Cristal is in the completely new role of sustainability officer, so we caught up with her and find out more about what her job involves! Could this be a career path for you? Careers in sustainability and renewable technologies are a definite growth area in the UK.

How long have you worked at MidKent College?

I've worked at MidKent College since May 2022, so just over three months! Time flies!

Your role as a sustainability officer is new to the College. Please can you explain a bit about what it involves and what the College is looking to achieve in terms of sustainability?

The main goal is to drive the college to reduce its total carbon footprint. That can be through influencing behavioural change through staff and students' personal lives via information sharing or campaigns, procurement - where we buy our things and who we buy our things from and effective waste management. Currently, we aim to be net zero by 2030 and to lead the charge in our sector.

What is your work background and how did your interest in sustainability start?

I recently graduated from the University of East Anglia with a bachelor's in International Development. Before working my first full-time job here, I did a lot of part-time roles that involved working with and speaking to students and staff and children as well. Interestingly, my love for sustainability stems from my love and passion for helping people in as many aspects as possible, thus why I chose International Development.

Growing up in Hong Kong, we are frequently visited by typhoons. I'm grateful that the infrastructure present keeps my family and me safe from the destruction it creates, which allows me to be amazed at the power of typhoons, almost like being able to watch an animal from the safety of the barriers. However, it has become apparent that said typhoons are becoming more frequent and strong, and not everyone has the privilege to be kept safe from increasing extreme weather events. That is where my love for sustainability begins, I want people to be able to be safe in their own homes, and if changing common habits save the planet, then you bet I'm going to help people the best way I can to achieve that.

What do you enjoy most about the role?

I love that we as a College have so much untapped knowledge regarding sustainability! Every colleague has something to say and ideas to share, every trade has industry-specific knowledge that I can't personally keep track of. It feels great seeing people's faces light up when they share their ideas about what they would like to see in college.

Any frustrations so far?

Too much to do, too little time! There are so many projects I want to get started and get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, (and for good reasons too), everything takes time and needs approval, especially when it comes down to spending. If only we had unlimited money to do all the sustainability projects we wanted...!

Do you have any particular success stories or moments that stand out that you’d like to share?

As mentioned, I'm still new to the role, so no projects that are worth mentioning as success stories (yet). One thing I am proud of is the digital platform I've created from scratch for staff to use internally (student one branching from this). As a brand new department, we don't have a lot to work on. Inspired by the infinite ideas that seem to come from staff and students, I am working with IT to create a digital 'ideas box' so to speak. This is to hopefully have a centralised space where staff (and students) can submit their ideas and have a say in how other ideas can be improved and implemented effectively. Making MidKent College net zero is a team effort!

Thanks Cristal!

Cristal Li