Ella Jollands: My experience as an intern at E Co.
I fit the mould of most of the students that I know: we recycle diligently, discuss Extinction Rebellion and go to student protests religiously. Yet, in reality, none of these things make any substantial difference to combating climate change. Particularly in student circles, there is an idealism that climate should take precedence over all else and that the way to climate change is radical change; namely the dismantling of our capitalist, neoliberal power structures. Yet the emergence of a new world order seems little more than a distant concept and I perhaps lack the idealism to fight for such radical change. Regardless, time is not on our side and I want to engage with actively creating change, rather than waiting for a paradigm shift. This is what drew me E Co.
E Co. creates incremental change by delivering high-quality environmental work, working within established organisations with political capital, like UN agencies, development banks, and climate funds. This allows E Co. to deliver change, on a scale with which an individual’s lifetime of recycling cannot compare.
Lessons learned from my work at E Co.
At E Co., the initial plan was for me to build an internal training course on trust and to edit the company’s handbook. Exploring well-being and collective team development being one of the ongoing internal projects within the company. For the trust-building course, I read books by Marshall Rosenberg, Patrick Lencioni, Charles Green and Andrea Howe. With reams of notes, I was in my element as a Humanities student. Yet in the process of compiling and editing materials, I learned things about climate finance and environmental work that I would never have found in books.
It was this approach that I’ve relished at E Co. Opportunities are open to everyone, and with a bit of enthusiasm and commitment, I was allowed to learn about various aspects of the business. I was initially worried that I was going to be limited to doing things that I already knew how to do, but in reality, the opposite became true. Even the things that I thought I knew how to do, like designing a micro-site for the company handbook, ultimately pushed me out of my comfort zone. I ended up learning skills that, although not directly climate finance-related, were intriguing and valuable. It was the variety of the work I had the chance to do, which made it all the more engaging.
A positive outlook for the future
One of the highlights of the internship was going to the brilliant Ashden Awards. To me, Ashden reinforced so much of what E Co. stands for: a light of positivity in a sea of environmental darkness. Hearing impassioned speakers talk about their projects and technology, the ways in which they were working to make the world better was inspiring. But one of the things that the Ashden awards surfaced for me, and which stayed in my thoughts throughout my time here, was the concept of intersectionality. So many of these innovations were based around the same principles of raising people up. They were about generating cleaner fuels to help reduce energy poverty in rural communities, or increased accessibility to cookstoves, helping women to improve their quality of life. The innovations never solely had a climate benefit, but they always furthered society in some other way, be it through health, social justice or security.
Ultimately, the most enjoyable part of my time at E Co. was the people who I had the pleasure to work with. The thing that I loved about the E Co. team as a whole, wasn’t just that they were kind and welcoming, although they were, it was more rooted in their motivations. It is based around a question of values, an acknowledgement that our time on earth is finite and we ought to do something meaningful with it. This underlying drive and value system, embodied in people who act in their day to day lives for incremental (and perhaps even sometimes radical) change, is what has inspired me the most, to move towards a career in environmentalism myself. – Ella Jollands