“I try to embrace everything I have in the virtual learning space.”

Thinh (Theo) Phan is a fourth-year student at Humber College’s Bachelor of Commerce – Supply Chain Management program. He’s also an Ambassador for the Humber Arboretum and passionate about student sustainability.

Theo Phan
Photo courtesy of Theo Phan.

Putting down roots

Phan became involved with the Humber Arboretum as a Community Connector in September 2020 when one of his Global Citizenship Certificate courses required him to volunteer with a not-for-profit organization. An instructor told him about the Arboretum’s Learning by Leading Program. Unfamiliar with the Arboretum but interested in its mission, he applied. He immediately realized the Arboretum’s intersectional understanding of sustainability would help him make a difference far beyond the classroom and chose to expand his participation of his own accord.

“My goal while volunteering is to develop a global citizen mindset and acknowledge global issues such as inequality in the workplace, racism and climate change,” says Phan.

Theo Phan practices sustainability with an at-home vegetable garden.
Theo Phan’s sustainable at-home vegetable garden. Photo courtesy of Theo Phan.

Also motivating Phan’s involvement with the Arboretum is his desire to build greener businesses. This vocation, he says, will help him curate a niche within his chosen line of work.

Today’s business job market is broad–but, by finding ways to “use energy from [renewable] resources and also be profitable in the long-term,” Phan believes he can both stand out to employers and build a fulfilling career.

Weathering the storm

Another inspiration driving Phan to work with the Arboretum is connection. After his courses went completely remote in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the self-proclaimed extrovert found himself searching for ways to stay involved with Humber’s community. He says the Arboretum provided the perfect link.

“I was worried that I could not have campus involvement while studying at home, but I was wrong,” Phan says. “[The] Humber Arboretum has more [of] that experience to engage.”

Theo Phan studying sustainability at home.
Photo courtesy of Theo Phan.

Moreover, Phan says working with the Arboretum has made him more conscious about sustainability in his day-to-day life. Between his classes and volunteer hours, he makes sure to properly sort and dispose of household waste, find new uses for unneeded items and grow some of his own produce. But, he proposes, an underappreciated way to practice sustainability at home is to prioritize your own mental health.

“I think it’s very important to make sure that you are, physically and also mentally, healthy at home,” he says. “You cannot work outside, you cannot hang out with your friends–so, it’s just very stressful to think about it.”

Phan enjoys journaling and playing his ukulele to sustain his spirits. He’s also been making a conscious effort to immerse himself in nature because it’s a “…good way to realize what value you can bring when you [are] sustainable at home.”

Theo Phan's RocketBook journal helps him practice sustainability.
Photo courtesy of Theo Phan.

Broadening your horizons

Phan believes transforming the planet is a group project. He encourages all Humber and UofGH students to get involved with the Arboretum and join a team on a mission to build a better world.

“Regardless of your major, regardless of your background, they just create an inclusive space that you could be a part of,” he says.

The Humber Arboretum’s work-study and volunteer opportunities are both supported by your Co-Curricular Record (CCR)–which means you can use them to prove your transferable skills to future employers.

But, if your schedule’s already packed, you can still support the cause–students living on or near campus are encouraged to visit the Arboretum’s botanical gardens for some fresh air (and some fresh IG pics).

If you’re not close to campus, you can snag CCR credit by snapping shots of the landscape near you with the Arboretum’s iNaturalist Student Challenge.

Making waves from your cave

You can also up your sustainability game from home by attending the Arboretum’s virtual events. Coming up on Thursday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. is the Earth Hour Coffee Chat, where Phan says students will be able to “connect to [the] Humber Arboretum staff virtually and learn more about opportunities that they could get involved [with] while being at home.”

You can register for the Earth Hour Coffee chat for free on the Humber Arboretum’s website!

Wherever you are, whatever you study, the Humber Arboretum needs your voice to secure a sustainable future. Making small, manageable changes helps you become a drop in a revolutionary ocean.

In Phan’s words, “…I learned in my time at home that I could make [an] impact on people’s lives.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Help sustain your community with these easy ways to make an impact.

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