This month, Blue Mountains International Hotel School (BMIHMS) is proud to announce that Rachel Handley, currently in her third year of a Bachelor of Business (International Hotel and Resort Management), was recently selected to participate in a unique 13 week Global Youth Climate Training Programme organised by the University of Oxford and Net Zero.
Selected as part of a group chosen from over 10,000 applicants, Rachel now has an amazing opportunity to develop the skills she needs to become a powerful advocate for sustainability in Hospitality and beyond.
“This is one of my first proper climate training programs that I will be participating in, so I am excited to have this opportunity to learn more about COP28 and the UNFCCC, and to learn how to apply it to my future career bringing sustainability and hospitality together.”
Advocate for sustainability via Net Zero Training program
Rachel initially found out about the Net Zero Training program last year from her partner, who is also a passionate sustainability advocate.
“She’s an environmental consultant for a company in Hong Kong and is incredibly skilled in this area of expertise,” Rachel explained. “She was the one who encouraged me to apply for this training program and would always be by my side to keep pushing me to enhance my knowledge and take on opportunities as they come.”
Rachel quickly applied after learning about the program. After several rounds of interviews where she was asked to discuss her motivations for participating, she received the good news: she had been accepted into the program.
“At first I kept the news of my application to myself, however, Dr Mona Yang was the first teacher at Blue Mountains International Hotel School (BMIHMS) that I shared the news to. The genuine excitement and support she gave me as soon as I told her made me very touched and it was heart-warming to know that she’s on the sidelines cheering for me,” Rachel recalled.
The course runs from May to October 2023 and will cover key areas of discussion and negotiation within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) system.
Designed in consultation with youth climate activists, the training program will give youth the knowledge and tools to engage in the UNFCCC system, empowering them to become climate action leaders and sustainability champions.
Rachel will be undertaking important topics including Climate Justice, Adaptation and Resilience, Climate Finance, Business & Non-state Actors, Gender and Climate Change, Indigenous Rights and Climate Change, Climate Litigation and Negotiations Inside COP28.
As a child growing up in Hong Kong, Rachel was often told not to waste food by her parents and to eat everything in front of her at mealtimes.
“‘Don’t be wasteful’ was always a sentence thrown around…,” explained Rachel, “but what stuck to me the most was the fact that I didn’t know where our waste went beyond the trash bin.
Something that first started off as encouraging my family to recycle paper, then eventually not consuming beef; looking back there are small things that I started doing as a child that put me on the track of my climate action journey.”
As she grew older and began to learn about climate change and other environmental issues, Rachel’s passion for sustainability only grew. Feeling the urgency of the need to act on global warming, she began putting her energy into youth climate activism.
“In school, I did things like conducting presentations on food waste, however, with issues such as sustainability there is only so far you can go with simply raising awareness.
Putting action into words, I got accepted last year as Project Manager for a youth-led climate organisation called 2041 Hong Kong, where I support educating the youth community on the importance of sustainability.”
In addition to being passionate about sustainability, Rachel Handley has always loved interacting with people.
When she finished school and began considering her career options, the hospitality industry seemed like a natural fit.
“I wanted to pursue a career that gets me involved directly with people. So, I chose to study this course as I really want to use acts of service to give back to the community, and I hope to use the knowledge that I gain in this course to really propel me in the hospitality industry,” Rachel explained.
Impact of the hospitality industry on the environment
According to research from the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance the hospitality industry accounts for around 1% of all total global carbon emissions, and must reduce this footprint by 66% before 2050 in order to avoid warming by 1.5 degrees.
For Rachel, sustainability and hospitality are clearly interconnected. She would love to see a future where the hospitality industry is more sustainable than it is today.
“Ideally in ten to twenty years all hotels would be built using sustainable architecture and systems that minimise waste and consumption,” Rachel said.
“However, at this rate, it would not be realistic to say that all hospitality organisations will be drastically reducing their carbon emissions to net zero or completely balancing their emissions through offsetting in the next number of years.
Nevertheless, I have high hopes for the future of the hospitality industry and that all starts with training and educating the younger generation.
There are definitely so many sustainability aspects that can be incorporated into the development of the hospitality industry: but this won’t matter if people aren’t educated on the importance of climate action and the value of implementing change.”
Rachel’s dream career is one where she can merge sustainability and hospitality together. She wants to make it her life’s work to build a carbon-neutral hospitality industry and a better future for all.
“I don’t have a specific title that I’m working towards,” Rachel explained. “However, my dream job includes wanting to pursue a career that merges both sustainability and hospitality.
I would like to combine my knowledge in both areas to be a leader in the industry and inspire others in taking steps to embark on their sustainable journey.”
The training that Rachel will receive from the Global Youth Climate Training Programme from Net Zero and Oxford University will be an essential step on this journey.
“I hope that I can apply the knowledge I gained from the workshops and advice provided by current climate leaders into expanding my knowledge in all climate related fields. This is my first time attending a training program with such credibility, therefore, I would want to take full advantage of the opportunity to learn as much from existing role models in the industry.
Plus, the training will not only be a good opportunity for me to enhance my knowledge but also a chance to maintain a sense of perseverance and deepen my commitment to sustainability.”
Rachel firmly believes that everyone has to contribute in order to prevent catastrophic climate change and build a more sustainable tomorrow. Just like every other industry, she thinks that hospitality too has an important part to play in this essential transition.
“I believe that everyone has their own responsibility to work towards a better future.
It is an increasing trend to implement more green practices into hospitality operations, however, hospitality professionals should not believe that simply meeting the standards of CSR is enough. Instead, we should strive to be a role model to spark change in others, and to get our local communities involved with something bigger than just themselves.”
A big congratulations to Rachel on being accepted into the Global Youth Climate Training Programme from the University of Oxford and Net Zero. Does she have advice for other students who might want to get involved in sustainability training?
If you lack something, seek it. If there’s an opportunity, take it.
See here for more information about the Global Youth Climate Training Programme from Oxford and University and Net Zero