When I began my student placement with Changeworks, I was eager to find out what they’re doing to lessen Scotland’s carbon footprint. On my first day at the Energy Saving Scotland advice centre South East (based here at Changeworks HQ in Edinburgh), I realized that I should have been asking: What isn't Changeworks doing?

Pick any green topic, and Changeworks is involved: recycling, home energy efficiency, renewable technologies, consultancy, waste education; the list goes on and on.  And the Changeworks offices certainly live up to their own expectations; most employees cycle or walk to work, the kitchen features an array of various recycling and food waste bins and everyone is conscious of recycling, composting, and energy use.  The offices are constantly buzzing with project activity, not to mention the super-fast pace in the advice centre where they answer the phones.  I am quite impressed by how heavily the hotline is trafficked; I had never seen anything like it before.

I am also impressed with the Scottish Government’s work on energy efficiency.  I am an American exchange student doing a course in Earth and Environmental Sciences, and I love getting a different perspective on environmentally friendly living.  Such extensive government schemes are quite rare in the U.S., and smaller groups doing grassroots work rarely receive federal funding.  While I wish that the U.S. government could implement more schemes similar to Scotland’s, I must remind myself of the countries’ vast difference in size: the U.S. is almost 60 times bigger than Scotland in population and 125 times bigger in land area.

Our size doesn’t excuse our apparent lack of progress, but it does necessitate a completely different strategy.  While in Scotland, I hope to pick up some strategies that I can transport back to the U.S.

While I haven’t yet learned all of the Changeworks organisational values, I can tell you my current favourite: empowerment, because I have already seen it in action—and I’ve only been here two and a half weeks! I recently attended a Nappuccino, where the Real Nappy project’s staff and volunteers talked with twenty-three parents about the processes and benefits of using real nappies. I also visited a local nursery with Kenneth Innes (Changeworks’ Waste Education Officer), where he told the children a story to teach them about the importance of recycling.  I loved seeing the kids’ responses to Kenneth’s story!  They were eager to participate in his recycling activities, and they certainly knew their stuff about recyclables; they even sang a song about it!  These community events are hugely important to a group like Changeworks; after all, furthering ‘green thinking’ is one of the most important parts of being a ‘green freak’!  Educating community members empowers them to fight for change themselves, and I look forward to seeing more examples of this empowerment while I’m here.  Changeworks is an incredible resource for everyone concerned with their impact on the environment, and I am very excited to work and learn here for the next four months.

Rebecca McDaniel

[We’re thrilled to have Rebecca working with us here at Changeworks – she’s a real self-starter and has really got stuck in and helped out. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences Rebecca!]

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