From sun to sustainability - A blog by Rachel Leech our Sustainability Officer

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Rachel Leech, Sustainability Officer

During Green Careers Week Rachel explains how passion, resilience and transferrable skills helped her navigate a career change through a pandemic into sustainability.

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and when I was 13, I joined the Windmill Youth and Development Group to do my Duke of Edinburgh award and met Stuart and Pat. With Stuart being a retired policeman, he was more than happy to push you out of your comfort zone. The group became so much more than just completing the DfE award; from sleeping in igloos to canyoning, from hiking through France to raising funds for local charities, they taught me confidence, resilience and the importance of preparation and planning. Most importantly, I gained a deep appreciation for our environment and a passion for protecting it.  

Fast forward to me at 21 in the third year of my Geography degree at Lancaster University. I was lucky enough to go on a research expedition in the Amazon Rainforest where I met Maria, a local seamstress who invited us into her home and treated us like family. She lived in a house on stilts in an area that often experienced floods and fires and had still retained an infectiously positive attitude for life. Experiencing first-hand how climate change and unsustainable business practices affect people across the world made me more determined than ever to use my career to make positive change.  

For the first few years of my career I worked abroad in the tourism industry and lived in six different countries. While sledding with huskies in Lapland and hiking the Levadas in Madeira I saw both the positives and negative impacts of tourism on communities and the environment. Though I was able to run small projects, such as reducing single use plastic in my hotels and running litter picking sessions with local jeep companies, it didn’t feel like enough change was happening.  

At the start of 2020, and throughout the lockdowns, tourism mostly stood still and it gave me a chance to reflect on what kind of career I wanted. Through a career change course run online by Fiona Moss I focused on my passion, my transferrable skills, battled my doubts and fears and I applied to a MSc in Sustainability with Anglia Ruskin University and The Eden Project. I could not have been luckier with the group of people I met there. When tackling huge systemic topics such as climate change and sustainability it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but having strong inspirational role models to talk to and share ideas helped us to see the possibilities and how we could bring about change for the better.

After passing the course I was looking for a company that mirrored my values, had a strong commitment to change and was looking ahead to create a positive future. I’ve found that in Gateshead College, and I’m excited to see what we can do as a collective.  

If I could give one piece of advice it would be to not underestimate the effect that loving your job and making positive change has on your own happiness and outlook on life. Find your passion, dream big and go for it.

Fri Jul 12 2024