Outstanding Commitment to Sustainability Award recipient Shayna Grossman talks about the sustainability work she led this year

This year, the Harvard College Dean of Students Office, the Harvard Office for Sustainability, and the Faculty of Arts & Science Green Program presented the first ever Outstanding Commitment to Sustainability Award, as part of the Harvard College 2021 Student Leadership Awards. This award recognizes an exceptional undergraduate student who has led initiatives that make positive contributions to the sustainable future of Harvard CollegeWe are thrilled to honor Shayna Grossman as the recipient of this year’s award. With all of her successful sustainability initiatives at Harvard College, we asked Shayna to share what she has worked on this past year and what she loves most about sustainability at Harvard.

Hi! My name is Shayna Grossman. I’m a rising junior at Harvard College originally from just outside of Boston. I study Earth and Planetary Sciences with a secondary in Theatre, Dance, and Media. Outside of class, I serve as the Vice President of Tikkun Olam (social justice) at Harvard Hillel, I’m a board member for Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice, and I’m a member of the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders. I became interested in sustainability work in middle school after watching Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Since then, I have been doing my best to remain engaged and active in the environmental community both through my studies and in my extracurricular pursuits. Despite the significant challenges that this past year has presented, I’ve been able to continue much of my sustainability work in the virtual format and was incredibly excited and grateful to receive the Outstanding Commitment to Sustainability Award this spring.

Last summer and during fall semester of this past year, I had the privilege of being a research assistant for Harvard's Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group. My research was specifically focused on updating an inventory of global fugitive methane emissions from oil, gas, and coal exploitation. In the inventory, we mapped fugitive emissions data from the United Nations onto geospatial data (locations of fossil fuel infrastructure) and were able to create high-resolution maps of where exactly methane emissions are coming from. Our database will hopefully act as a resource for countries trying to reduce their fugitive methane emissions and will also be used as a reference in future analyses of atmospheric methane using satellite data.

I also kept up my involvement with the sustainability movement through running environmentally themed programs for Harvard Hillel. I was especially proud of a series of programs that I helped plan around the holiday of Tu B’Shvat (the Jewish birthday of the trees) in which students explored the intersection of environmental justice and Judaism. The first program helped students think about their own personal connection with the Earth and how they viewed the relation between Judaism and sustainability through a virtual Tu B’Shvat Seder (a festive meal and discussion). The second program in the series zoomed out from the personal and engaged students in thinking about the broader connections between faith and environmentalism through a speaker panel and a short action-hour. 

One of the main reasons I have been able to remain engaged in sustainability work this year is because of the wonderful community of like-minded students who I have been able to work with and learn from. I feel incredibly lucky to go to a school where I am surrounded by dedicated, passionate, intelligent people whose energy can fuel me in my work, and I am looking forward to another year of collaboration and commitment to sustainability.