SUMANI Trendster Blog: Less Trash in the Trash

Spring 2018

Auditing waste bins: William Teng (left), Clayton Michael Colaw (right)

It’s 8:30 pm on Tuesday, February 13th in the basement hallway of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the City of New York. At one end of the hall is the student lounge where a diligent clan of four talks about their group project on the cost of capital for a hypothetical solar energy project in Mexico for the Clean Energy Financing class. The offices, upstairs and down the hall, are empty. The nighttime security guard is calmly surveying the office because it is the bottom of the hour, just doing his job. This is a typical night early in the semester, except for one thing: the basement hallway stinks… there is garbage laid out, neatly separated, on plastic tarps. A different gang of four students is working diligently on their own group project: conducting their second night of waste audits, a dirty job that all 4 couldn’t wait to get started on.


These four men are part of the Sustainability Management chapter of Net Impact (SUMA Net Impact) project teams, specifically working with the Office of Environmental Stewardship’s (OES) Waste Management Strategy for Columbia. The goal is to gather data that will eventually allow OES to streamline waste collection and management and then make adjustments to reach the ultimate goal of zero waste in 2030. The procedure was:

  1. Unravel: Lay a large (4 ft x 4 ft) plastic tarp on the hallway floor and overturn the first of 6 separate waste bins onto the tarp. This first bin is labeled “landfill”, so what should be in this bin is material that cannot be recycled and instead sent to the landfill (e.g. non-rigid plastic, soiled paper, food waste, styrofoam, etc.).
  2. Separate: Carefully separate out materials that can be recycled, such as photocopy paper and soda cans. Separate food waste from the contents of the landfill bin.
  3. Weigh each category of items to understand how much (in kilograms) of what is in trash bin should go to the landfill, recyclable, or compostable. For this, we used a generic hand-held luggage scale.
  4. Order of weigh-in: paper (if any), then the plastic and metal recycling (if any), then the “landfill” materials excluding food waste, and finally the food waste (as it is messiest, it always is last to be weighed). All categories are weighed separately, emptying the bag of each before filling it in with the next category of materials.

The final weights prove there’s work to be done in waste management: over half of what is in the landfill bin could have been recycled in an adjacent bin.

The four filth foragers found, over the course of that night and every other iteration (7 total), that separation of specific waste items is challenging.  With many discarded products made with a combination of materials, such as cardboard and plastic and metal, or paper products coated in a film that might have been plastic or wax, the task of waste management becomes bewildering.

After the first night of auditing, and confirmed in the following 6 nights, they were pleasantly surprised to find that, if all waste were disposed of in its proper place (paper, metal, glass and rigid plastic recycled, non-rigid plastic in the landfill), and if there were a food waste only bin (to be turned into compost), then less than 5% of total materials disposed would have been legitimate landfill waste by NYC standards. That’s a number that reads like progress, like a cleaner, greener, more sustainable city. That’s a number with impact.

In other parts of the waste stream, custodial services commonly get complaints that the bathrooms are dirty and yet most administrators on campus are not willing to switch to hand dryers and in general paper towels are seen as more effective, convenient, and sanitary by users. This was substantiated by a survey conducted by the Net Impact team. Students and faculty were asked to about preference between paper towels and hand dryers, whether they were aware that one was more environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and hygienic than the other, and whether they would switch if environmental, cost and health information was available to them. 50% of survey respondents thought that paper towels are more environmentally friendly than hand dryers or indicated that they did not know. But 67% said they would change their behavior.

As another media blow up on the health impact of hand dryers rolled through the US, a team of SUMA Net Impact students (Keren Kuperman, Abdulla Alishaq, and William Teng) was working diligently to see how Columbia University can reduce paper towel use. The team reviewed research and calculations published on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of hand dryers and paper towels and calculated cost savings based on actual cost and consumption data provided by Custodial Services. They found that hand dryers emitted less than 15% of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than paper towels (the university purchases 100% recycled content paper towels). The university can also save over half of their monthly expense by switching to hand dryers. So what about that germ-spewing hand dryer warning in the media? Well, published studies on paper towels being more hygienic than hand dryers come from the medical field (hospitals and medical schools), where the utmost care is needed in keeping the facilities and hands clean. But for an average person, to say that hand dryers are dangerous is overkill. In New York City, as soon as you washed your hands, you probably already came in contact with doors, handrails, and surfaces that are covered in far more germs.

Net Impact is working with the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Custodial Services to develop signs that provide environmental information to try to reduce paper towel consumption on campus. Don’t worry, paper towels are not going away, but please do your part and use fewer paper towels.

Simultaneously, project team members Stephanie Hoyt and Sylwia Zieba interviewed the waste manager at Facilities, manager of Custodial Services, the Sustainability team at Columbia, others working to improve recycling on campus, and other higher education institutions. What they found was a complex system of waste management with many players that don’t have a platform to collect and share information. They began building an Excel-based dashboard to track waste tonnage provided by the NYC Department of Sanitation.


Net Impact is planning to work with the Office of Environmental Stewardship to gather other diverted waste data to add to the spreadsheet and to make the input more streamlined. The goal is for the data collection and dashboard system to go online in the future for better collaboration and transparency.

Team presentation on their waste audit project

Here were our takeaways and thoughts:

  1. Success in Unified Communication: The nuance and detail of waste disposal in Manhattan are, surprisingly and unfortunately, complicated. Unifying the communication is a key driver to motivating engagement. The rules are complicated and always changing, and the problem is massive. The waste management issue will continue to be evolving and as long as we are moving forward in improvements, then we are in the right place. 
  2. You Can Only Manage What You Measure: In the Sustainability Management program, students constantly hear an adaptation of the famous saying by Peter Drucker that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. After working with the Office of Environmental Stewardship in the fall of 2017, SUMA Net Impact members realized that Columbia University’s waste management and the sustainability teams needed a centralized system to track and measure waste diversion rates on campus. But before we can even tackle building a system, we needed a better understanding of how waste is managed on campus and whether there are peer universities with successful waste diversion programs that we can learn from.
  3. Paper Towels vs. Hand Dryers: Every month 15 tons (equivalent to almost 1150 miles of paper towels if unrolled) of paper towels are ordered and used on the Morningside Campus. That is a significant cost for the university, not to mention the cost of labor associated with collecting the used paper towels and cleaning bathrooms that have been littered with paper towels.


Written by:

Clayton Michael Colaw, Project team member

Asami Tanimoto, Project Team Leader

Lucy Lu, Director of Communications

SUMANI Trendster Blog: Brewing a Sustainable Future: Elysian

Spring 2018 Project


As a team full of people who enjoy beer and are passionate about sustainability, Elysian project members were ready for the SUMA Net Impact project challenge.  Our client, Elysian Brewery, is a Seattle based brewery that is owned by Anheuser-Busch. Elysian wanted to update certain company practices to meet Anheuser-Busch’s new sustainability goals, therefore Elysian asked SUMA Net Impact for input. The scope of our work consisted of 1) providing a solar feasibility study to Elysian, 2) developing a renewable energy target and implementation plan, 3) defining sustainability metric guidelines, and 4) devising recommendations for a sustainability-focused marketing framework.

Team Elysian consists of members from diverse backgrounds where each member was assigned a specific part of the project based on backgrounds and interest.  Jenna Molloy, our team leader, is a SUMA student with a background in literature, and worked on the sustainability metrics with fellow SUMA student Evan Carfagno, who brings ecology expertise.  Majo Gutierrez and Dominic Bell, also SUMA students, bring their technology consulting and environmental science backgrounds to the team. Majo and Dominic are working on assessing the Solar Feasibility portion of the deliverables.  The marketing and communications members made up of SUMA and Climate and Society students Casey Plasker and Anastasia Almerini, both have a background in marketing.

 Casey, Dominic, Evan and Ana had different motivations for joining the team.  As a first semester student, Casey was looking for an opportunity to get to know her classmates and gain consulting experience from a sustainability position.  Dominic was excited to gain experience producing financial models for a real client and enhance his skills from modelling courses. Evan was interested in being more involved in opportunities at school and the ability to gain real client work experience.  As a Climate and Society student, Ana’s studies were very science heavy and her background in marketing was drawing her to more business-friendly projects. She was interested in learning from the SUMA students and gaining skills that a sustainability manager can offer.

Elysian project team had a successful semester with many positive outcomes. After our initial project scope meeting, we immediately got to work on our respective missions.  Majo and Dominic began to research government incentives that could apply to Elysian. These incentives can be considered when making the financial model to provide an estimated cost of solar installation and payback estimates.  Their goal is to map out where solar panels can be installed at Elysian and will create a design of the solar panel system and the financial model. Additionally, the team researched construction costs for solar panels to more accurately create the financial model.   Due to time constraints, only the most important construction considerations were included in the report which was 1) obtaining an electrical permit and 2) conducting a structural feasibility test.

The sustainability metrics and operations members’ were tasked with helping Elysian develop a plan to reach their sustainability performance goals and to effectively report them through sustainability metrics.  This process was initiated by researching industry best practices with regards to sustainability that can be tailored to Elysian. An interesting find was the waste reduction strategies utilized by other breweries such as Alaskan Brewery; Alaskan Brewery has not had to buy CO2, which is used to carbonate beer, for twenty years because of a CO2 recycler on their property.

The marketing team assessed how Elysian can use their unique brand to showcase new sustainability initiatives.  The goal is to combine sustainability messaging seamlessly into already existing marketing strategies. Casey and Ana created an outline of “must-haves” for Elysian such as creating a Sustainability Mission Statement and to enhance internal and external communications.  The largest challenge is that to present suggestions to Elysian, information from the solar feasibility and the sustainability metrics teams must be complete. Upon receiving this information, a suggested timeline and marketing methods were provided to Elysian to utilize in their shift to sustainability and beyond.

Overall there were a few key takeaways from this project. Project members developed a fundamental understanding of how to develop modelling and how to handle data constraints and enhanced client relationship skills important to the workforce.  Project members can apply their new project management skills in interviewing clients to develop a well-organized project scope. Of course, we now all know that we like Elysian beer for taste and positive impacts!


Written in collaboration with Team Elysian

Fall 2018


Sustainable Westchester – Food waste-processing feasibility analysis.

Town of Lenox – Implementation plan for water-related targets.

Sea Change Capital Partners – Financial and Impact analysis of a NYC based impact investing fund.

Pact Innovation – Supporting renewable energy-based micro entrepreneurship in rural Myanmar.

SUMANI Trendster Blog: How A Town In Massachusetts Commits To Sustainable Development

Spring 2018 Project

Berkshire County, the Town of Lenox is a vibrant community in Western Massachusetts

With rapid urbanization highlighting the rise of sustainable cities, discussions pertaining to sustainable practices often skip smaller towns that are at the grassroots of this transformation. Today, these smaller communities strive to make their impacts as historic, cultural or social centers that are economically and environmentally responsible. They provide a rich cultural fabric to build upon by amalgamating sustainable development efforts.

Set in Berkshire County, the Town of Lenox is a vibrant community in Western Massachusetts that is ensconced between the Berkshire Mountains to the west and the Housatonic River to the east. The town’s beautiful natural endowment, and rich historic and cultural values are the foundation of its heritage. As the Town of Lenox looks towards the future, it is clear that the town would need to preserve its legacy while embracing the burgeoning economic and development needs, both for its current and future residents. Towards that end, a team of eight SUMA Net Impact students (Megan Ross, Abbigael Foster, Shruti Deshpande, Rodrigo Castro Ayca, Shiyi Zheng, Fernando Ortiz, Claudene Petricca, Karl Knotoff)from a diverse array of backgrounds such as climate change, sustainable design, urban planning, project management, CSR reporting, and strategic communications worked pro bono with the representatives from the Town of Lenox to help them effectively incorporate sustainability perspectives into their Master Plan in 2018. With the guidance of faculty advisor Celine Solsken Ruben-Salama.



Lenox has enduring appeal, but its population is aging, and many residents are seasonal or otherwise impermanent. Strategic planning with sustainability in mind would serve to improve Lenox’s ability to remain competitive with other communities in the region and to attract residents that will contribute to the economy and stability of the town. Adopting sustainable practices that contribute to cleaner air, more access to open spaces, and a more integrated community will improve Lenox’s ability to provide its residents with a stronger quality of life. Thus, the first step was to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the town as well as the risks and opportunities it is likely to face in the context of planning. Then, in consonance with their Master Plan, delineate a methodology that focuses the community on the long-term impacts of environmental quality and health of the region, the equity of its citizens, and the economic development and opportunities of the town.


The SUMA Net Impact team prepared a package of tools and documents, as part of an Environmental Management System (EMS), that would provide the town with a high-level view of their sustainability planning practices. The EMS identifies key areas of long-term planning assessed from a viewpoint of sustainability:  1) providing an overview of targets and metrics to measure the progress made in the key areas, 2) a detailed technical report offering recommendations and best practices, 3) a metrics dashboard for recording and tracking data, 4) and a simplified template for calculating greenhouse gas emissions.

The SUMA Net Impact team with Professor Celine Ruben-Salama, Columbia University (far left) in discussion with Gwen Miller, Land Use Director and Town Planner, Town of Lenox (center)


The process of visioning and goal-setting began with the SUMA Net Impact team’s visit to the Town of Lenox where they interacted with the various representatives of the Town Planner’s office, the Planning Board, the Department of Public Works, and the Environmental Committee. This site visit was also useful in orienting the SUMA Net Impact team with Lenox’s stakeholders, the town’s key attractions and public services. This opportunity was further leveraged by engaging the representatives in an interactive workshop with the objective of identifying the town’s specific values pertaining to environmental sustainability and then identifying three key areas that are especially important to the town’s current circumstances. The SUMA Net Impact team then worked to provide two aspects of sustainability opportunities within each of these three key areas: Climate Change focusing on Mitigation and Resilience, Utilities Management prioritizing Wastewater Treatment and Water Supply Management, and Land Management emphasizing Housing Development and Trail Networks.

The EMS document serves as a framework by which the Town of Lenox can envision town planning through the lens of sustainability, considering its growth strategies and town management practices with the long-term in mind. The EMS is intended to be a living document that is both scalable and replicable and can be used as a tool when interpreting a variety of different situations that the town may face in the future, including extending the town’s sustainable practices to any issue or planning category.

The team examined each key area by defining clear objectives of what the town intended to achieve. These objectives were further refined by prescribing boundaries to each, which describe the extents and limitations of the EMS and the methodologies of assessment, which describe which data or practices were used to create the assessment in this EMS. The assessments were extrapolated to identify overarching approaches to achieving the defined objectives and specific targets are aligned with each objective to measure actual results. The targets were typically quantitative and determined by timelines: Short-term targets are recommended to achieve by 2020: initial assessments, developing baseline data, and creating systems. Medium-term targets are recommended to achieve by 2030: program development and implementation. Long-term targets are recommended to achieve by 2040: higher-intensity goals or ideas to consider depending on new growth. Further, metrics were identified and used to track progress toward the target(s). Monitored at regular intervals, metrics will indicate the pace and direction of how the town is trending in relation to its goals and can quantify overall change in comparison with an initial baseline. Each metric recommended was chosen based on its actionability, relevance and meaningfulness to the objective.

The town’s historic and cultural importance, and its critical civic facilities such as the water reservoir.


Long-term sustainability planning will enable Lenox to act to mitigate its contributions to global warming and to adapt to the regional effects of climate change. By doing so, Lenox can establish its commitment to grow responsibly and conscientiously with respect to the environment and the residents of the town. By prioritizing resilience in its growth initiatives, the town can respond to changing conditions without compromising its services or quality of life, and the economy of the region can retain stability.

One of the key learnings has been the complex nature of addressing sustainability issues: First, identifying synergies between the disparate environmental, economic and social  systems is an important part of identifying risks and opportunities. For example, addressing emissions reductions from town-owned vehicles may improve air quality and save money for the town in the long-term due to reduced fuel costs. Next, the team has provided the town with an understanding of considering which impacts are the most serious to address and which initiatives are likely to have the greatest mitigation influence against those impacts. Then, the team has also ensured that the actions that Lenox takes comply with or exceed the regulatory requirements of governing bodies to which the town is subject. Finally, the team also stressed the importance of utilizing human capital as a linchpin for institutionalizing sustainability planning.



Sustainability planning should become integrated into every town department and office, but for this to become standard, leadership is critical. The importance and integrative nature of sustainability should be understood and valued by those at the management level and should be accessible to those at all levels. Going forward, including a Sustainability Officer within the town workforce would be a simple way to ensure that sustainability concepts are prioritized during day-to-day operations and are extended through medium- and long-term programming. Some towns or municipalities have found it useful to establish this position in a department that is ratepayer-supported rather than taxpayer-supported because it protects the position from fluctuating impacts of budget cuts. Many local utilities are ratepayer-supported through local government departments, which offers an excellent platform from which to address energy-related sustainability initiatives, which typically have a significant impact on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Establishing sustainable practices in organizational decision-making is not a one-size-fits-all model, and it is not a one-and-done process. Sustainability involves a continuous reshaping and refinement of practices to reflect the best technologies and methodologies we can espouse for each situation. Done right, sustainability can be a competitive economic development strategy — one that promotes social inclusion and community revitalization. Now that the Town of Lenox has the tools and resources to develop sustainable approaches to their town planning, they can implement new and innovative ideas that work best for their community and their needs while supporting the needs of generations to come.

While the world at large grapples with the enormity of dealing with sustainability challenges, what the perspective of towns such as Lenox shows is that even at the very local level we can act to create real and measurable change.

Project Team (from left to right): Megan Ross, Rodrigo Castro, Fernando Ortiz, Abbigael Foster, Karl Knotoff, Shruti Deshpande, Lily Zheng and Claudene Petricca(not in picture)


Shruti Deshpande, Project Team Member

Lucy Lu, Director of Communications


SUMANI Trendster Blog: CoClear

Spring 2018


In January of 2018, SUMA Net Impact signed on CoClear as a client to assist with the product data analysis that forms part of CDP’s Supply Chain Program.  CoClear is a New York consultancy firm with proprietary technology that specializes in fast life cycle analysis (LCAs). Their unique interactive application uses company supply chain and cost metrics to help brands optimize their product and supply-chain. They are recognized as industry leaders and have partnered with CDP  (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) to identify trends in product LCA reporting. Throughout the semester, a team of graduate students closely worked with the company’s CEO, Sally Paridis, towards completing a defined scope of work which involved taking the first deep dive into the data.

Our team members consisted of real estate finance, project management, marketing, and climate science professionals from various international backgrounds. They were Marielena Alcarez, Ashley Bae, Dolores Alicia De La Cruz, Charlotte Gueye, Laura Korhonen, and Tanmai Mahesh.



Through CDP, companies annually self-report on Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions as well as the recent introduction in 2012 of reporting on product lifecycle emissions.  CoClear’s first report on the 2012-2015 product data can be found here:

The team worked on the most recent collection of product data from 2016-17.    The data included Scope 3 and LCA stages on more than 500 goods and services belonging to companies in 43 different GICS industry sectors. Using this data, the team’s mission was to identify data gaps, where weights were not included, research and identify product weights, calculate the carbon intensities of each product, and look for trends across various sectors.

We developed weekly meetings with the client and monthly deliverables: first we organized the data into categories that reflected the completeness of the data, then we looked up the weights of the products and found out their carbon intensity.  We then mapped the wide range of industry sectors into 8 CoClear sectors, identified where emissions changes had occurred from year to year, identified whether the change was due to a product change or change in the supply chain and finally built a dataset that reflected our findings and other important factors such as the percent change in CO2.


One of the main challenges the team faced was working with certain data points that were incomplete and incoherent, since some were self-reported. If the team members could not figure out what the information meant after extensive research, they unfortunately had to leave that product out of the analysis, rather than make educated assumptions. We suggested that it may be helpful for CDP to implement simple add-ons to the data collection process, such as providing a set of defined answers to choose from instead of free-form response.

Another challenge faced was working with large datasets, and coordinating with team members who are collaborating with the same data due to datasets being exported to Microsoft Excel and grouped into separate tabs. To overcome calculation and classification errors, the team members methodologically cross checked each other’s work. We divided ourselves into 3 teams of 2, then cross checked all of the data rotationally.


The final deliverable was a comprehensive report of the original data and key performance indicators that determined the year-over-year change. Within the report, were dashboards that allowed visualization of Excel datasets. These deliverables would ultimately roll up to various CDP reports.

The report was published in the scientific journal Nature Research. Click here to view the full report titled: Carbon Emissions Embodied in Product Value Chains and the Role of Life Cycle Assessment in Curbing Them.


Through this project, team members were able to develop their data analysis methodology and learn the discipline and patience required with ‘cleaning’ data sets so that further analysis is possible. Simultaneously, through the challenges, we learned the importance of accurate and complete data reporting, especially in the field of sustainability. This experience was unique in that members were able see the source data that ultimately drove sustainability-related decisions.

The team members were exceptionally thankful for the opportunity to work for first hand with the client. We developed a weekly meeting schedule to address questions and comments. At the same time, CoClear provided fast and efficient responses that allowed the team to tackle each barrier quickly.


Charlotte Gueye, Project Team Member

Lucy Lu, Director of Communications

SUMANI Trendster Blog: Always Free Food! But Bring Your Own Plate


Did you ever notice something once and you can’t unsee it anymore? Like that wall hooks look like arms of an octopus, or a stain on your shirt. There was something the SUMA Net Impact board members couldn’t unsee at Columbia University; it was the waste we generated at each event. As part of a student group, events are customary to provide free enticing food and beverages. The reality is, after each event the board members are left with cleaning up and taking out the garbage. The waste from the free food would spill over recycling and trash bins.

While planning for the Spring 2018 semester Vibhuti, our president, requested we take a look at whether reusable utensils could be used at events instead of one-time-use. Immediately, we all realized it was the obvious initiative. As Sustainability Management master’s candidates, it would be ironic to produce so much waste for events meant to publicize sustainability.


The solution is to request all event attendees to bring their own containers and utensils. Initially, we slipped in a sentence to the bottom of one of our email blasts for attendees to bring their own utensils and cups, if they could. Eventually, in every invite and SUMA Net Impact event we would include the request to bring reusable utensils. The request would always immediately follow the promise of free food and beverage.

Another option was for SUMA Net Impact to buy our own reusable cutleries. However, as a student group, we had to book rooms wherever it is available. We couldn’t coordinate efficiently how to get dirty dishes cleaned or who would do it.

Another option was to not offer food or beverage. That was quickly turned down, as many student events are immediately after class and events would have cut through dinner time.



After three events of requesting attendees to bring reusable utensils and cups, we checked out the waste situation of the bins. Unfortunately, we did not have the proper weighing equipment. However, with our average attendee size of 35 people, 35 sandwiches, 5 liters of soda, 3 dozen cupcakes and a visual test it is clear that there’s ~50% reduction in waste. All the bins were at most half full! As a result, the team will continue this practice and continue to find new ways to reduce the remaining waste. 50% today, zero waste tomorrow!


Lucy Lu, Director of Communications


2018 Events

Data Visualization Workshop

On March 31, 2018 current SUMA student Lucas Piazza,  conducted the “Data Visualization for the Everyday (Wo)Man” workshop in which he drew upon his experience turning data into visual stories to teach the easy-to-employ secrets of good data visualizations. This workshop emphasized practicality over theory to ensure every attendee walk away with the knowledge that can be immediately used.

As a communications professional for a NYC-based data startup, Lucas Piazza knows the power of data visualizations. Design, done correctly, is a universal language that has the power to make highly complex information relevant to an audience.


Spring 2018 Projects Mid-Term Review

Update 6/2/18: We’re so excited to announce that one of the teams from our Design Thinking Workshop won the Net Impact’s Drawdown INNOVATE challenge! They were invited to the 2018 Net Impact Accelerator in Oakland, CA and competed with other finalists for a cash prize. Congratulations Jenna Lewein, Matt Akins, and Merlyn Mathew! Additionally, Merlyn has received an internship from a sponsor.

On March 21, 2018 we conducted a mid-term review of the four projects for Spring 2018. Each team presented their findings and next steps to complete their project.

Project #1 Data analysis for life cycle assessment of products

Project # 2 Waste management strategy for Columbia University

Project #3 Sustainability strategy for Town of Lenox, MA

Project #4 Solar project development and communications strategy for craft brewery

Climate Drawdown Innovation Workshop

On March 3rd, 2018, we had an incredible workshop led by Of Course Global, where we learned about design thinking and how to apply it to climate change solutions for Net Impact‘s Drawdown INNOVATE challenge! A contest that gave winners an opportunity to further develop their concept through an accelerator program in San Francisco, internship, or cash prize.

Participant feedback:

“Thanks a bunch for putting on one of the best workshops I have attended here at Columbia.”
-Evan Carfagno
“Thanks to SUMA Net Impact for hosting events like the Design Thinking Workshop that allowed us to use our creativity and to learn methodologies to maximize it. This workshop is an excellent tool for sustainability professionals that aim to tackle the current world’s challenges. “
-Andrea Gomez Vesga



Waste Management Workshop

On February 27, 2018, SUMA Net Impact invited project teams to learn about current SUMA student’s, Aharon Kestenbaum, professional work with the NYC Department of Education’s zero waste initiatives.

It was allowed our Columbia Environmental Stewardship project team to discuss their current project findings and future deliverables.

Watch video of the event HERE


Spring 2018


CoClear #1 Data analysis for lifecycle assessment of products

Columbia Environmental Stewardship #2  Waste management strategy for Columbia University

Town of Lenox #3 Sustainability strategy for Town of Lenox, MA

Elysian Brewery #4 Solar project development and communications strategy for the craft brewery

Fall 2017

The three projects


The craft brewery was planning an expansion, and they wanted to understand the feasibility of using renewable energy to power their new manufacturing facility. In a nutshell, they were keen on using less dirty energy to produce more beer (and who wouldn’t want them to succeed?). This project called for understanding system design, projected energy demand, and financial analysis, and therefore demanded 8 of the 18 recruits to work on this project. The team decided to deliver a comprehensive report on the most sustainable options for energy conservation and clean energy consumption.

Deliverable: They presented a diverse portfolio of options that included the use of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to substantiate renewable electricity use and biogas power generation using on-site organic materials. What they finally delivered also included a competitor analysis and marketing strategies for the brewery’s sustainable ambitions.

The recycling center project was an attempt to demonstrate the value the value that the non-profit center was bringing to its neighborhood’. It is mainly a site for “canners” (those who collect cans across the city to be redeemed for the redemption value) to claim their cash, but it has developed a diverse, close-knit community that sets it apart from what one might think of a recycling center. 6 students set out to collect quantitative information to provide data for the center to include in grant proposals and funding reports to benefactors.

Deliverable: The team created a dashboard to monitor things like how much cash the canners were collecting, the diversity of the canners, and what impact the recycling had on landfill diversion. They created a visual report to help communicate this data with various stakeholders.

The campus recycling project turned out to be the most challenging. It required the smallest group of 4 students to understand inefficiencies in recycling operations, including site collection, transfer, separating and sorting, and storage for collection by the Department of Sanitation (DSNY); the only way to do understand was to observe.

Deliverable: With observations and best practices gathered from other universities, the team made recommendations to gather more data and set goals using those metrics and to increase awareness of recycling and waste across all Columbia campuses. Furthermore, we are bringing this project forward to the Spring ‘18 semester because the client requested to expand our scope of the engagement.