We find ourselves at a too-tall table in Starbucks, the seats sinking so low that my chin feels as though it might hit the table. Sophia, however, seems unfazed, just laughing as I shift in my seat, trying to get comfortable.
With the recording having started, Sophia greets the “future Elizabeth” with a “hi”.
We start with the basics.
Sophia Riederer is a second-year student studying Environmental Geography, a subject that gives her “a lot of background knowledge” regarding sustainability.
Passionate about the environment and what we can do to help, Sophia grabbed the chance to become a more integral part of the university’s campaign to become more environmentally friendly. She stated that: “We as humans have created so many problems on the planet, so I feel like we all have the responsibility to do what we can to help.”
She revealed that she has always been interested in the environment, citing travel as one of the key reasons she’s so keen to protect the environment. Her smile disappears, an urgent sincerity punctuates each word. “Seeing people that live in areas that are going to be most affected by climate change, such as islands in the Caribbean that are going to be completely underwater in a few years, that’s really sad,” she says.
The main thing that Sophia hopes to achieve if she succeeds in clinching the title of Sustainability Officer, is simply what her motto lays out: “make sustainability easy.”
All too often do we put off doing the more eco-friendly thing, simply because it requires extra effort. Sophia hopes to counter some of these problems by making recycling bins more widely available in accomodation, by helping students plant trees with one click and simply raising awareness.
NISA will also face the scrutiny of Miss Riederer, as Sophia hopes to work with them to reduce plastic packaging.
“I feel like a lot of people know that we need to do new things, they know about climate change, but we just like to be lazy. We’re human. But that’s why it’s so important that we make sustainability the easy option,” Sophia says.
Sophia also intends to work closely with the University, campaigning to install the Ecosia search engine on every computer. This non-profit organisation uses revenue raised by ads, plants trees with every search, and is completely free to use.
“Just imagine how many trees we could be planting together as a community!”
More than qualified, Sophia has a lot of experience in the field of sustainability. Not only does her degree give her a unique “insight,” but she also interned at the “Bavarian Academy for Nature Conservation and Landscape Management.” During a gap-year in Ecuador, Sophia did some conservation work, and she currently volunteers in the Green and Blue Space on campus.
In her personal life, Sophia makes sure to use public transport and limits her plastic use. Also vegan, Sophia points out that livestock and animal agriculture is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. “By being vegan, my carbon footprint is really reduced!”
“My New Year’s resolution this year was to get closer to being zero-waste. I know it’s really hard, but I’m trying my best.”
As for what we can do at home, Sophia shared some little tips and tricks. Using Ecosia instead of Google she says, makes a huge difference. It takes so little time to install and the difference between the two sites is unnoticeable.
“One of the main things is, try and reduce your animal product intake. It doesn’t mean that you have to go vegetarian or vegan, you could just make one day meat-free.”
“Meat-free Mondays?” I suggest.
As we wrap up, Sophia beams, relaxing slightly. Our interview is over, but she has a few more days of campaigning ahead of her.
I thank her for her time, assuring her that she won’t have to wait long to see what I have to say, before retreating back into the Media Office.
Sophia promises to bring enthusiasm and creativity to the role, highlighting simple solutions to complicated issues. She’s already working on a project within the university to get Ecosia on every computer.
She hopes to inspire people to get more involved and raise awareness about the environment.