Do sustainability professionals ever ‘switch off?’

It’s official: despite my best efforts, I cannot switch off from work.

It has slowly been creeping into my life away from the office without me even realising it. Don’t get me wrong, as a sustainability professional I am more than happy to recycle at home, switch off lights, nag my friends into action, and do various other things as part of ‘my bit’ for the environment. But lately it has been entering other areas of my life unannounced. I thought it would be interesting to share my experiences in the hope I’m not the only one!


Example 1 – Watching TV. I had a bit of a binge watch of the series ‘Mad Men’ on Netflix recently (for anyone who watched it first time round you will realise I am about 10 years late to this programme!). It has been described by some TV experts as the most historically accurate portrayal of the era out of any show which has made it to the small screen. The sexism and racism is, at times, jaw dropping, the costumes are spot on and everyone smoking and drinking heavily throughout the day is a well-established norm.

And yet, for all the things they got right (I am having to base this on other peoples’ opinions as I was born in the 80s!), there is one glaring error which ruins the show…..the lighting. The camera is regularly angled upwards to show row upon row of perfectly illuminated square LED panels – a major oversight for a show set in the 1960s/1970s!

Example 2 – The shopping experience. Long do I yearn for the days when I would simply walk into shops to buy things. Now however, my first thought is always the temperature. 98% of the time, shops do not take into account the fact that customers will be wearing clothes suitable for the external weather conditions. For example, if it’s 0ºC outside, they will be wrapped up appropriately, and the last thing they’ll want is to walk into a shop which is reminiscent of a sauna and be baked like an arctic explorer in the Amazon. Cue me walking into a shop and swiftly leaving after five seconds (which happens regularly!).

Example 3 – Going for dinner or drinks. Currently, the trend seems to be for bars and restaurants to be fitted out in a ‘vintage’ style, including filament style lightbulbs. My first thought when I walk into these places is whether they are actually old high wattage filament bulbs or a sneaky LED alternative (which can be very realistic). Cue my attempts to try and touch the lights to see how much heat is being given off, prompting some very shifty looks from the bar staff.

So, it seems that I am destined to never ‘switch off’ from the job. However, I take solace in the fact that the above scenarios are not life threatening and do not keep me awake at night (like some jobs must). Instead it has formed an integral, albeit mildly annoying, part of my sub-conscious that will likely never fade.