The Ecologist

2012 Environmental Hero award winner Katherine Husch
Jewel and Esk College librarian Katherine Husch with her 2012 Environmental Hero award.
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Jewel and Esk College librarian Katherine Husch wins 2012 Environmental Hero award

Paul Creeney

13 July, 2012

The winner of this year’s Green Impact Universities and Colleges (GIUC) Ecologist Environmental Hero Award is Katherine Husch, a librarian at Jewel and Esk College, Edinburgh. Katherine, 26, who is returning to her native Canada this summer, talks Greening the Campus with the Ecologist’s Paul Creeney

How did you first get interested in green issues?

Green issues have always been something I have been interested in, although becoming the leader of the College’s Green Impact team allowed me to get involved practically in a lot more events than I had previously.

Was winning the Environmental Hero award a surprise?

I knew there was an Environmental Hero award being announced, but I didn’t know that my colleague Harriet Cross who is the Green Impact Co-ordinator at Jewel & Esk College had nominated me for it - so yes it was a complete surprise!

Which environmental achievement are you most proud of during your time at the college?

I would say it’s not actually the big things it’s the little things that I’m most proud of. For example, seeing people using the recycle bins that were installed instead of regular bins, just small things like that. It’s the accumulation of these kinds of small changes that can really make a big difference. All the things we’ve done are small, grass roots things - there were no grandiose projects - but they all had an impact.

Having someone talk to me in the street and say that they picked up on and used one of our green ideas, and seeing people behave in a more environmentally friendly way is also extremely rewarding.

Did you notice any significant change in student’s behaviour as a result of the projects you implemented?

There was definitely greater awareness of green issues among our students. For example, people who had seen or heard about one initiative would often ask if there plans to introduce more of the same on campus. People would also ask very general questions about the environmental movement, and if I didn’t know the answer I would research it and get back to them, so it definitely started a dialogue.

What is your favourite of all the initiatives you’ve implemented at Jewel and Esk College?

I really enjoyed the ‘National Spring Clean’, organised by Keep Scotland Beautiful, because we were out in the neighbourhood a lot. If we were helping tidy a beach people walking their dogs would often come up to us and thank us for the effort we were putting in. It was great to interact with the general public in that way, which is something I don’t usually get to do.

One of your most successful initiatives was ‘Green Tips’, what was that?

It was a regular email I circulated to staff and students with suggestions on how they could help the environment. All the tips were simple things we can all do around the house or office to save energy, such as using empty glass jars to store things, not pre-heating the oven for cooking and, of course, unplugging things if you’re not using them.

Do you have any green ideas you would like to implement in the future?

I’d like to see the college garden get a little more established. It is a community garden that we use to grow herbs and other foods. Hopefully it will help students to better understand and appreciate where their food comes from, and also help encourage them to become more sustainable. At the moment we’ve also got 11 trees to plant as part of an initiative we’re running with Oxtreegen, where the college receives a tree to plant for every phone recycled, and of course, we would hope to have far more by the time the scheme finishes.

After winning our Environmental Hero award, do you have any plans for the future?

I’m actually returning to Canada in August, where hopefully I’ll continue working in libraries. I definitely plan to keep up with the green side and would like to introduce lots of green initiatives wherever I work next. It’s a part of the job I really enjoy especially as it is a role I didn’t perhaps expect to be taking on when I first became a librarian!

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