For one of my final interviews I saved the closest till last, the Green Office where I worked previously as an intern, where I met my most of my friends including my interview partner Floor van den Elzen, and where I currently spend most of my time… Green Office Utrecht (GOU).
This office is home to a diverse range of nationalities, of which we chose to take the ‘British perspective’…
Our two British Green Officers are George Parsons, (left in the photo) a bachelor’s student on exchange from the Malvern, England, and Emily Swaddle (right) who is doing her master’s in Gender Studies at Utrecht University, previously studied in Scotland, and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Both interns had a bit of a startling beginning, George’s predecessor left back to Britain two hours after meeting him and Emily was one of the last interns to be hired, so it felt as though everyone else had a better idea of what was happening than she. Emily also wasn’t aware who her predecessor was, but quickly learned…(because it is me!) However, after the first brief moments of confusion they both felt that the team was welcoming and kind, and the friendly ambiance made them feel at ease.
What is the atmosphere of this office? Both Brits agree that the GOU is a cozy, welcoming place. “The layout of the office is nice, because one side is good for work…and a bit of play, and the other side is for being casual, and hanging out with Barry.” (Barry pictured right) Emily tells me that the office has a level of professionality that is necessary for what they do. “We aren’t inherently particularly professional…” says Emily “Speak for yourself” says George jokingly
For both Emily and George working at the GOU has changed both their ideas and level of sustainability. After working at the GOU George has realized how even the smallest actions can make a difference, and that sometimes the most unexpected people are the ones thinking about sustainability. He now promotes sustainable thinking even more than he ever did before, and he thinks about small things in his life now, like turning the lights off, using the washing machine eco-cycle… or getting organic wine, of course.
Before coming to Utrecht Emily travelled North and South America working on farms. During that time she had a very personal relationship with sustainability, and the change she invoked was largely with her own life, and the lives that were close to her. Upon moving to back into the urban world her sustainable ideas were able to grow and have a far broader reach. Working at the GOU Emily has come to appreciate that change takes time, because in order for it to be sustainable, the change needs to come from the individuals themselves.
Since they’ve started work at the GOU George and Emily feel that the team has become more social and cohesive…as can be seen in their team retreat picture (left). They find that the GO was naïve in the beginning assuming everything would go off without a hitch, but has become more realistic in its ambitions and projects. Where did this change come from? The university has created a sustainability Program Team, and now has a clearer focus of its role in sustainability, and thus the GOU has a clearer role within the university. “When you have a policy and action working together, is when you have the biggest impact” – George
Is it a good thing that the GOU has such a diverse cast? “Well we are quite good singers and dancers” – George. But in all seriousness George thinks it helps that everyone comes from different academic and national backgrounds, it is balanced and works well as a team.
Life after the GOU? Emily has only recently extended her sustainable involvement from personal to professional, but now that she has some experience in the area it is something she would like to continue in. “Sustainability was something that I did for me…. And for the world, whatever” – Emily. George finishes his year abroad in July, and has to go home to write his dissertation. He will try to join the GO Exeter (Students’ Green Unit at Exeter University). He is interested in a project using cigarette ash for fertilizer.
What do these interns do in their spare time? “What spare time? I’m always here!” Emily is currently working towards a trip this summer to Tanzania where she will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, in support for World Wide Cancer Research. She has raised all the funds, but the mental preparation is yet to come. George, when he’s not with the green office, plays for a local football team here and goes out once a fortnight to meet with them. He also just started playing cricket for a local team.
“The Green Office has infiltrated every aspect of my life. I started this internship in September, then increased my hours here, I’ve met most of my friends here, I now live with two people who worked at the GOU, I spend my social time with people from the Green Office, and wear Green Office clothing in and out of office. There is never a day that goes by that I don’t say Green Office at least a hundred times.” – Emily
Text by Valerie Brown. Photos of GO Utrecht. Article originally published on www.duurzamestudent.nl