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Making net zero happen

07 September 2020

Civil Engineer Emily Seabrook wonders how we can take our personal concerns about net zero and affect change in the wider, corporate world.

Making net zero happen
How do we mitigate the effects on the environment?

As the seasons change and often merge into one, it appears increasingly likely that climate change is having a real impact close to home. It is ever more critical that we all take action ourselves and below are a few approaches we can take to mitigate the effects on the environment.

Fundamentally we know right from wrong in relation to how we behave and the environment. Yet we often make decisions at home and work that do not reflect what we know to be the right path. Do we need to take the car for that short journey to the shops? Or over order on material quantities on a project, 'just in case'?

Net zero sometimes seems a long way off and sometimes it’s just easier to ‘start tomorrow’ and take the easy option today. However, every small step really does count. If we all gradually adjust our lifestyles to be more considerate to the environment, things will soon look very different. There is a real promise if we all become opportunistic environmentalists.

So, what can we do now?

Step 1. Work out what you think

Many tangible and intangible aspects influence how we individually respond to the changing nature of our world. Mapping out and analysing our response on a personal level forms a self-decided standard to live by. To do this consider your experiences, education, culture and what is important to you.

Passions and hobbies tie into this. Being a keen cyclist will impact your thoughts on the future of the road network. Having a long or arduous commute will influence your thoughts on public transport. A keen gardener may be interested in food miles or logistics. We cannot be passionate about everything but knowing what is important to us, allows us to shape our world.

Before this all sounds too difficult, do not be put off because the groundwork has already been done. The options are available and choices ready for us to take, but daily decisions are needed. Having ownership of the personal decision to be ‘green’ makes it an easy move.

Being aware of our individual environmental mindset allows it to be lived out.

Step 2. Live it out in all areas

Establish your ‘default settings’ and areas of interest relative to climate change and let it flow into everything you do. Make the decision to live low carbon into a hobby and a positive choice; aim to move from conscious to unconscious effortless actions to improve our environment through the way we live our lives.

Although global climate change may appear to be someone else’s problem, if we don’t make net zero by 2050, it will be today’s young professionals who will be left to untangle an ever more complex problem with increasingly severe consequences. The simple solution is to do our part now and to demand more of today’s experts and to do this, communication skills are essential.

As civil engineers we are privileged to work closely with many factors that can change our world; every small step we take makes a difference. This opportunity can be further enhanced by the work done alongside environmental experts on projects.

Being aware of our individual environmental mindset and living it out, allows us to have a say and challenge others.

Step 3. Explore without limitations

Whilst environmental considerations are increasingly part of our practice as civil engineers, we are constrained by factors like budgets and timescales, making progress to carbon neutral seem frustratingly slow. However, competitions allow us to explore and express ideas to a much greater extent than is achievable in our day-to-day work. They allow us to be challenged beyond what normally limits us and give an opportunity to think outside the box and be released from the tangle of business targets and expectations.

Competitions are a great way for us to explore how our ideas can be put into practice, especially in relation to the environment. Learning how to communicate effectively is an essential skill to enable us to bring the mass of information together and to demand more climate action now.

ICE competitions like Pitch 200, and Vision 2050, where I was a recent winner, allow ideas to be tested in a safe environment, you may or may not win, but either way a multi-million-pound contract and time pressures are not hanging over you. It is not as scary to take part as it may appear. I believe the experience gained gives us the opportunity, ability, and confidence to speak out and to encourage others in their personal environmental choices.

Related links

Below are some links to ICE competitions you can enter, and others. Make sure you try and get involved!

  • Emily Seabrook GMICE, Civil Engineer at Skanska Infrastructure Services at Skanska Infrastructure Services