive change?

Mia: If you are interested, reach out to someone, whether that be in your college or an organisation you’re interested in working (or volunteering) for. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you don’t know enough yet; you need to start somewhere. Taking part in climate action can be scary, and you might need a lot of confidence, so having a support framework and connections there can be helpful.

Cassian: You don’t have to follow other people’s paths. Although there are a lot of STEM people in the field, we can contribute whatever your passion is. Whatever you do to change on a large or small scale, whether that's your lifestyle or college, it's just as empowering.

Abdullah: Embrace new challenges and step out of your comfort zone. Take initiative and seize opportunities to try new things as much as possible.

Yasmin: Consider careers that complement the things that you care about and get involved in societies and events. You are one of many; the more we talk about it, the more we get involved, the more change we can make.

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