21 September 2023

With her great drive, knowledge and commitment, Amanda Borneke has come to be the sustainability profile of the construction industry. This year’s Alumna of the Year always sees opportunities and likes an uphill challenge.

A person stands by a house.
“I usually say that I’m a personal trainer, but in sustainability and for companies. When it’s time for the project to go on a climate diet, they call me,” says Amanda Borneke. THOR BALKHED

“Hands up: How many of you would consider buying used bedding?”
The question is met by the slow raising of a hesitant hand in the meeting room.
Amanda Borneke glances at the colleagues before continuing her questions:
“How many of you have ever stayed in a hotel?”
The smiles of the meeting participants appear at the same pace as their hands go up.

“I understand you. Just like you, I see that old sheets have a low second-hand value. On the other hand, there’s a night in a hotel. It’s something we do when we want to celebrate, something that’s a luxury to enjoy, even though you sleep in used sheets. The conclusion is that we’re more circular and sustainable than we think, but how we talk about it has a huge impact on the value we see in reuse.” A person stands outside. “I’m honoured that LiU thinks I am one of the role models leading climate transition in my industry,” says Alumna of the Year Amanda Borneke. Photo credit THOR BALKHED

Personal trainer in sustainability

Since graduating from the environmental science program at LiU in 2015, a lot has happened in a short time in her professional career. Amanda Borneke is currently a specialist in circular economy at the architectural and engineering consultancy company Sweco. It is a role with many different components.

“I usually say that I’m a personal trainer, but in sustainability and for companies. When it’s time for the project to go on a climate diet, they call me!”

In addition to being an operative leader, inspirer and advisor, she often changes into a helmet and work clothes to make a reuse inventory.

“ You might say I’m a resource detective. I go out to buildings with my magnifying glass and lab bag to see if we can reuse doors, windows, ventilation or whatever it may be.”

A role model in the green transition

Amanda Borneke has been often lauded for her commitment in the field of sustainability. She has many followers on her social accounts and has become one of the construction industry’s most influential opinion leaders and role models in the green transition.A person stands outside. Photo credit THOR BALKHED

“In other professional roles in other industries, I’ve been too loud, taken up too much space, been too colourful both in my clothing choices and in my personality. In the construction industry, it was precisely those qualities that others had judged me for, that were needed to drive sustainability work forward.”

When a colleague is asked what is special about Amanda Borneke, words such as passion, positive, knowledgeable and motivated come up. When she is asked about her motivation, her answers reflect those words.

“I get to do something that’s meaningful and contributes to a better society, while at the same time I love trying to make people passionate about things that they might have previously ignored. Another motivation I have is adversity, an uphill challenge motivates me .”

She highlights a quote from rhetoric lecturer Inger Hansson that reflects her mindset both at work and in everyday life.

“She once told me that the word impossible can be read in two ways. Either as the word looks, impossible. Or you see it as ´it’s possible`. I always carry that with me. As environmental scientists, we can’t get hung up on missed opportunities or things that aren’t implemented. Focus on the positive, it creates ripple effects.”

Reuse is about recirculation

Sustainability, circular economy and reuse can be difficult concepts to understand for the average person – and are often met by scepticism.

"Many people think it’s complex, complicated and expensive. But when we talk about reuse, it’s about recirculation. Humans are the only species on this planet who know the concept of waste. All other species live in balance with nature, where there are only resources used by some other species or some other part of the ecosystem.

Today, Amanda Borneke is trying to live in accordance with the principle of zero waste, to preserve as much of the Earth’s resources as possible. But it has not always been that way. In her younger days, she ate a lot of meat, flew around the world and designed her own jewellery. The wake-up call came at upper secondary school in Skåne when she heard about Overshoot Day, the day when nature’s annual budget of renewable resources is exhausted.

“I was amazed when I heard my teacher talk about it. I couldn’t believe in my wildest dreams that the situation was so bad. Then, in 2010, that day fell in August. I decided then and there to change my way of life and devote all my studies and my career to environmental issues.”

LiU has meant a lot

The choice to become an environmental scientist was an obvious one for Amanda Borneke. Her choice of Linköping University was also carefully considered. In addition to the excellent opportunities for exchange semesters, one thing stood out on the environmental science programme at LiU – the use of problem-based learning, PBL.

“I’ve never been that good at written tests, so being examined through projects and argument is perfect for me. LiU has meant a lot to me and, if the environmental science programme had not existed, I wouldn’t have been as educated as I wanted to be.”

She still has good contact with her old university, and it was on Campus Norrköping that Amanda started her very first project during her studies – the environmental scientists’ labour market day, which is still arranged annually. Being named Alumna of the Year touches her deeply.

“I’m honoured that LiU thinks I am one of the role models leading climate transition in my industry. It’s not just an award for me, but for all environmental scientists who fight every day to ensure that everyone will have a sustainable future.”

Amanda Borneke has just turned 30. The question is, what is her next goal? Her next challenge?

“My main goal is that my projects contribute to Sweden fulfilling its pledge to become climate neutral by 2040. As for me, I’m practising to be more serene. Much of what I thought would take a long time to achieve happened very fast. It’s not worth striving for prizes, careers and titles. Dig where you stand and do what you enjoy!”

Photo credit THOR BALKHED

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