A Day in the Life… Ian Humphreys, CEO Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I have been CEO at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful since 2008. I look after policy, strategy, programme sponsorship and management. It is a challenging role, particularly as we seek to limit the increasing effects of climate breakdown and pollution.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I joined the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful team after 14 years with The Conservation Volunteers – a charity organisation working across the UK to connect people with green spaces – promoting social cohesion, combating loneliness and enhancing employment prospects.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
The best part of my job is working with my incredible colleagues at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. We are an ambitious lot, wanting to change the behaviour of everyone living in Northern Ireland. We want less littering, less dog fouling and better resource efficiency, but what we really think will make it all come together is growing a strong sense of community pride. We believe we can make this happen and know it will benefit the economy as well as society.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE SECTOR?
The most challenging aspect would be witnessing environmental problems that could be easily changed. Our most recent litter survey shows badly-littered streets are on the rise; not good news for all the dedicated Council street cleaning staff I pass each morning on the way to work and not good news for our tourism trade. This is where our work on the Blue Flag programme for beaches and marinas, Green Flag for public open spaces and Green Key for the hospitality sector have a part to play in raising standards to make Northern Ireland stand out as a tourist destination.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
My day starts fairly early at 7am with emails and texts checked on my phone over breakfast and urgent things dealt with. Then I’m into the office for 8am to go through the day’s tasks. I can be writing applications for funding, writing report forewords, speaking at partner events, taking calls and joining meetings with corporate sponsors or attending partner events such as the Power of Video Festival with McDonald’s UK, the Coca-Cola Clean Coasts Week or the Big Spring Clean – Northern Ireland’s largest volunteer event. I can even be heading off to meetings in Europe such as the Environmental Education Board meeting in Copenhagen. No two days are the same.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
During my time here, I’ve overseen rapid growth in Eco-Schools, introduction of the international Green Key Awards for the hospitality sector and created the civic pride partnership campaign, Live Here Love Here. I’ve also developed a range of support services for councils including the Northern Ireland Environmental Quality Forum.
I’m also proud that our continuous pursuit to eradicate pointless plastics has taken a monumental step this year in the introduction of our Plastic Promise – a pledge created to rally community spirit for this great cause. It is our hope that we can empower volunteers and strive towards long-term solutions to these very real environmental problems.
Last year I was delighted when the education work of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful was recognised with an award at the North American Association for Environmental Education’s international conference.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE SECTOR
All our work seeks to bring about changes in people’s behaviour to create a cleaner, greener and more prosperous Northern Ireland. A highlight for me is being able to award the Eco-Schools green flag. At 25 years old, this prestigious international programme involves virtually every school in Northern Ireland. Meeting the enthusiastic pupils and their hugely-committed teachers, who show me what they have done to help biodiversity, increase recycling rates and reduce energy usage, is always inspiring and reminds me of why I love this job.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
I love the simpler things in life, heading home to enjoy dinner with my wife and family – perhaps enjoy a competitive game of chess with my son when he is home from University, catch up with The Blame Game and read a chapter or two of my current book, Jared Diamond’s Upheaval.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I’ve an Agricultural Zoology PhD from Queen’s University and a real passion for bird watching and ringing on Copeland Bird Observatory.