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Sustainable Summer: Lianne Bell

Business and the environment. Those are two words that you don't often hear in the same sentence, and when you do, it's usually NOT good news. We're all more than aware of the devasting impact that capitalism can have on the environement - but does it HAVE to be this way? Lianne Bell is a lecturer at Teesside University who teaches Enterprise and Innovation, with a big passion for sustainability. Throughout her career, she has looked at how businesses can run in more eco friendly ways, and specifically, the positive impacts of a Circular Economy. We chatted to Lianne about her professional and personal interest in sustainability, and how the wise words of Vivienne Westwood have inspired her to really make a difference...

Hey Lianne! Please introduce yourself to the nuddy community and tell us a bit about your background and how it links to sustainability.

Hiya, I’m Lianne. I’m a Lecturer in Enterprise and Innovation at Teesside University business school where I’m the course leader for the undergraduate Business Management degree. I’m Co-lead for the Circular Economy Club Tees Valley which is a not-for-profit networking group and I’m also a doctoral student. I’ve been studying or working in sustainability for the past 15 years.

So, when did your interest in sustainability begin? What *exactly* was it that led you to the path you are on today?

In 2007 I was working in an architect's in Leeds and that’s the first time I came across the term ‘sustainability’. I knew that houses should run on renewable energy and that they should have roof gardens that produced their food and that I wanted them to have living walls. These were things that just seemed like they should be the norm to me and I remember realising that my way of thinking fell under a sustainable mindset and I read the word sustainability and thought to myself “oh yeah that’s it, that’s what I’m interested in”.

In this crazy age that we live in, 'sustainability' can feel like a major minefield. What does the term mean to you?

I did a presentation in Newcastle the other day and I discussed this very point. It’s so refreshing to see the discussion that has developed around sustainability over the last 10 years but the problem with the term is that it’s rather vague. There’s also no clear certification to define whether an item is sustainable. That’s why I’m a staunch supporter of the circular economy. It’s a framework with principles and it starts at the very beginning of our supply chain by designing products with their end of life in mind so that when we’re finished they have somewhere to go. Every single thing we possess needs to be designed with somewhere to go. At the moment we’re trying to recycle things which are manufactured from many different types of materials and components and it’s basically like getting a plate of scrambled egg and going ok lets undo this and pop it in back in its egg shell.

Who are your BIGGEST inspirations within the environmentalism sphere? Shout out your faves.

Vivienne Westwood is the OG pioneer! She’s been instrumental in raising awareness about climate change and dedicated her life to campaigning for environmental causes. I recently finished her autobiography. she is everything a true inspiration should be and has always retained her authenticity in a world where that’s not always easy.

Lucy Siegle is a fantastic journalist. It was her writing that piqued my interest in the environmental impact of the fashion industry. It was this education around fast fashion that led to me writing my undergraduate dissertation on the environmental impact of Primark and our disposable nature to clothing in 2011. Her first book ‘To Die For’ is a must read for anyone interested in learning about where our clothes actually come from.

Ellen MacArthur. Depending on how old you were in 2005 you may recognise her name as the yachtswoman who set the world record for the fastest solo non-stop voyage around the world! It was on this voyage that she witnessed the devastating impact our behaviour is having on the environment. She sailed past the islands of plastic gathered in the middle of the ocean that we have created and the marine life it has destroyed. Since then she has dedicated her life to her foundation, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The foundation works with business, academia and policymakers to accelerate a global transition to a circular economy. They are at the heart of all the change that we are seeing in our shift towards a more sustainable world.

News about the environment can often feel verrryyyyyy overwhelming. Where do you look for informative and reliable resources?

Well this is a shameless plug but I wrote a book for this exact reason so it’d be pretty ridiculous not to mention it! This book is part memoir, part how-to guide and it’s written to aid and inspire the beginning of your sustainability journey. It’s very easy to read with light hearted anecdotes peppered throughout. The book is called ‘How on earth can I be eco-friendly?’ and you can find it here.

What are your top 3 tips for someone who is looking to take the plunge into a more sustainable lifestyle?

Well my mantra is…buy less shit, eat more plants and celebrate your wears. Because we don’t need to be perfect we just need to consume a little less, do meatless Mondays and cherish the things we own. It’s not about sacrificing things that make us happy it’s about everyone just trying to be a little bit better.