Becoming Sustainable

Natalie King

Normally I ignore all the general emails that are sent to my University account. They are usually not of any interest and I get a bit of “not-me-itis”. Someone else can participate in this trial or that trial. Someone else can go to that event. Someone else can volunteer. However, when I received the email from Jessica about the possibility of volunteering with Green Impact to make the University more sustainable, something clicked with me. Before I knew it I had sent the application form back and eagerly awaited the response, telling me whether or not I would be able to be a Green Impact Project Assistant.

So what was different about this email? It picked up on something I had been thinking about for a while. Volunteering with Green Impact gave me an opportunity to put thoughts into practice, not only in my own life but also at a corporate level with the University.

Moving between student houses throughout my University life showed me just how much “stuff” I had, most of it unnecessary. I liked to collect and be comforted by things around me. And I’m rubbish at throwing things away because I hate waste and letting things go. Our society encourages us to gather things that we don’t need or want around us. I began to dread moving house because the process always showed me how much baggage I lug around, all of it, ultimately, of very little value.

University life showed me just how much “stuff” I had … How can I play my part in living responsibly?

University life showed me just how much “stuff” I had … How can I play my part in living responsibly?

I became convicted that this was not the best way to live my life. I became more aware that I didn’t need these things. I became desperate to shed the load of my “stuff”. I also realised more and more that I am free to take that load off my back because I have everything I need in Jesus. I don’t need things to comfort or to define me because through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection I get God. I can be set free from things that hold me down, emotional or physical, because I know God is good and that he has accepted me, not because I have done what it takes to impress him but because Jesus did all that was necessary. I can be fully satisfied with or without stuff around me because I am grounded on something else – someone infinitely valuable.

Anyway, being convicted about how little I need the things I had gathered around me for safety and protection got me thinking about other things too. Firstly, I wanted to get rid of stuff in a way that didn’t add to a landfill somewhere. Consumerism is as bad for the planet as it is for us. We use up valuable resources to make things we don’t need and then throw them back. What can be done about the resources we are using up? How does what we eat impact the planet? The questions began to snowball. How can I play my part in living responsibly?

To be honest, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m not a Green Impact Project Coordinator because I know how to fix things. By the time Jessica’s email came through all I knew was that I wanted to encourage more people to be thinking about the questions I had been asking and to see how these issues played out at the level of a corporate community, not just in my own house!  Both in the way I live my life and my role with Green Impact, I want to make “sustainability” a bigger part of our normal daily lives. Often we feel that looking after the planet, and the people that live on it, is too overwhelming a job and so we give up before we have begun. Then there is the other problem of the “not-me-itis” I mentioned at the start. We think that it is someone else’s job to take responsibility – maybe the CEOs of oil and energy companies or political world leaders? It is their job but it is also ours.


Through our own individual lives we can create a culture in which people are willing to change the way they live to be more considerate of the earth and its limited capacity. As a society we often pigeon-hole people who are “green” and we can become scathing of those who are playing their part, or at least trying to take responsibility for themselves. This is unfair to them but it is also a barrier for people to consider their role. People think that being green is to take on a whole new identity that involves wearing hemp and being a vegan. Maybe it does look like that for some but that is not where it starts. Green Impact puts green living on the everyday agenda, in the way we recycle our rubbish, keep the heating down and turn off lights. I wanted to be part of that.

Like I said, I don’t have lots of answers but I can share a few things that I have begun to do, which might help you think about small changes you can make too:

  • Throwing something in the black bin is the last option. Does someone I know need this? Is there a charity shop this can go to? Can I sell this online? Can I reuse this for another purpose? Can I recycle this?
  • I eat less meat than I used to. I’m not a vegetarian but I am aware that our meat-eating habits have consequences. I have drastically cut down the amount of meat I eat. At first I didn’t know what to eat if I wasn’t eating meat but I decided to get creative and learn a couple of new dishes. They are great, I enjoy cooking and eating them and they are cheap. What’s not to love?
  • In our house we wear jumpers/onesies/dressing gowns and socks and slippers. Our house isn’t cold but it isn’t boiling either. If I’m wearing a t-shirt in my house in the winter, the heating is too high. Get that duvet on the sofa too – both warm and green!


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