Staff Profile: Catherine Morris (Environmental Adviser)

What’s your background and when did you join the University?

I started working at Kent in 2009, initially in a joint role between Kent Union and the University. – I started my Environmental career as an academic with a PhD and some postgraduate research, before switching over to professional services when I joined Kent.

What does your role at Kent involve?

I work between two departments, the Safety, Health and Environment Unit and Estates Department. Although we’re supported by many colleagues across the University, there are only two of us working on Environmental Sustainability, so we’re extremely busy.

My role is very varied – I can be doing anything from writing policies and procedures and advising colleagues on compliance with environmental legislation, to working with students on academic projects. Our annual report showcases the wide range of work going on.

How has your role changed as a result of Covid-19?

Like many, my work is mainly desk-based, so I’ve adapted quite easily to this new way of working. However, with much of the campus closed and activities like waste management or landscape work not happening, the operational side of things is currently on pause.

Instead of delivering training face-to-face, I’m recording training sessions using the Kent Player system.

I hope there are some positives to come out of this – like video conferencing becoming the norm and people thinking twice about travelling to meetings/conferences. I’ve also noticed people are more aware of nature and spending more time appreciating outdoor spaces. Our campus is precious, and I’d love staff and students to get more involved in its management.

What’s worked well and what’s proved tricky?

I’ve found things that I was worried about, such as learning how to do video conferencing, have been straightforward, but other things have been trickier. I hadn’t realised how much I rely on bouncing ideas off people and I miss being able to pop my head into someone’s office and ask a question.

Both my partner James (who works in the Registry) and I are working from home while also home-schooling two primary-aged boys. This has been difficult at times!

As a team, we’ve had to get creative with how to keep our staff champions engaged. My colleague Emily (Mason) produces a weekly newsletter to keep everyone connected and that’s been well received.

Can you tell us more about the University’s Environmental Management System?

The day-to-day running of the EMS is a huge part of my role. It’s a structured framework that helps large organisations identify/manage all their activities and their impact on the environment.

Our EMS is certified to ISO14001 (the International Standard for Environmental Management). I deal with many elements including, keeping our legal requirements up to date, internal/external audits, and monitoring our environmental performance against targets like carbon emissions.

Last month we had an external audit of the EMS conducted remotely. The auditor commented on the enthusiasm and knowledge of the operational staff he spoke to, showing we have great engagement in key areas.

In your view, which environmental change has made the biggest difference at Kent?

Increasing media attention on climate change and ecological breakdown has seen a huge shift in public awareness, and an increasing number of staff and students are getting involved in sustainability projects.

Our ultimate aim is to put sustainability at the heart of all Kent’s decision-making and we’re now starting to see that happen. We’re also looking at embedding sustainability into the curriculum – showing its relevance even in courses you wouldn’t expect – which is both exciting and interesting.

Outside work, and out of lockdown, what do you enjoy doing?

The one thing I love doing and am missing during lockdown is gymnastics. I started going to an adult gymnastics class 10 years ago and was hooked. At my age, it’s not easy and I ache after every session, but I can’t wait to get back.

What will you look forward to most once we’re back on campus?

I’m looking forward to playing in the VC’s Cup. I’m the captain of the Estates team and we’re the current reigning champions so I’m keen to get back and defend our title. I’m also missing the Street Kitchen food!