Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Hannah Giles, City to Sea

This series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next, City to Sea's digital platforms manager Hannah Giles.


Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Hannah Giles, City to Sea

More than just a list, edie’s annual 30 Under 30 initiative shines a spotlight on talented sustainability and net-zero professionals – aged under 30 – who are delivering on efforts to build a better future and showing fantastic promise for their future potential.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the initiative has returned for 2023-4, with the new class having been announced last September.

In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.

Our next profile interview is with Hannah Giles, digital platforms manager at City to Sea.

How I got to where I am now…

“I always loved geography, and trying to understand why things were the way they were. I studied Geography at university, not really knowing what direction it would take me. But while studying abroad for a year in Canada, I realised that I definitely wanted to do something practical and tangible in helping us work towards a more sustainable future.

“After graduating. I was lucky enough to do some travelling. This opened my eyes to the extent of plastic pollution across the world. As soon as I got back home, I researched charities working to tackle plastic pollution and I found City to Sea.

“I initially volunteered as an intern for their National Refill Day (now World Refill Day) campaign. Five years have now passed and I now manage our Digital Platforms including the award-winning Refill App and multiple websites that host our global campaigns. These cover everything from flushing wet wipes to political advocacy such as demanding reuse targets from our government.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been…

“Managing the UX, development and release of the Refill Return Cup app functionalities in the summer of 2023 and seeing that scheme be used by hundreds of people since, saving thousands of single-use cups from landfill.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been…

“Working for a charity is undoubtedly challenging, and trying to prevent a crisis or even reversing one that has already happened can take its toll.

“ On top of that, spending most of my day at a desk and in the digital space can also make it difficult to connect your day job to the bigger picture. It is so important to take breaks throughout the day, and get into nature if you can to reconnect yourself.

“There is also an interesting challenge in having your passion become your job, as it is hard to separate your professional and personal interests. I think this is something that is challenging for anyone working in the environmental sector and can lead to compassion fatigue. So. taking those breaks and reminding yourself of why you are doing what you do is so crucial to keeping up the momentum.”

If I had to describe my generation in a word or phrase, I would say…

“Resilient.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like…

“Further improving the UX of the Refill App and City to Sea’s websites. I am currently completing a UX design diploma, and I plan to conduct some user research and hear first-hand from our users what they need to be able to live more sustainably and reduce their plastic and carbon footprints.

“I hope for the Refill App to be the first place people go to look for the most sustainable option, and for reuse to be second nature, and the easiest option – above single-use plastic.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy…

“Getting outdoors as much as possible! I love camping and kayaking in my local river. I also run a community garden in my local town with a focus on positive mental wellbeing as well as nurturing UK native plants and creating a home for pollinators and any other flora and fauna.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message to business leaders would be…

“Listen to the science. It is hard to question what to do when the science is so clear, and there are so many ways to make a positive change and so many incredible people who can help make it happen.”

My key piece of advice to young people entering my profession today is…

“Trust the process, you never know where a seemingly small opportunity may lead. I did not anticipate that a two-month volunteer placement would kick-start my career in a direction I had not previously considered, and I have been grateful for every opportunity along the way.”

The full 30 Under 30 Class of 2023 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for the next round of annual nominations for the 30 Under 30, email [email protected]. Nominations will open this summer.

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