Sarah Heim | Staff Sustainability Network
How did you first become interested in sustainability and saving our oceans? What are the current problems being faced by the oceans and what’s being done to solve them?
I think the root of sustainability started at home as a kid. I grew up on a small farm in Minnesota. We recycled and grew a lot of our own produce and meat. So I like having a connection with my food, which I now buy most of my produce and some products from local farmers market, and enjoy having a relationship with the farmers there. And I try to give thought to how I get my food: how and where was it grown, who grew it (small farm vs corporation), water usage, how far it traveled.
I studied computer science and geography at MN State University, Mankato. And while studying abroad in Australia, I fell deeply in love with the ocean. I wanted to have a job/career with GIS (Geographic Information Systems), but loved the idea of using it on a topic I’m passionate about, like conservation and science.
There numerous issues with the ocean: pollution (runoff, plastics, oil drilling), ocean acidification, unsustainable fishing, et cetera. Various laws can be helpful, but I think it really helps when people are able to practice sustainable living in their everything lives. For example, single-use plastic is a serious problem. And while they passed laws to ban plastic bags, companies just made them thicker. So its incredibly helpful when people take the initiative to bring their own bags, utensils, plates, cups, as well as refusing plastic straws.
Could you talk about your involvement with SSN and the SIO for Sustainability group? What are some things being done in these groups (events, cleanups, etc) and how can others get involved?
I became co-chair of the Staff Sustainability Network (SSN) fairly recently. I’d been coming to SSN meetings for years (they have monthly meetings with a range of topics and presenters), and wanted to help bring up topics I’m interested in. I was excited to bring in Klean Kanteen cups for our fundraising efforts. I have an extensive collection of stainless steel bottles (because I’m very athletically active), for my water, tea, and coffee, but I love using a Klean Kanteen cup for when I go camping or order a drink from somewhere and save using a single-use cup.
SIO for Sustainability (staff, students, and faculty) has been a little more spaced out, but we’re hoping to make it more regular and organize more events like beach cleanups and so on. There were some bike enthusiasts in the group so I was able to organize some electric bikes for people to try for Bike to Work Month.
Both groups have Facebook pages which they post their events. SIO for Sustainability has a new webpage with a lot of information!: scripps.ucsd.edu/sustainability
Could you share some sustainable lifestyle tips that you use? What are some small changes you would encourage other people to make in order to be more sustainable?
I mostly commute now by electric bicycle, and years of taking public transportation, which I love both for so many reasons. I even managed to paddleboard to work a couple days when I lived in La Jolla. What I like most about e-biking to work is that I don’t have to break a sweat if I don’t want to, and its really affordable in the long run (compared to car expenses, maintenance, insurance, gas, etc). I really hope people give more thought to their commutes; the time they sit in traffic, the frustration it can cause, the lack of daily exercise. Living closer to your work (or telecommuting) can reduce your carbon footprint, but also greatly improve your quality of life. I’m hoping to be more involved with having more incentives and partnerships for UC San Diego staff for alternate modes of transportation.
I’m a re-use/upcycle junkie. I regularly pull things from the alleys and garbage bins to save them, as well as things around my home (clean up and/or repurpose). I.e. Reusing old hairbands to tie cords. I wish people could give a quick thought before they throw things out: Can I reuse this for something else? Can it be donated? Can it be fixed? Can it be recycled?
I continue to make a lot of personal sustainability goals. I started composting this last year, and have made so many worms happy. I’m hoping to get solar panels and expand my edible potted garden soon.
I hope people become more conscious of their impact on Mother Nature. She is very powerful, but she is getting exhausted by being taken for granted. But we rely heavily on her, more than most know or give her credit.