A Connected Environment

nicholaas cloetIn high school, I was very timid and withdrawn, with only a sense of responsibility and concern for the environment to help guide my choice in a university program. Impressed by UWaterloo’s co-op program and interested in the relatively new (at the time) Environment and Business program, I came to Waterloo in pursuit of a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in 2005. Over the next five years, thanks to co-op, I was exposed to a variety of work experiences in the corporate-environmental field. These experiences were critical to building my self-confidence and career, as well as keeping me connected to Waterloo.

In my fourth year, I had the opportunity to work with Sustainable Waterloo Region (SWR), a young environmental not-for-profit, on a final project. Wanting to continue to develop that work into a more comprehensive and useful resource for SWR’s members, I continued volunteering after graduation. SWR was my first exposure to the environmental not-for-profit community, and I was inspired by their efforts to help local businesses and organizations reduce their carbon footprint.

Thanks to a speaking opportunity with SWR, and government youth-employment funding, I landed an internship with My Sustainable Canada, a nationally-focused environmental
not-for-profit. I still work there, managing a mystery shopping project for electric vehicles, and creating ENERGY STAR information resources for NRCan.

My work has brought me back to UWaterloo many times over the past few years, so I’ve been able to see the results of construction that was ongoing when I was a student. I’m very envious of the new Environment building, EV3!

I’ve been on campus even more this past year, because my boss is now directing the new GreenHouse program at St. Paul’s University College on a part-time basis. This is a new residence program that is helping students develop start-up ideas that address social and environmental problems. Hearing their ideas to change the world is very inspiring.

I still volunteer with SWR. They continue to make impressive growth, and currently hire between two and three co-op students each term, most from UWaterloo. Many of them also continue with SWR as volunteers.

The environmental services and sustainability field is growing at an exciting rate in Waterloo Region, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. Professors, administrators and students from UWaterloo are heavily involved in local sustainable development and social enterprises. I’m grateful for my education at Waterloo and to the many opportunities and connections that it has made possible over the years.

On March 1st, I was part of an alumni panel that answered questions from high school students and parents.  It was an opportunity for me to give back, and I was happy to!  On the panel with me were other young alumni from Planning, Environment and Resource Studies, Geography, and Geomatics. We were asked about co-op opportunities, jobs, and for our advice in general. I hope my answers were helpful, but regardless, I know those kids will do great at Waterloo.

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