Where are they now? Charlie Gill

Charlie with some of her sustainable products
Charlie Gill
Environmental and sustainability campaigner
LLB Law with German 2014
Charlie studied Law at Sheffield, but after graduating decided to take her life and career in a whole new direction. Find out how she made the move to work in the environmental sector, how her degree helped with setting up her own business, and her highlights from living in Sheffield.
Charlie Gill

What did you study?

I studied a four-year course in LLB Law with German, with a year abroad in Berlin. Nowadays people are surprised at my choice but I wouldn’t go back and change it. At the time, Law seemed the obvious choice for me. I had an eagerness to understand why things are the way they are, and chose to study German to be able to distinguish myself from other Law graduates.

What first attracted you to Sheffield?

There weren’t many Universities that offered Law with German as a degree, and as soon as I stepped foot in the city I fell in love with it. I was looking for a University where I could really get to experience being a student, be far away from home and find my feet. Sheffield offered all of that.

What were some of your favourite things to do in Sheffield?

Whilst studying, my life consisted of being at the library, playing basketball or working at Cav (The Cavendish on West Street). I played basketball throughout my time at Sheffield and would be partial to a night at Roar with my teammates, or a night at Tuesday Club or West Street Live with my work mates. Most of my memories come from those experiences.

What is your best memory of Sheffield?

This is a tough one but I think my best memory would have to be my final basketball match with USWB (University of Sheffield Women’s Basketball). That season we’d won the league, won most-improved team at the sports awards and I’d won a personal Black & Gold award for commitment to University sport. Winning our final game undefeated was the icing on the cake.

Charlie playing for the women's basketball team and at her graduation

Since finishing at Sheffield you’ve moved around and tried a host of different things – was this a case of not being sure what you wanted to do?

Definitely! At the end of a four-year law degree I was pretty certain I didn’t want to be a lawyer… This was quite daunting but I took the time to learn some more about myself, save some money, do a lot of travelling – I went to South America for 6 months by myself and travelled the trans-Siberian railway – and work in financial services for two years before knowing what it was I wanted to do. All of those experiences helped me to decide and I’d really recommend others to make similar choices and not feel pressured into embarking on a career path straight away. There’s no rush.

You’ve now ended up with two jobs in the environmental sector. When did you discover your passion for ecological causes?

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I gained this passion. I’ve always had an affinity for the ocean and spending time in nature, but it wasn’t until I was working in the City of London that I realised that those around me didn’t have the same consideration for the environment as myself. After two years, I decided to act upon this desire to dedicate my time to helping to change our relationship with our environment and turned my career upside down by starting my own plastic-free online shop, Life Before Plastik, and starting a job as a marine planner for the Marine Management Organisation.

How does your time at the University play into your career now?

There are so many skills I learnt from my time at Sheffield. I have used my legal knowledge to no end through setting up my business. I use customer service skills from my time working at the Cavendish pub and the leadership skills and confidence I gained from my positions with the basketball team to aid with multiple presentations I give at work and leadership in my business. Everything I did at Sheffield has led me to where I am today.

How did you go about setting up ‘Life Before Plastik’ with your sister? What is it like working with family?

Life Before Plastik was set up after we started to go plastic-free in 2018. We saw a gap in the market as it was almost impossible to find eco-friendly alternatives all in one place. We created a marketplace for these products where we could provide advice, support and above all raise awareness of the threat of plastic pollution and what we can collectively achieve. As for working with Trina, it just works. When you’re working with family there’s no need to beat around the bush, we say it like it is and work through it. We’re able to be completely honest with each other, which leaves much more time for getting the work done.

Charlie with some of her sustainable products

You also produce reviews and tips to help people. What’s your top simple tip for other alumni to live more sustainably?

Slow and steady. It’s much more manageable to change products as they run out. That way you won’t waste anything you already have, it won’t be too expensive and you’ll stick with it. You can start small, even switching to a soap bar instead of hand pump and body wash will make an impact.

What is your ultimate goal for the future?

I’d like to look back and have made an impact within my community, to help combat environmental and social issues. Even helping one person make a change is a big deal and I hope to reach as many as I can.