Harvard students demonstrated their commitment to sustainability this past summer all over the world and in many different ways. Through entrepreneurialism, advocacy, internships, volunteerism, and education, they promoted a healthier environment and have inspiring experiences to show for it.
Ida Hempel ’14 continued to work on the programming for Greenhaus, the Boston area accelerator for energy IT start-ups that she founded. She describes the goal of Greenhaus as supporting “unconventional energy entrepreneurship” because it’s important for people to recognize “all the opportunities for technological innovation throughout the energy value chain.”
Ida’s work this summer allowed her to connect with other student entrepreneurs and innovators. “I loved getting to visit so many different start-ups, accelerators, incubators, and office spaces. It's been so interesting to feel the energy of all these different groups within this burgeoning area of entrepreneurship.” The experience broadened her understanding of clean energy and sparked an interest in the ways that “IT and web initiatives tap into different aspects of consumer psychology and economics to subtly change consumer behavior.”
I loved getting to visit so many different start-ups, accelerators, incubators, and office spaces. It's been so interesting to feel the energy of all these different groups within this burgeoning area of entrepreneurship.
Many other students also found themselves at the intersection of environmentalism and business this summer, like Patrick Dowling ‘16, who worked in sustainability consultancy in Cleveland. Others entered the realm of environmental advocacy, like Jenna Overton ’14, who spent the summer interning for the Sierra Club.
Freshman Cole Edick’s interest in sustainability took him all the way to Costa Rica, where he spent two months at EARTH University as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern for the World Food Prize Foundation. He worked with Dr. B.K. Singh on a Global Health and Sustainable Development project. Cole lived at the University’s self-sustainable campus, complete with its own farmland—he got to experience both working and living sustainably this summer.
During his internship, Cole spent a weekend with members of the Bribri indigenous community in Talamanca, Costa Rica, seeing their farmland and hearing their stories. “It was a beautiful place to be,” he says, “and living in those conditions was a challenge unlike any other I'd ever encountered. I feel like it really enriched me as a person.”
Cole believes that his sustainable summer gave him new global perspectives on life. “I met students from all over the world, be it Africa or Latin America, all of whom are passionate about making an impact and doing it with a sustainable focus. It was enlightening and heartening to meet so many inspired individuals, especially when so many of them came from humble backgrounds.”
The diversity of these summer experiences is a testament to the wide variety of fields involved with sustainability.
Daniel Thorpe, second year PhD student at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, adds to that variety with his experience in Calgary this summer. Daniel worked for a startup company called Carbon Engineering with founder, and Harvard Professor, Dr. David Keith, learning about the company’s technology and ways to improve it—which will be the subject of his thesis. Carbon Engineering is building a power plant to test their industrial-scale CO2 air capture technology. When he wasn’t on the job, Daniel also got to enjoy hiking and meditating in the Canadian Rockies.
His summer culminated in a sobering experience, however. “My last weekend there was also a chilling reminder of the urgency of our work—it was the weekend of the worst flooding in the history of Alberta, the kind of event we should expect to happen more and more frequently as a result of climate change. I spent a surreal morning traversing the remaining high grounds and looking down on parts of the city I had jogged and biked through only days before, now completely submerged.”
The urgency that Daniel reminds us of is an alarming environmental reality our planet faces. A reality and a challenge that the students who spent their summer committed to sustainability are hoping in their own special way to confront.