Michal Len's passion is reusing, repairing and recycling. From a field trip to Iceland in 2008, to working in Edinburgh Airport's Environment team, he has honed a career focussed on developing best practice and European policies, and is now Director of an international NGO in Brussels.
|Year of graduation||2009|
At the moment
I’m currently in Brussels working as Director of RREUSE, a fantastic international NGO network of social enterprises active in re-use, repair and recycling. I’ve been at the organisation for 10 years and am humbled to help support our members’ development in the circular economy through shaping EU policy as well as facilitating exchange and replication of best practice in re-use.
Your time at the University
I did a wonderful four-year Bachelor’s degree in Edinburgh with a year Erasmus exchange at Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France. Engaging course modules, great classmates and lecturers with time for myself (not to be underestimated!) made for an excellent overall student experience.
Field trips linger happily in my memories, usually involving wading through rivers and admiring rock formations on a blustery day. These included an excursion to Iceland in 2008 which involved digging soil profiles in the bracing cold foothills of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in a bid to analyse human and climate induced impacts on Iceland’s physical environment. A year later the volcano erupted causing travel chaos across most of Europe. No connection between the two…!
Being a student at Edinburgh University opened up doors for work experience which I highly value to this day. This included an internship at Edinburgh Airport with the Environment Management team, leading to a dissertation on carbon footprinting that encouraged me to focus on a career in environment and sustainability.
Outside of studying I was a keen member of the Edinburgh University Triathlon Club as well as Student Action for Refugees (STAR). In my first year I was part of BBQ society but not sure if that exists anymore.
Edinburgh is just great for extra-curricular activities and the friends that I made in first year halls I still keep in touch with today.
Your experiences since leaving the University
Following Edinburgh University, I was accepted for an MSc in Environmental Policy and Regulation at the London School of Economics, further nudging me in the direction of a policy related career. In order to gain further experience, I moved to Brussels in 2011 where I interned at NGO Transport and Environment (T&E), followed by a project management role at the Greens / EFA Group in the European Parliament. Here my geography degree became acutely handy. I was asked to develop a database and interactive map of cross-border rail-connections in Europe which are closed or abandoned, identifying those which, if re-opened, could significantly enhance regional cross-border mobility. A few years later, this map was used as part of the evidence-base to releasing European funds to support the re-opening of such connections. Those GIS modules came in handy.
With a background in waste-related research at LSE, I was then given a part-time network coordinator opportunity at RREUSE, my current employer, which opened my eyes to the world of social enterprise. Being exposed to a network of incredible organisations creating green jobs and training opportunities for individuals most at risk of social exclusion is something which continues to captivate and motivate me to work for RREUSE. I’m exceptionally proud to be working with our growing team that has real impact in improving EU policies to support more re-use and repair. I really hope we’re contributing, at least in some small way, towards a move to a greener and socially inclusive economy.
And Covid-19 has reinforced my will to support a green transition through my current and future career. Political will is going in this direction but so much more is needed to truly move towards climate neutrality. I think now is a great time for anyone thinking of getting involved in sustainability or creating new green, circular and low-carbon business models of the future to do so.
After doing an undergraduate degree, don’t necessarily feel pressured to immediately do a Masters degree. Take your time. Do some work experience. You’ll get more out of your degree that way, allowing you to compare and contrast work realities with theory and engaging in discussions with a more critical eye. As a general point, any work experience, volunteering or student job you can get involved makes a big difference when searching for that first job that you really want.
School of Geosciences