Sustainability Intern PhotoSustainability Intern – Ida Ketonen

By Elise Fjordbakk

Here at Sustainable Bolivia, sustainability is pretty important. It’s in our name, the way we work and our way of life. This means we’re dedicated to promote sustainability both within our organisation and in the communities we work with. It’s safe to assume that most people have an idea of what sustainability, or sustainable development is. That does not mean that we all share the same definition.

Sustainable development has various definitions, but the age old definition was set by the Brundtland Commission in the report “Our Common Future”, also known as the Brundtland Report: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission, 1987). Arguably, the biggest issue with sustainability is that it’s a buzzword, and that it does not in itself provide a framework of actions and goals. Having definitions is one thing; another is actually implementing a more sustainable way of life. To make sure this happens, SB implemented an internal sustainability project back in 2011, with the goal of evaluating the sustainability within our organisation and in the larger community we work in. To help out with this, SB hires a Sustainability Intern every year, who produces a report with reviews and recommendations.

To find out a bit more about what the implications of this report actually is, I had a chat with the latest Sustainability Intern, Ida Ketonen. Born and raised in Sweden, Ida is currently studying Development Studies at Lund University. For the past couple of months she has been evaluating the resource footprint of our physical operations, and also the local and global impacts that occurs through our programs.

“Here at SB, we mainly look at sustainability in three ways; environmental; minimising the environmental impact of our operation, social; building mutually beneficial relationships with volunteers, partner organisations and the local community, and economical sustainability; looking at how SB can make an impact without partner organisations being dependent on our support.”

“During my time here I found that energy, water and gas use had mostly gone down in both of the SB houses since 2011. I think the biggest issue is obviously that people come here from all over the world into the local community, mostly by plane. The ideal would of course be that SB was not needed at all, but as long as we are, I think that these are trade offs that have to be made. Sustainable Bolivia as an organisation should not be responsible for the travel emissions, but we do of course have to take it into consideration”.

As an organisation, SB always tries to encourage people to stay longer, emphasizing the value of their experience as well as benefit to the environment. We also encourage volunteers to learn about a sustainable lifestyle; from the training they get at the beginning about communal and sustainable living, as well as by talks and workshop throughout their stay.

“Only in the past couple of months we’ve had Simon Kaiwai talk about Bokashi compost, we’ve had lectures on sustainable development and urban gardening. We’ve also incorporated a sustainability quiz into our monthly volunteer meeting. This hopefully encourages SB volunteers to make more sustainable choices every day. The organisation is only as sustainable as the volunteers are, because that is what SB is. Therefore everybody has to do their part”.

Interested in reading the latest Sustainability report to get your hands on all the juicy statistics? Find it here. Check out our website to find out more about the Internal Sustainability Project here at SB.

Fun fact; the word sustainability was mentioned 15 times in this article!