We sat down with Christine Everaars, Fortuna Chair of the year 2013-2014 and one of the earliest Sustainability Majors, to talk about life after college and working with sustainability. This is part of a larger series of “portraits” of Alumni.
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Hey Christine, thank you for joining me today! First things first, could you tell me about the path that you followed after graduating LUC?
“Sustainability for me at LUC was a bit too focused on policy and governmental issues, which was super interesting, but not where I saw myself in the future. So I was looking for a Master’s programme, which was more focused on corporate sustainability. Then I found this really cool programme in Finland, at Aalto University. It was called Creative Sustainability.
But to do that, I needed a business degree, which I didn’t have after LUC. As a result I did a one year Master’s programme in Amsterdam. It was a Master’s in Entrepreneurship — a joint degree between the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit. I did that for a year, got my business degree and went to Finland.
In Finland, I studied with both creative and business students, trying to combine all points of view. It was as interdisciplinary as LUC, but a lot more practical and a lot less theory, which was more my style. With that programme I went to Tanzania and Mexico for practical projects. Which is amazing, because you can actually see the impact that you make immediately. I did one year in Finland, then went on for a semester abroad in Australia.”
And after finishing your studies?
“When I came back, I actually wrote my thesis here in the Netherlands, and then found a job in Amersfoort at the CO2-adviseurs, a sustainability consulting company. They basically helped companies that wanted to, or had to, get a certificate on the CO2-prestatieladder, a Dutch emissions reduction standard based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
I did that for a year and a half and had a lot of fun, but I also realized that working for so many different companies as a consultant… I’m not sure how to put this. It’s very… time- and energy-consuming.
I really wanted to do more than just give advice. I wanted to motivate people and think about implementing my advice. It was very much strategic thinking. The managers would fly us in, get the certificate and we’d get out.”
So you switched. You went to a construction company called Mobilis, am I right?
“Yeah. Usually the certificates we gave out were for companies, but really big projects had to get their own certificates. Two really big projects in the Netherlands were my clients. These were Sluis Eefde in the east, and the Rijnlandroute near Leiden.
I felt that they really wanted to do more than just get the certificate, but they didn’t really know how. I talked to them, and they said they were looking for a sustainability coordinator (which I am now). For me that came at the perfect time, so I jumped ship.”
As I understand, unlike what you’d expect of many LUC students, you went for something more practical and hands on rather than theory or policy. What would you tell current students that want to follow a similar path?
“So I have a very positive outlook on the world generally. For me it was a bit of a harsh realization that not everybody cares or thinks about what’s good for the world. In LUC you’re kind of in a bubble: the students are great, the teachers are great, everybody is motivated and actually wants to change the world. The whole environment is very empowering if you want to change the world.
And then you leave the bubble, and I kind of hit a wall. You run into a lot of people that are like: ‘I don’t care about sustainability, I just care about money’. And you can’t always convince these people. I’d say, be ready for that. Not everyone knows as much as you do, and not everybody cares. It’s sad, and somewhat hard answer but it’s something to realize. Be prepared for people telling you no, and not willing to reason.
But now I’m a few months in, and I have to say I’m starting to find the people that want to listen. So if you keep poking, put the love in, put the effort in, you will reap the benefits.”
You ended up staying in the Netherlands after an international start. Do you still want to go abroad again, or do you feel that you’ve somewhat settled?
“Well as I’ve said, the first job I had was the only Dutch one I applied to, and I really just stayed for the job. And I think that’s true for me, that it’s more important that I love what I do than that I love where I do it. The reason I wanted to go abroad is because after studying in LUC and going abroad, I didn’t really have a foundation anymore in the Netherlands. I didn’t feel like I needed to stay here, and I kind of wanted to go abroad, maybe live in a big city. It just happened that both of the jobs I was really interested in were both in the Netherlands.”
How do you see the role of alumni in LUC in the future?
“I think there is a big potential. My year and the year above are just starting our careers. I’d say give it five years and alumni can play a big role for LUC. Because they are all amazing people, but they can also really teach current students what it’s like in the real world. At which point the event that is organized in November every year [Editors Note: Inspire the Student] will be a lot more interesting.
Myself I haven’t been involved, but I would like to do more, and I’m certain that will come. Because well… LUC isn’t my first love, but it is still the love of my life. I will be more involved in the future definitely.”
That’s wonderful! Would you be open to current students emailing you with questions about what you’ve done and helping them figure out what’s next?
“Definitely, that’ll be really fun. They should feel free to add me on LinkedIn!”