We reflected back on National Environment Day by interviewing Louise Buchan. Louise is Helm’s Green Officer and we wanted to find out more about what her duties are and how Helm is implementing its new Green Policy.

Can you tell us about your job at Helm and what you do on a day to day basis?

I’m an Instructor Assessor so I work directly with the young people. When they come into the building, I’ll take them on a course of life skills which is based on what they need to know as part of their journey into adulthood. Today we had eleven new young people start at Helm and we were asking them what they actually feel they need to learn. Some of the young people were talking about learning about driver theory tests, some want to learn about cooking, there’s so much we can offer them.

We also have a programme that we follow, for example we run “No Knives, Better Lives” sessions with them. We do First Aid training with them, we offer contraceptive advice, we offer support with CV writing and guidance about finance, we talk to them about eating well and healthy living.

There’s so many ways we support them and help them learn.

You’re Helm’s Green Officer, what does that entail?

Alongside my day job as an Instructor, I’m responsible for raising awareness about Helm’s new Green Policy and making sure it’s being implemented in a practical way on a day to day basis by staff and by our young people.

Why is having a Green Policy and a Green Officer so important to Helm?

Well I’ve only been doing the role for a couple of months and we’re already starting to see the difference. One of the most important things about my role is to raise awareness and get everyone thinking about the changes they can make.

What kind of things will you be implementing as part of the new Green Policy?

Firstly we’re looking at ways that we can reduce our waste so I’m starting to visit each of the different departments and looking at ways that we can improve our systems and make everything more efficient. I’m looking at ways that we can minimise our use of paper and plastic.  We’re using recycled paper and things like that but ultimately what would be even better is if we can reduce our use as well and try to move to a more digital way of working.

I’ve actually started looking in people’s bins to see what we use! From there I’ve started to get new bins for each department so we now have a dedicated bin for each type of waste. We’re now making sure that we separate things like metal, plastic, paper and so on. What I’m trying to do is reduce the amount of waste that goes to what we have traditionally called ‘landfill’.

From there, we’re going to look at our energy usage. I’m starting to look at ways that we can reduce the number of lights we use, the amount of heating we use and things like that. About a third of Helm’s energy bill goes on lighting so we’re really keen to look at ways that we can start reducing usage in that area. Hopefully soon we’ll be swapping over our lights to use LED bulbs and replacing our boiler to be more efficient as well. Longer term this will help reduce our costs which is great as a charity but also we’re making some great steps towards implementing our new Green Policy.

We also now have PowerPoints in place so when young people join us at Helm, we talk to them about the fact that we’re trying to be a lot greener and trying to reduce our waste. We’re trying to get them involved in the idea and support us by recycling. We want to make sure that they’re using the bins correctly and creating as little waste as possible.

We’re also hoping to look at planters and things like that longer term.

I think a really important part of Helm’s Green Policy is awareness raising. I hope that both the staff and the young people start to think about what they’re doing a little more and then it has the knock on effect of people introducing things into their home lives as well.

Why did you want to be Helm’s Green Officer?

It’s funny because I’ve been talking to people about it and I’ve realised my interest all started at my primary 7 trip.  People I’ve spoken to get to go to all these great places, for example my husband went to Holland for his trip.  Instead, I went to the tip to learn about recycling!! Then for the sports day instead of wheelbarrow races, we did wheelie bin races!!

I know I’m laughing but it really has stuck with me! My sister is the Green Officer at her work, both my daughters at the Green Officers at their schools so it’s important to my family and I really do think it all started at an early age!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today Louise and good luck on your journey introducing the new Green Policy at Helm!

You can read Helm’s Green policy by visiting: Policies – Helm Training