May 11, 2020
Everyone can contribute, even small deeds make a difference when it comes to preserving the planet – Mai-Brit Schulte is convinced of that. The 21-year-old heads the student Environmental Club at Jacobs University Bremen. "Environmental protection is very, very important to me," she says. "I hope that through my voluntary work I can motivate others to take a closer look at this topic.”
Bee mortality, a decrease in species diversity, seas polluted with plastic waste, climate change – for Mai-Brit the environmental problems are obvious. Therefore, she has decided to do something about it. Mai-Brit joined the Environmental Club in her first semester and quickly realized that the environmental consciousness of her fellow students differs greatly. She tries to create awareness by organizing events such as a sustainability week. She also writes newsletters in which she draws attention to energy-saving measures. "I’d love to turn everyone around me into environmentalists," she says laughingly. On campus, fellow students come up to her in response to her newsletter and say: "Thank you, I didn't know that."
She also receives positive feedback for the changes she has initiated and implemented together with the university administration. These include the introduction of a new system of returnable cups for the coffee bar on campus as well as the installation of returnable bottle bins, which the Environmental Club will empty regularly and use to generate income for its 60 members.
Her commitment to environmental issues goes back to a key experience in the 9th grade at her high school in Overath near Cologne – and it ultimately led her to Jacobs University. In geography class, she was asked to calculate her ecological footprint and was determined to reduce it. First, she became a vegetarian and later a vegan. She rides a bicycle or travels by bus and train instead of a car and she doesn’t buy clothes consisting of microfibers.
After graduating from high school in 2017, Mai-Brit started to study molecular biomedicine at the University of Bonn. However, she soon realized that this was not the right path for her. She wanted to change to a course of study with an environmental focus, that much was clear. But which one? A friend recommended Jacobs University to her and the subject "Earth and Environmental Science", which combines traditional geoscientific disciplines such as geology and oceanography with environmental sciences. "At Admissions Day 2018, I was on campus for the very first time," she remembers. "The university with its short distances, small groups and close relationships with the professors convinced me immediately."
Currently, most of the club activities are suspended, due to the corona virus. Excursions to the Eifel and Ireland as part of her studies were cancelled, as was her research internship with the German Academic Exchange Service, which was to take her to Thailand. A semester abroad in Colorado/USA is planned for the fall; whether she will be able to go is still not clear. Afterwards she will already be working on her final thesis.
However, Mai-Brit Schulte will step down from her position as Head of the Environmental Club when it’s time for her exams and the stay abroad, that is certain. But in the meantime, she will continue to send her fellow students friendly but cleare-mails, indicating how everyone can contribute to saving the planet with small actions. Because even small deeds can make a difference.
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.