Friday, April 7, 2017

The Sustainability Series: Regula Von Büren

Regula acquired her Masters of Psychology form University of Zurich, Switzerland. She worked previously at Mercator Foundation Switzerland where she was leading the funding area “Our environment”. Since 2015 she is part of the EcoCampus Initiative @ Nanyang Technological University and is mainly responsible for community engagement and behaviour change projects focusing on sustainability. Her talents include Taekwondo, petting cats and being patient with people like me with terrible German.

1)         How do you think you have contributed or are contributing contribute to sustainability, professionally or personally?
Mainly by just doing what I deeply care about: in my personal or professional life. It is important for me to work somewhere that aligns with my sustainability values and where I feel I can actually make a difference. Privately, it’s mostly just trying to make my life more sustainable step by step. There is no zero-carbon lifestyle. So I try to minimize my carbon footprint along the way by being vegetarian, minimizing my flights, not buying stuff I don’t really need or cherish. The things I do that are carbon intensive/not environmentally friendly, I try to enjoy as much as I can. If I go somewhere by plane, I try to book in advance (and get excited about it for a long time), stay longer (to make the most out of it) and relish my memories by creating photo books.
2)      Name one measure/innovation in sustainability that has impressed you in the past.
Although it was already done a while back, I have to say carbon footprint calculator. It really opened my eyes the first time I filled one out and was actually able to see, with one number, how much carbon I use with my lifestyle - compared to nation average, worldwide and compared to the level we need to achieve to be actually sustainable. The carbon footprint calculator also allows you to play around with it: you can immediately see how big - or small - the difference can be if you would change something, in the way you live, travel, eat or shop. Usually there is a lot of talk about small steps. But I would rather focus on the things that really can make a difference.
3)      Mention small five steps every individual can adopt in their daily life to make our planet more sustainable.
        i.            Eat more often plant-based food. It is very surprising how much energy, carbon, water, pesticides and land use you can save by eating more greens. Furthermore, it's usually considered healthy to go for more plant-based options. This is an easy fix that everyone can integrate in their diet.
      ii.            Enjoy local sights more. Instead of only going to exotic places, try to discover more often the local, usually under-appreciated sights in your country. Other people come here as tourists too. Try to be a tourist in your own country, and you might be surprised to see what you can discover!
    iii.            Try to find hobbies that include nature and social elements. Instead of going for shopping and having only a short-term gratification, you might discover that spending time outdoors, with friends can have longer lasting effect on your happiness. And on top of that, you will be able to save a lot of resources while not buying stuff you actually either don't need or don't cherish.
    iv.            Try to buy only clothes that have the potential to be your "favorite shirt/dress/...". Cotton production is very water and pesticide intense. If you go shopping for things you really, really like, you will wear them longer, be happier with the purchase and will buy less things that you won't wear often anyway.
      v.            Make a regular inventory of your carbon footprint to get a realistic view on your overall consumption. This helps to focus on the things that matter.
4)      What are your inspirations to work towards sustainability and aspirations to contribute more to sustainability?
Social justice. Developed countries are the ones usually consuming the most, but they will suffer latest. Less developed countries are usually much more vulnerable to climate change since their resilience to unpredictable changes is weaker. Climate refugees already exist today. So if we want to achieve that, everyone everywhere can have a decent lifestyle, we need to tackle climate change with full force and recognize our responsibility for our lifestyle and our consumption. There is also the time pressure. It's good to train the younger generation - but not good enough. The change needs to happen very soon or we will have a world that will be very different from the one we know now. Already today you can see a lot of effects of the way our economy is working, the way we live, work and consume.
Overall, I am inspired because there is a real need. And because there is an opportunity to contribute to a change.
5)      If you were a renewable energy, what would you be and why? (You do not need to be technical; you can choose the one that suits your personality most.)
Hydroelectric power. Feels nice to just do nothing and still be able to contribute so much. I like being in the flow.
6)      What is your idea of a utopian world and a dystopian world?
Some characteristics of a utopian vs a dystopian world are listed below:
        i.            focus on fulfilment/purpose vs salary/recognition/brand
      ii.            focus on being a good person vs being a successful person
    iii.            focus on the greater good vs the individual achievement
    iv.            focus on long-term vs short-term
      v.            time for yourself, partnership, family and friends vs time for money
    vi.            a world in which we have an economy and lifestyle that is in line with what the earth offers us vs a world where we care about profits more than sustainability
  vii.            focus on happiness vs focus on profit
viii.            we care about everyone vs we care only about citizens from our country
    ix.            local, fresh, organic and seasonal food versus imported, processed, industrial food
      x.            peaceful acceptance of each other vs war/climate refugees/closed borders/racism
7)      Would you rather (and why):
a)       Shower on alternate days or drink less water, if there was a water crisis? :P
I am no camel. No way I can or should drink less. I would rather smell a bit :-)
b)      Hug a tree for a day, for preventing it from being cut or impose on someone a prohibition of eating shark fin soup for life?
Definitely ban for shark fin soup! You only need to watch one video and you will know why that is the right choice.
c)       Be vegetarian or consume human flesh after they are dead (not from disease, let us say) to save on resources to burn/bury their body?
You are weird. Apparently, human flesh does not taste well. So vegetarian.
d)      Dedicate your whole life fighting against pollution or spend it saving endangered species?
Both go hand in hand. I guess I would go for the pollution, since pollution not only affects people but animals as well.
e)      Be born in this era/generation, in the past, or in the future (speaking solely from the sustainability point of view)?
Not in the future, I am only slightly optimistic that we will be able to achieve a sustainable future and I am not keen on fighting for the last remaining resources with either machines or super fighters. Maybe a bit back in the past, but I would need to do more research to find out which era would offer the best sustainable time.
f)        Take public transport for the rest of your life or travel by plane only for business to minimize your carbon footprint?
Public transport. Climate change does not care if you fly because of personal or because of business reasons.

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