With the United Nations climate change conference COP26 taking place in Glasgow, meet Erin Charters from Loch Lomond, who was inspired to start her electric bike hire business during an Open University module on renewable energy.
Erin, age 24, is using her Open University (OU) degree in Environmental Science to power her business and spark sustainable change within her community.
The young entrepreneur and mum will be one of the presenters in a virtual Green Entrepreneur Showcase for OU students in November 2021. The OU Student Voice Week event will feature OU students sharing how their studies have inspired them to drive forward actions supporting the goals of COP26.
“I started Cycle Luss with the idea of wanting to make an impact and wanting to give people the opportunity to experience what electric power is,” explains Erin.
“I have always been quite sporty and enjoyed riding bikes and then I came across e-bikes when I was studying a renewable energy module.
The OU has really helped me to understand about renewable energy and the benefits of electric power and I wanted to use that and set up a business here where I live.”
“The OU has really helped me to understand about renewable energy and the benefits of electric power and I wanted to use that and set up a business here where I live.
"I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains, hills and the Loch and this is what I want to preserve. I want to preserve this nice area so it can be here for millions of years to come.”
Erin was awarded a grant by her local council in order to grow her business and encourage more people to use electric bikes as a form of transport.
She says that studying with the OU has given her entrepreneurial skills and the confidence needed to push herself and her business forward:
“My studies have revolved around climate change and other really important problems. I was able to show the local council that Cycle Luss was a solution to these problems even though it’s on quite a small scale.
"I’ve had to really build relationships with tour companies, hotel managers and various other businesses and I think I was able to do that because of the communication skills that I learned during my OU course.
“The course focuses on learning about the environment, the problems and solution, and I don’t just want to study that – I want to do that as well and to share my knowledge.
"I think studying gave me the confidence to start speaking up about what I’ve learned over the last few years and change people’s perceptions of climate change.”
Growing up in Loch Lomond helped inspire Erin’s passion for nature. With the flexibility of the OU she can continue to raise her son, work and study in the place that she loves – while still receiving support from other students. She says:
“[A supportive community] is pretty important. I connect with students on various platforms, first of all online.
"There’s the student support network, there’s the module forums – that’s where I can talk to everyone on my module and everyone in my tutor group. It’s a really great way to keep in contact. My tutors as well are super supportive.”
Erin is in her final year of studying and has already started to apply for graduate jobs within the environmental industry.
It’s her ambition to continue raising awareness of the importance of climate change – for her son and future generations:
My advice for future OU students is to find out what motivates you, what gets you out of bed in the morning and I think when you really find that passion you can do amazing things.”
“I’d like to leave behind a world where we’re all thriving in terms of the air that we breath and where the ecosystems are not causing bio-diversity loss.
"I think everyone can all play their part, it’s just about getting the conversation started, it’s about climate change and speaking about what we should do individually and what we should then do as a family or as friends and then furthermore in your community.
“So my advice for future OU students is to find out what motivates you, what gets you out of bed in the morning and I think when you really find that passion you can do amazing things.
"The knowledge gained from studying at the OU has given me the confidence to start engaging in conversation about climate change and making a difference.”
Erin features in our ‘Ones to watch’ film series with MTV Generation Change. The series of short films showcases OU students who are using their studies to make a difference to people and the planet.
There is a wide range of free online resources exploring climate change and the importance of COP26, on the OU’s free learning site OpenLearn. There's also more information on our Supporting Sustainability webpage.