When Leanne Denby first envisioned a career in sustainability, it wasn’t a buzzword, let alone a defined career path. Now more than a decade later, Leanne is the Director of Sustainability at Macquarie University. On World Environment Day (June 5), she encourages refilling your water bottle and planting trees to nurture the campus’ bushland.
“I was always an environmental warrior,” says Leanne. “I did a Bachelor of Arts majoring in geography as I originally planned to teach, but when I studied a subject called Sustainable Development, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I had to take a chance and hope something would come of it.”
Fortunately for Leanne and the environment, Leanne joined Macquarie University’s Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) and in 2008, the University asked Leanne to form Macquarie Sustainability.
The theme of World Environment Day 2014 is, “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level.” For Leanne and her team however, every day is World Environment Day. To mark the United Nations official event, Macquarie Sustainability is encouraging students and staff to learn more about sustainability on campus, volunteer for the community garden project and join them planting trees for bush care.
Over the past six years, Leanne has introduced everything sustainable on campus, from learning modules to the weekly Wednesday local pesticide free farmers’ market. In 2010 the University won the Green Globe Public Sector Sustainability Award and in 2012, the Green Lifestyle Large Business Award.
“We started with waste management, energy efficiency, reducing water waste, improving transport patterns and building a sustainability university community with student and staff representatives,” says Leanne. “Six years later, we are embedding sustainability in everything the University does across the curriculum.” As part of this approach, Macquarie Sustainability runs a PACE subject, Green Steps, which teaches how businesses can reduce their environmental impact.
Leanne recently attended a conference at Kyoto University about encouraging sustainability. She was inspired by Kyoto’s sustainable practices that are so second nature to locals that they don’t think to include them in sustainability reports.
“They are humble. They don’t mention things like they turn off engines at traffic lights. There is respect for nature and each other. With a large population on a small land mass, the Japanese have embraced space efficiency, with every house having its own vegetable garden, accompanied by a myriad of community gardens.
“It was eye opening and they have plenty going on in the area of sustainability,” says Leanne. She says that the post-tsunami nuclear disaster has resulted in a push for non-nuclear alternative and renewable sources of energy by Japan as a community.
Back on campus, Leanne envisions the day when sustainability is second nature to students and staff too. Already, she can see the seeds of that happening.
“We have a diverse range of students and staff who are involved with us,” she says. “They are really engaged and amazing.”
Macquarie University offers a Masters of Sustainable Development.