Macquarie’s Green Hero

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INTERVIEW Adrian Hizo

Living sustainably is often fraught with difficulty, and giving up our precious creature comforts is enough to drive anyone mad. But it can be done.

Macquarie University walked away with two accolades in the 2012 Green Lifestyle Awards. The awards are designed to recognise businesses, people and products that have attempted to minimise their environmental impacts on the planet and facilitate sustainable living.

On the business front, Macquarie University won the Large Business Award whilst Belinda Bean, the University’s Sustainability Officer, took home the Local Green Hero Award. Belinda kindly took some time from her schedule to talk with Grapeshot.

Congratulations on winning the Local Green Hero for 2012. How does it feel to win this award?

Thank you! It was very surreal to be involved with two awards that evening. My mum had entered me in the Local Green Hero category without my knowledge, and I’d entered Macquarie in the Large Business category but had forgotten entering us – so it was all a big surprise!

Are you proud to see that your efforts in making our university a greener place for both students and staff are paying off?

Of course! We’ve been working away at it since 2008, and now have hundreds of staff and student champions whom without, our success would be impossible – so I’m proud of them too.

What kinds of activities are you involved in both on- and off-campus?

For MQ Sustainability, I oversee our communications, engagement and outreach. So that’s anything and everything from running events, challenges, bushcare, and sustainability workshops, to facilitating capacity building though our staff and student sustainability networks.

Externally, I’m the Regional Director of the Sydney Basin for the Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability; co-founder of Live & Learn Local (a Lane Cove community capacity building forum); co-host of Sustainable Works (TV show that makes sustainability fun and accessible); Community Engagement Strategist for Wattwatchers, and an ambassador for 1 Million Women (a climate change NGO aiming to inspire one million Australian women to cut CO2 pollution in their own lives).

Where does your passion for sustainability come from?

I don’t like being told what to do, so when I was taught in my marketing degree that planned and perceived obsolescence was the way to make money, I wasn’t happy! What shocked me the most was how little my classmates reacted to this information. I knew there was a problem with our linear consumption model, but I always thought “they” would fix it… at that point I started to wonder who “they” were, and if maybe I should be joining “them”!

What kinds of things do you do to live more sustainably?

In my personal life, I’ve cut meat from my diet; I am heavily involved with my local sustainability action group; I have started a productive balcony garden and am in the process of selling my car and moving closer to campus so I can start riding to uni again. I’ve furnished my apartment entirely second hand from Freecycle or Gumtree. My partner and I are experimenting with window farming so that we can start sharing our skills with our space confined friends and community.

People often think that it’s difficult to live a sustainable lifestyle. What is your advice to people who want to live more sustainably but may be put off by its perceived difficulty?

Yes, it does seem as though our societal default switch is set to ‘unsustainable’ at present. I’m not going to lie, I’m forever going out of my way to do the right thing. However, underestimate the speed at which social change happens once it’s reached a tipping point, and never underestimate how powerful you are in helping reach that tipping point. I’m an empowered person. I believe I can make a difference – you can too! My advice would be to start small – a smile and some gratitude don’t cost you a thing, and feel pretty good. Then try helping someone or something in need for no reason and feel really good! It catches on.

Some people also believe that Climate Change is just part of a cycle that happens over millenia and as a result don’t really bother with changing their lifestyle, what would you say to those people?

I’m no climate scientist, so I’m all ears to new information. From the research I’ve done, I gather there has been huge variances in our Earth’s climate over millennia, but that the current spike in CO2 equivalent parts per million in the atmosphere is due to human activity that has ‘tipped the balance’ – meaning that run away climate change can occur if we don’t get it in check. Climate change aside, imagine if the whole world had access to clean, renewable energy? Our capacity for innovation would increase exponentially. We could solve all kinds of problems – including climate change (regardless of it’s cyclical or anthropogenic cause!)

You are also a national ambassador for the 1 Million Women program, what does this program aim to achieve and how did you get involved in it?

We’re aiming to inspire one million Australian women to cut one tonne of unnecessary greenhouse gasses from their lives. One tonne may not make a huge difference, but one million tonnes sure does! I’m involved because I love the campaign – it empowers women by letting them know they’re not alone and that together, we can achieve a lot!

Why women specifically?

Women are natural networkers, so if we can raise the profile of conscientious living within this group, the word will spread like wildfire to everyone – no man left behind!

Do you have a time limit in which to reach your goal of cutting 1 million tonnes of CO2 with one million women?

ASAP!

What do you envision the future to look like?

A move from our scarcity, monetary based economy to an abundant, resource based economy. Less stress, sickness, poverty, exhaustion, depression, judgement and disconnection from each other and more happiness, love, health, compassion, energy, creativity, and connection. A united world where we work only for the betterment of all rather than for the profits of a few. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.