I’m half Dutch, half Spanish. I grew up between the Netherlands and the Basque Country.
I’ve just finished up a BSc in International Management. I had the opportunity to spend a year abroad in my 3rd year, during which I spent the first semester in Sao Paulo in Brazil and then did a climate diplomacy internship at the Dutch regional embassy in Costa Rica. This past year, I’ve been involved with the Climate Action Network, and since April, I’ve been working as a Climate Action Assistant within the Sustainability Team.
What does sustainability mean to you?
I would say that my interest in sustainability has gradually grown over time. It is a topic I heard a lot about in school – to the point where I just got a bit tired of it. But my interest has definitely grown since then! In terms of what it means… it’s quite a broad topic. It’s not only about environmental sustainability but also social sustainability. For me, it’s really about how we can live in a way that we respect and care for the planet as well as other people.
In what ways are you taking action on sustainability? What would you recommend for other people who want to take action on these issues?
I’ve generally focused on being low-waste and adopting a mostly plant-based diet. Another thing I’ve tried to change is how I travel. Obviously, I really like travelling, and I have travelled quite a bit. But more recently, when it’s possible, I travel by train. And yes, it takes longer, but it’s actually quite nice!
I think most of these changes are really just about getting used to them. We’re all so stuck in our habits (me included!), but if you try something just once or see someone else doing it, you realise that it’s really not that difficult. The important thing is not to get too caught up in all of it. You don’t have to be perfect; focus on what is feasible for you. For example, I say I’m mostly plant-based because when I’m home in the Basque Country, there simply aren’t as many vegan options as there are in a city like London. Reducing your impact shouldn’t be filled with obstacles – because, ultimately, we really want changes to be sustainable in the long term.
How do you think we can bring more people into the movement?
I think there’s a huge lack of listening and conversing between people with differing views these days. Bringing more people into the movement should start by having conversations. I know it’s easy to say, but I’d like to try and understand where people who don’t care about sustainability are coming from and then find some middle ground. I think that would be way more effective. You know, really trying to understand what’s important to people, and then try and integrate sustainability into that.
How have you been involved with climate action at King’s?
When I came back from my year abroad, I wanted to continue working in sustainability. So when I saw the email announcing the creation of the CAN, I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. I became part of the Community & Engagement working group and the team of student volunteers helping to coordinate the network. Overall, it’s been really great, and I’ve met many people from across King’s who are so passionate about these issues.
I then began my role as Climate Action Assistant. It’s been really nice being part of the network from the start and now seeing how King’s Climate Action Strategy is being developed. I feel like I’m really part of the process and that I can actually contribute to thinking about how all of the recommendations from the subgroups come together. While it’s not a one-off document, and there will be opportunities to add do it, we have an opportunity to include as much as we can on climate action and ensure our strategy is driven by a climate justice approach from the onset.
It also makes me realize how much there is to do. King’s is just one university, and so many of our processes need to change. Imagine this on a global scale! However, on the flip side, during my day-to-day research, I encounter the amazing work of other universities, local councils, governments and companies. A lot is happening, so it’s very exciting to be part of this work.
What is something that gives you hope that we’re moving in the right direction?
Simply seeing everything that is happening. A quick Google search on net-zero carbon or climate action will give you a long list of companies, governments, organisations, and universities engaging with these topics. Knowing that so many people are willing to change – and are changing – gives me hope!
Another thing that gives me hope and that I’d like to see more of is collaboration. During my internship, my role was to prepare materials (presentations, comms content, etc.) presenting what Costa Rica has been doing, particularly its circular economy strategy. The materials were used to present at meetings and conferences with other stakeholders and countries. It all got me thinking about the importance of collaboration. Climate change does not respect borders, so it’s crucial to think about how countries can collaborate, work together and share their findings. There’s so much potential to learn from each other and exchange insights. It would be a pity for these efforts to remain isolated within a country. It would make everything so much richer and impactful. And that’s what I really liked about the CAN. King’s could’ve just asked a consultant to help them, which probably would have been a much faster and easier process. But by bringing together a diverse group of people, all from different backgrounds, the CAN will make King’s Climate Action Strategy so much richer and more impactful.
Where are you hoping to go next?
I’d love to work in sustainable development, perhaps at an international organisation or an NGO. It sounds a bit cliché, but I want to make a difference and have a positive impact. It really doesn’t have to be world-changing – even if what I do has a positive impact on one person or one community, I would feel fulfilled.
Once I’m done with ‘work’ life, I would love to open a vegan cafe with my sister. I know it’s still work (and probably not as easy as I think it’ll be), but I’d love to have a small one, somewhere surrounded by nature.
Could you recommend a resource (book, activist, documentary…) for anybody who’d like to learn more?
I’ve just started This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, and so far, it’s been fascinating. It addresses the system change we need to tackle climate change and gets to the root of many of the challenges we’re currently facing.
Another book I’d recommend is Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. It’s quite extreme in the sense that if you tried to copy everything the author has changed in her life, it would probably be quite overwhelming. But at the same time, she does a good job emphasising the need to find the right balance for yourself in terms of living zero-waste. She offers some really great tricks and inspiring ideas that can simply help you begin your journey to reducing your impact.
Finally, I really admire Greta Thunberg. To be so engaged at her age is really inspiring (especially when I think back to how I was at her age!).
Thank you, Jone! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.