Brenda Harkin is the National Communications Manager and the Manager of the Central & Southern Regions for the Sustainable Business Network, of which SIFT is a member. The Sustainable Business Network pomotes sustainable business practices, helps businesses to become more sustainable and provides a forum for people to talk about sustainble business practices, tools and ideas. You can find out more about what they do here and become a member here. The Sustainable Business Network is a valuable organisation for a sustainable future for New Zealand. Here are Brenda’s answers to our Green Collar Job questions:
1. What do you do to live more sustainably (with a low impact) in your life?
I endeavour to incorporate sustainable living choices in all areas of my life; from choosing eco-friendly cleaning products, to growing organic vegetables with my homemade compost. During recent home renovations, I researched sustainable options with regards to hot water heating, showerheads, and insulation and so on. We have two children so we spend time educating them around sustainability and helping them to understand the potential positive and negative impacts our choices have on our environment.
2. How do you live more sustainably at work?
The whole purpose of the Sustainable Business Network, the organisation I’m employed by, is to help businesses to succeed through sustainability. Inherently, everything I do links back to this purpose. On a more personal level, SBN staff endeavour to ‘walk the talk’ at every turn and this manifests itself in managing work/life balance, office purchasing decisions, advancing sustainable action, and so on.
3. What do you think is the biggest environmental issue we need to deal with in Christchurch/New Zealand?
The biggest challenge we face around sustainability is apathy. Inaction and disinterest are the environment’s largest threat.
4. What makes you smile?
The funny things my children say in complete innocence and at top volume, for example: ‘Mum, why does that woman’s hair look like a lion’s mane?’…oh dear!
5. What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who complain about the world or their lives, but fail to take a stand and instigate the action necessary to facilitate change. Paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi, ‘If you want to see the change, you have to be the change.’
6. What is your favourite colour and why?
Actually, its green…and surprisingly, it doesn’t relate to any green affiliations; I just like the colour!
7. Do you have a favourite place in the world? Describe why?
In New Zealand, it would have to be Matapouri Beach in Northland; one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. My partner’s family is from Whangarei so we usually spend Christmas holidays there. If I’m thinking further afield, then I would have to say that I love returning to my hometown of Dublin, Ireland. There’s just something special about the view of Dublin Bay as you descend into the airport that makes me feel like I’ve come home. And as the youngest of seven siblings, it’s marvellous to spend time with my extended family as well.
8. What’s your connection to Sift?
One aspect of my role with the Sustainable Business Network is Southern Regional Manager. Sift is one of SBN’s members based in the Southern Region.
9. Do you remember your favourite teacher and why they were your favourite?
My favourite teacher was when I was about eight years old – her name was Miss Bergin. She wasn’t long out of teaching college from memory and she was just so LOVELY; she still had a wonderful enthusiasm which some teachers unfortunately lose over time. Added to this was the fact that since I attended a Catholic Girls School, a reasonable portion of my teachers were strict nuns!
10. What do you want to leave behind?
A life well-lived with no regrets.
11. What do you think the future will bring?
I’m an optimist by nature so I have complete faith that the human race will make the necessary changes to ensure that the world will amend its flawed ways. There is a huge groundswell evident at present and it’s only a matter of time before we reach critical mass. Then, the people who care about sustainability will outnumber those who don’t and positive change is inevitable.
12. Who is someone you really admire and why?
I really admire anyone who is willing to take a stand against wrongful activities, whether that’s where environmental issues or human rights are being concerned. As a pacifist, I don’t support violent protest, but believe that the way to instigate change is to engage in meaningful dialogue with the affected parties and present reasoned arguments in an undeniably convincing manner.
13. What is happening outside your window right now?
The sun is shining and, since its school holidays, there are lots of children around town laughing and having fun. Oh to be young and free again…
14. What is your favourite breakfast?
Despite being Irish and hating the taste of it upon my initial arrival in NZ, I’m proud to say that I’m now a ‘two slices of toast with marmite’ aficionado. Now that’s what I call black gold…
15. What is the best piece of advice you can give us?
Take a stand, embrace sustainability at home, at work and in your community, leave apathy behind…the rewards you’ll reap (environmental, social and economic) will far outweigh the efforts expended along the way.
Thanks Brenda for your wonderful, meaningful and thought provoking answers. We look forward to continuing our relationship with you into the future.