SUMANI Trendster: Enabling a Sustainable Change

The following is the first of a two part assessment on Behavior Change. Written by current SUMA student, Amanda Stevens.

How do we support widespread behavioral change to increase the sustainability of society, when it’s not just ourselves we are changing?

Consider reducing emissions from household energy use as our desired result. We could tackle this in several ways: altering the individual’s consumption behavior; increasing product energy efficiency at the company level; working with utilities to reduce emissions at the source; and/or focus on policy changes such as building codes. While all of these approaches are essential to reducing household emissions, each requires significant changes in somebody else’s behavior.

So how do we get there? While I love data (I’m a self-professed data junkie), purely informational campaigns rarely succeed in changing behavior in the long-term. Continuing on the emissions example, we know that exclusively knowing the trends and hearing climate change predictions just isn’t enough to actually change our society – otherwise, we would have solved climate change years ago! We need to shift from predominately informational campaigns towards change management programs that target specific behaviors. While I’ve known this for a while, it wasn’t until I interned with Etsy Solar before the lights really went on in my own head. Here was a situation where Etsy wanted to convince their members to install household solar, but simply explaining how much money (or emissions) could be saved wasn’t effective. Instead, we had to identify the other reasons for not going solar (time required, finding a trustworthy installer, property value, and other concerns, etc.), identify feasible solutions, and then roll everything into an easily-digestible process. Let me tell you, comprehensive change management isn’t easy! Here are the top five tips I’ve picked up over the last year: Continue reading “SUMANI Trendster: Enabling a Sustainable Change”

SkillSpeak Series #10: Professor Adam Freed

The following interview is a part of SkillSpeak, a series of short interviews with SUMA professors, where they share bits of wisdom and knowledge, advising on skills that are crucial for a successful career in sustainability. This week we have Adam Freed who teaches a course on Sustainability Metrics as well as Financing Natural Infrastructure. This interview was conducted by Abigail Orzolek, SUMANI Director of Communications.

Name: Adam Freed

Academic Background: BA History, Haverford College; Masters in Urban Planning, NYU

Current Professional Title: Lecturer, Columbia University; Principal, Bloomberg Associates

What field within the sustainability realm do you work in?

I focus on cities, and within that, broadly across all the different areas of sustainability: looking at social, economic, and environmental issues. The power for transformative change is in the intersection of those three spaces.

What skills have you leveraged on so far, to expand your presence in your field of sustainability?

Taking a data driven approach: to both the diagnosis of problems, and the underlying causes of those problems. This allows for developing targeted solutions and impact. This has probably been the biggest skill that I’ve both developed and been able to apply. Continue reading “SkillSpeak Series #10: Professor Adam Freed”

SkillSpeak Series #9: Professor Eron Bloomgarden

The following interview is a part of SkillSpeak, a series of short interviews with SUMA professors, where they share bits of wisdom and knowledge, advising on skills that are crucial for a successful career in sustainability. This week we have Eron Bloomgarden who teaches a course on Global Environmental Markets as well as Financing Natural Infrastructure. This interview was conducted by Abigail Orzolek, SUMANI Director of Communications.

Name: Eron Bloomgarden

Academic Background: BA Politics, Pomona College; MPA Columbia University; Executive Education in Finance at Harvard Business School

Current Professional Title: Lecturer, Columbia University; Partner, Encourage Capital

What field within the sustainability realm do you work in?

Environmental finance; impact investing; carbon finance

What skills have you leveraged on so far, to expand your presence in your field of sustainability?

The field that I work in, environmental finance, requires knowledge and understanding of both finance and environment/sustainability. Encourage Capital employs is a solutions strategy approach. This means that we start with an environmental challenge and then try to build a financing/investment strategy that brings in private capital to help solve that problem. A crucial skill that I have leveraged in this field is the ability to speak both the languages of finance and of environmental policy.

What are some of the most relevant skill-building opportunities offered by the SUMA program?

One of the great strengths of the SUMA program, in my view, is student’s ability to select from a wide range of offerings. This flexibility allows students in many ways to design their own experience based on their interests. Beyond the formal education opportunities offered in the program, students have an excellent opportunity to connect with practitioners and “test-drive” the skills they are learning in the classroom. Continue reading “SkillSpeak Series #9: Professor Eron Bloomgarden”

SUMANI Trendster: BEEx WISE

Last Thursday, I sat in on an event at the Building & Energy Exchange’s office on Chambers Street. Everything about the BEEx is so glossy. From their exhibition on energy products, to the the white & neon event room, and especially their slick website. This is what can result from the public and private sectors partnering together.

In 2015 the BEEx launched a series, titled Women in Sustainability & Energy:

“WISE showcases inspirational women leaders who are accelerating the sustainability and energy efficiency of our buildings and our cities. This series brings together women from a diversity of fields to discuss cutting-edge policies, technologies, and programs. It provides a networking forum and framework for year-round dialogue. WISE supports the leaders of today and provides a platform for the next generation of women in this critical industry.”

The topics of conversation during this WISE event were definitely content heavy, and while the forum certainly serves to facilitate interactions between women in the sustainability and energy industries, these events are profound discussions on industry that just so happen to have an all-female perspective… the “all-male panel” is getting a bit tiresome.

On March 10th, Ali Adler, Angela Ferrante, and Allison Kopf, moderated by Pat Sapinsley discussed “Investors and Innovators Building and Supporting Clean Technologies.”

Continue reading “SUMANI Trendster: BEEx WISE”