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Where are they now? Part 4

Every year the Environment Team gains a new graduate Sustainability Coordinator whose position lasts for a year. This internship provides the incredible opportunity to work for the University of St Andrews Estates Environment Team, helping to support, develop and implement the sustainability agenda across the campus. Over a series of blogs we have invited some of our interns to answer a few questions about their time as Sustainability Coordinator and what they have being doing since finishing the position. Meet Mariya Simeonova, who was with the Environment Team from 2017 -2018, and whom we spoke with in April.

What was your favourite part of your role as Sustainability Officer?

Without question, the people. I got to interact with so many university staff, students, local residents and people from the environmental sector across Scotland. This made every day at work different and exciting. And not to mention my colleagues! It was a joy working with the Environment Team and Transition University of St Andrews – I loved spending our lunch breaks chatting about personal behaviour change and exchanging vegan recipes.

Was there a particular highlight of your year with the Environment Team?

The opening of the Kernel! This is such an important community space for people from all age groups to take part in Transition’s projects and learn about low carbon living. I also loved helping with Bike To Work Breakfast for the community of cycling university staff. Cooking vegetarian breakfasts and having an informal chat with staff about about their cycling experience and sustainability more broadly was a great way to meet new like-minded people. And finally, getting to tour the Guardbridge Biomass plant and speak to the engineers about the energy generation process was so interesting. For the first time ever I got up close to the mechanics of how energy is produced and gained a new appreciation for Physics.

Do you think you were particularly sustainable before the role? How did your attitudes about the environment and your own behaviours change over the year?

I would like to think so, but I also learned so much more! It was only during my time as Sustainability Intern that I ventured into the community gardens and orchards for the first time to pick fresh produce, even though I had known about them for years. It also was during this period when I became increasingly interested in zero-waste living and became a regular customer of The Tree. It is such a great initiative, offering affordable and sustainable whole foods.

Tell us what you have been up to since finishing your position as Sustainability Intern!

After finishing my position as Sustainability Intern I took a job as an analyst in the technology division of Willis Towers Watson (an insurance broking company). In my day to day job I work with databases and data visualisation software to analyse information and provide insights to the business. After more than a year and a half there, I will soon be moving to a new company and role as Insurance and ESG Associate at the the London Stock Exchange. There I hope to pursue my interests in ESG risks and sustainable investments and learn more about how the financial sector can help fund climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions.

Any green New Year resolutions?

In January 2020 I switched my pension scheme so 100% of the funds are invested into ESG-accredited stocks. This is not only a sustainable and ethical choice, but a financially wise one – ESG funds outperform their non-ESG competitors over the long term and are less volatile. Their advantages have been underscored in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – ESG funds’ value has decreased by 50% less than that of major competitors like the S&P500.

This year I also took part for the first time in Veganuary – a 30-day challenge to eat only vegan food. It was a fun experience and didn’t require much effort as I am already a vegetarian. I love cooking and Veganuary was the motivation I needed to try new recipes and experiment with more ingredients. Now 9 out of 10 times I opt for vegan ingredients, and the results are incredibly delicious!

Last but not least, in 2020 I attended my first ever clothes swap and loved it so much! Ever since watching The True Cost, I have been concerned with the fast fashion industry and the disastrous impact it has on the environment and all of the workers in its value chain. Nowadays, I avoid high street brands as much as possible and have reduced my clothes shopping in general. Charity shops are a great option if you want to give a second life to a garment and some of my best finds have been in the charity shops in St Andrews!

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