Lenox project

We have been privileged to work with a town that is strongly committed to sustainable city planning and looking toward long-term environmental development. Our team was able to make a trip to Lenox in October, which provided a wholesome experience of the Town’s true pledge clean air, water, infrastructure, and recreation.

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THE CLIENT

Our client, Lenox, Massachusetts, is a small town of roughly 5,000 people on the western border of MA. The team consists of Fernando Ortiz, Nidhi Singh, Tyler Taba, Marielena Rios, Niko Martecchini, and Emily Lee. Everybody comes from a diverse set of disciplines, such as ship engineering, wastewater management in India, non-profit business administration, and more, which helped bring a well rounded assortment of ideas to the table. Most of the students are new to the consulting world, so having Celine Solsken Ruben-Salama as the faculty advisor was invaluable given her expertise in consulting and CSR reporting. We have been working directly with Lenox’s Town Planner, Gwen Miller, and the Water Department Superintendent, Bob Horn. SUMA Net Impact delivered a project to Lenox last semester, drafting an EMS report with some ideas for the town’s Master Plan. This semester, the scope was narrowed to focus on sustainable water management, specifically water supply, targets, purification, and wastewater treatment. This time around, the project scope included:

  • Creating a monitoring and implementing plan for the targets related to water for the short, medium and long term.
  • Assessing options for processing bio-solids, potentially retrofitting existing infrastructure and making relevant recommendations.
  • Researching alternatives for water purification within the town as well as supply from neighboring towns during drought season.
  • Calculating the GHG footprint using the calculator tool delivered by the previous team.

THE CHALLENGES

Data, data, and … more data. The biggest challenge for our team was compiling enough data to make rational and realistic recommendations for the client. Some areas more than others required significant figures in order to make proper proposals. For example, in the water targets portion of our project, the town was interested in learning how they can meet the needs of the town’s water consumption levels while reducing their water usage rates. It is noteworthy that Lenox see’s a major increase in tourist population during the summer and winter months. Their population doubles from about 5,000 to 9,800-10,000 when tourists visit. This increase obviously stresses water usage for hotels, outdoor recreation, and general water practices. A major dataset that we were hoping to receive included the usage rates from hotels since hotels and B&B’s see a large increase in their reservations during this time. While some of the recommendations included more efficient shower-heads, limits on water usage during certain hours, etc., we believe we could have made more specific suggestions if we had some stronger data on the actual numbers (in gallons) of the town’s relevant industries.

        Another challenge related to data came from either not receiving any data or receiving data too late in the process. This was the principal concern for the GHG footprint portion of our project. Unfortunately, we were never granted access to the town’s GHG portal. This made the footprint nearly impossible to develop. Instead, we focused on expanding the previous semester’s GHG tool, hoping to make it as user friendly as possible so the town would be able to input their numbers and run valuable analyses with the data they already have.

Budgetary constraints and unknowns were the final challenge we confronted. This pertains specifically to the water supply and purification segment of our project. Different water treatment plants have varying costs, and the town is unsure how much money they can budget for a new system. After some conference calls with the Water Superintendent, we opted to run a qualitative, rather than a quantitative, CBA. The town has received some grant funding for water systems, but they were not able to give us a threshold number to meet. In some ways this made the research easier, but we are not confident about how feasible or likely our recommendations are to take action.

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THE SURPRISES

Likely because of their previous experience with SUMA Net Impact, we received a high level of trust and communication with the client. In many cases, they were open to hearing our ideas with little input or command. The client believed in our work and gave us more autonomy than our group expected, which helped to deliver creative and innovative solutions to their requests.

        As aforementioned, the town was also surprisingly committed to sustainable development. They mentioned several times that they are looking to meet Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) standards not only for 2018-2019, but also for 10-20 years down the road. Many of us grew up in areas where town planners are not necessarily looking to promote a sustainable lifestyle as much as an economic return, so we were fortunate to have such a forward thinking client.

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THE RESULTS

In the end, our group will be delivering two designs for an upgraded water purification system. We are endorsing a microfiltration and an ultrafiltration plant for the next system. After researching several alternatives, including MF, UF, dissolved oxygen, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet purification, and chloramination, we concluded that the most realistic option for the town would be micro and ultrafiltration. After reviewing some of their water quality tests, we concluded the town already has clean raw water coming in, so UV, DO, and RO were a bit of an overkill in terms of their water cleaning capabilities and overall costs. The micro system is less expensive and purifies slightly less than ultrafiltration, which would be more practical for a large town with poor drinking water characteristics. Arguably, the most exciting recommendation we have is for biosolids from the wastewater section of our project. Our recommendation is to create a manmade wetland ecosystem to not only reduce the cost of transporting biosolids via trucks, but also to create an outdoor recreational residence for the members of the community and tourists to enjoy.

 

Sustainable Westchester

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THE CLIENT

Sustainable Westchester is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote and develop sustainable frameworks for the County of Westchester, which includes more than 40 municipalities. The organization is set up as a membership system and includes impacts and solution development for each member municipality.

One of Sustainable Westchester’s current initiatives is a study on the improvement of the current food waste processing, primarily handled by incinerators at the moment. The client provided us with seven options to analyze for this study, along with some aspirational examples of solutions. The study was not meant to recommend one specific solution as a winner but rather to conduct a preliminary analysis on the main components of each, reflect on how they might be applied to Westchester and to provide a final overview of which solution or combination thereof could be taken into further consideration for a potential application in one or more of the target municipalities. The seven solutions analyzed were:

  1. Co-digestion in wastewater treatment plant
  2. Large-scale anaerobic digestion
  3. Community-scale anaerobic digestion
  4. Household anaerobic digestion
  5. Large-scale composting
  6. Community-scale composting
  7. Household backyard composting

Our kickoff meeting with the client established the type of analysis to be conducted, options for the deliverable, and any considerations to be made in our analysis. Furthermore, we were provided some contacts for scenarios, while others relied principally on bibliographical research.

THE PROCESS

The process was mainly divided in four steps:

  1. Introductory meetings with the client to lay out work plan and identify what other information or support the client can provide
  2. Research and Information collection:
    1. Interview with experts and stakeholders
    2. Bibliographical / internet research to find comparable solutions in similarly sized areas. This also helped assess the viability of one solution compared to another for Westchester specifically
    3. Interviews with neighbors (one of the team members, Andrew, is a resident and had direct contact with members of the community to gather information)
    4. Interviews with leaders in waste management solutions (e.g. a meeting to collect information from Quasar)
    5. Visiting the Yonkers Wastewater treatment plant
  3. Developing the assessment criteria for each of the seven solutions, in order to:
    1. Ensure that we can efficiently compare them when presenting to the client
    2. Compare different solutions in a similar method, within the context of Westchester county. For example, we conducted a social impact assessment for each city’s potential solution
  4. Assembling research, conclusions and developing the final matrix with supporting information in the report

THE CHALLENGES

Perhaps the most prominent challenge in this project, both at the planning stage and the execution was the comparison of scenarios of radically different sizes. As we were given seven possible solutions for a problem, we attempted to compare our solutions and analyses with metrics such as financial investment, waste inputs and land required among others. This proved to be challenging due to the lack of specific “boundaries” set forth by the client. For example, when assessing whether a large-scale water treatment plant was better than a large-scale composting facility, we were not able to conduct a full analysis as we did not have a decision making position in terms of allocating capital for each investment.

THE SURPRISES

Surprises that we encountered throughout, which turned into important learning experiences, were:

  • Along with its increased technical requirements, how expensive anaerobic digestion is compared to aerobic
  • Assessing several different solutions for a set of municipalities in the same county that have different socioeconomic status and needs, and therefore varying viability for any given solution

THE RESULT

The deliverable for this project is a matrix which presents each of the 7 solutions, along with a series of primary categories of assessment. In each category of assessment is an indicator (High, Medium, Low) which reflects the research conducted for the solution in question in the context of its applicability to Westchester County.

By developing this matrix, we are able to quickly and efficiently present which of the solutions are a potential topic for further discussion, and which are unadvisable even at a preliminary level of analysis. We believe that this output is a useful and concise summary of our analysis and by including it in a longer report we are able to provide more detail as to the logic and data supporting the results indicated in the table.

THE TAKEAWAY

Through this project, our team learned the complexity of developing truly sustainable and viable solutions for urban areas. We gained experiences comparing seemingly incomparable scenarios and solutions with little to no parameters, which enabled us to improve our positions as independent thinkers and promoters of a sustainable mindset throughout our work and lives. Working in a team with diverse academic and professional backgrounds., we were empowered to draw from past experiences and bring new perspectives and ideas to the task at hand. We are pleased to know we have contributed the first step of a meaningful and socially important transition for how an entire county can handle waste management and ultimately benefit its citizens.

Seachange

Measuring, tracking, and communicating the impact of SeaChange Capital Partner’s New York Mergers, Acquisitions, and Collaboration fund.   

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SUMA Net Impact’s Meeting at SeaChange Capital Partners with Jess Cavagnero (picture center).

SeaChange Capital Partners is a nonprofit merchant bank that works to enable transactions that increase the impact of nonprofits. SeaChange’s New York Merger, Acquisition and Collaboration (NYMAC) Fund, offers grants to encourage and support mergers, acquisitions, joint-ventures, and others types of formal, long-term collaborations between nonprofits predominantly serving New York City. To date, NYMAC has provided grants for more than 30 transactions in sectors including education, healthcare, community housing & development, children & youth, arts & culture, anti-poverty & social welfare, civil rights & social justice. The NYMAC Fund is led by SeaChange Partner Jess Cavagnero.

A team of five Columbia Sustainability Management students, Abbigael Foster, Lucas Piazza, Riyana Razalee, Niki Shah, Saiba Sharmeen, and Wei-Ling (Winnie) Sun, worked with Net Impact to provide pro bono services to SeaChange to help them understand the impact that NYMAC has. The team had an array of professional backgrounds including environmental consulting, brand strategy, marketing, sustainable finance, corporate sustainability, and transaction advisory. Faculty Advisor, Professor Satyajit Bose provided guidance to the team throughout the project.

The Deliverables

 The objective of the project was initially to analyze the social and financial impact of NYMAC’s grants and subsequently to develop key metrics to track in addition to developing a case study on the grantee organizations involved one of NYMAC’s transactions. Data pertaining to historical NYMAC transactions including grant letters, grantee interim progress reports, and grantee final reports was collected from SeaChange and analyzed. Unfortunately, after completing this initial data analysis, it was determined that due to the fact that the data was inconsistent, incomplete, and unquantifiable, that it was not possible to draw robust conclusions regarding NYMAC’s impact. After taking into account the time remaining to complete the project, the available data, and SeaChange’s needs and expectations, a new course of action was determined and agreed upon by all parties: the team would develop a robust set of key metrics to track in future transactions and organize them in the form of a tool, in addition to develop a case study template to allow SeaChange to easily promote the impacts of future transactions.

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The Process and Results

 To determine what metrics to include in the tool, the team reviewed various frameworks including the Global Reporting Initiative, IRIS by the Global Compact Investing Network, MSCI, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board. A master list of metrics was compiled and evaluated to ensure that all metrics were: relevant to SeaChange and relevant to all potential grantee organizations, regardless of industry; quantifiable; meaningful; consistent; practical; actionable; and durable. A final list of metrics was developed across four categories: program performance, governance, financial sustainability, and social sustainability. This information was organized into an excel tool in which SeaChange can enter information before and after a transaction to subsequently asses change in the specified metrics and quantify its impact. An accompanying case study template was drafted which includes sections to provide context on the transaction, in addition to presenting the quantifiable metrics and analysis information drawn from the tool.

The Challenges and Learnings

The key challenge faced when preparing the deliverables was identifying and appropriately classifying the most important metrics for SeaChange. The team quickly learned that there was a plethora of metrics that could be been tracked to measure performance across many different categories ranging from governance to social impact. The team found that brainstorming sessions, although sometimes challenging, were the best way to determine the approach and the metrics that were ultimately selected. After the selected metrics were finalized, the team acknowledged how challenging it is to standardize impact measurement across disparate organizations. Despite these challenges, the team came to fully understand the importance of establishing clear KPIs and tracking data consistently. Additionally, as many team members had not previously worked in the non-profit space and this project offered them a humbling glimpse into the sector. From funding to leadership, the challenges nonprofits face are great, but it is inspiring that they nevertheless persevere in the name of advancing their missions.

Pact

PACT

Have you ever wondered how life would be without electricity? Living without electricity is unfathomable for those living in developed countries, especially us as Columbia students.  However, approximately 16% of the global population have limited or no access to electricity. The striking similarity among this 16% is geographic location: over two-thirds of those below the energy-poverty line live in rural areas and the current situation in Myanmar is no different. More than 2/3 of the country’s population lack access to the national electricity grid and rural access is even more limited. To help address this issue, Net Impact took on Pact Innovation as a client. Pact anticipates these rural areas will still lack access despite national efforts to expand the grid. Further, microgrids are posed as an alternative solution for rural areas that cannot access the national grid.

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Economic development becomes increasingly difficult without access to electricity; meanwhile the economic viability of an alternative electricity supply is low without proper demand. Team Myanmar’s mission was to address and stimulate the demand for electricity by supporting micro entrepreneurship in rural Myanmar, with the end goal of increasing GDP growth in selected areas. The team of five came up with comprehensive solutions to stimulate business demand for electricity. Team Myanmar consisted of five members from a diverse array of backgrounds, bringing a breadth of expertise to the project. Crysta, Frances and Pol worked diligently to develop a business template and industry specific business plans as two of the team’s deliverable’s. Their combined expertise in communications, corporate strategy, accounting and international development provided a solid foundation for the task. Team lead, Chanty, and Britt used their expertise in finance, project management and research to develop a guaranteeing financial system for the micro-entrepreneurs and local microfinance institutions. With the guidance of faculty advisor, Phil LaRocco, Team Myanmar developed four tools for Pact in a timely, coherent manner.

Team Myanmar’s journey began on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Columbia University’s Science & Engineering Library where they met to narrow the scope of the project and discuss the first call with their point contact in Myanmar. The purpose of the first call was to attain first hand insight on the current situation in Myanmar. To complete their comprehensive understanding of Myanmar, the team performed extensive research on Myanmar’s geography, demographics, economy, business landscape, electrification status and its social and political stability. After narrowing the scope of this project, Team Myanmar subdivided into two groups: the business template/plan team and the financial system team.

BUSINESS TEAM

In order to build the template model, Crysta used two credible examples of business templates in developing economies – REED Toolkit: A Handbook for Energy Entrepreneurs recommended by Professor LaRocca, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) Improve Your Business/Planning for Your Business Toolkit. The ILO toolkit was developed as part of a management-training program for small businesses, especially in poor populations and developing economies. It is very simple and straightforward – often using images and simple “quizzes” to teach management concepts, which inspired her to create an equally simple and straightforward template that entrepreneurs could use at the onset of their process to create their business and in conjunction with the other tools developed by the team (business models, money flow chart, and guaranteeing system). The flow-chart design is to allow users to work their way through all of the tools through a series of easy-to-answer questions. Pol and Frances used several resources to establish a specific business plan for both irrigation pump and oil expeller businesses. In addition to the ILO or REED catalogues, they used information from IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), cases studies from the Hystra report on scaling energy projects in developing countries as well as some of the results from the Multifunction Platform in West Africa developed by the UNDP. Access to data from the focus areas was a huge barrier for the business team, yet they countered this by developing a model that is applicable in different types of settings.

FINANCIAL TEAM

Pact asked Team Myanmar to research and recommend a guaranteeing system based on financial institutions’ credit assessment. Myanmar’s microfinance system is still in its nascent stages and faces internal and external challenges. The Microfinance Law passed in 2011 has imposed numerous restrictions making it extremely difficult for local and foreign owned MFIs in Myanmar to secure funding from larger institutions. Moreover, the microfinance institutions lack collateral and adequate operational capacity, impeding the success and growth of these institutions. Individuals and communities in need of a proper financial system are also affected. On an individual level, access to financing is extremely difficult, even for those with viable business models. Eighty percent of Myanmar’s population has little or no access to credit.

Chanty and Britt tackled this by researching the current state of Myanmar’s microfinance system on an industry and individual level. They additionally researched best lending practices among international microfinance institutions as ranked by Forbes and the Mekong Business Initiative, which is a joint advisory facility of the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Australia. This research was used to compile a “borrower criteria checklist” and an “MFI guaranteeing system.” Amidst confusion around what constitutes as a “guaranteeing system,” the financial team developed two tools: one that can be used by a borrower and a tool useful for MFIs. The former deliverable is in the form of a yes/no survey, listing numerous individual and group lending standards that must be met in order to secure a loan. The latter deliverable will ensure MFIs can obtain funding from larger institutions, ultimately trickling down to individuals within society.

TEAM CHALLENGES

Team Myanmar experienced significant challenges throughout the project. Lack of access to hard data was a major challenge to the project’s progress and contact with the client was limited. Understanding what constitutes as a “guaranteeing system” and an “energy-based enterprise” was difficult given lack of clarity from the client. Nevertheless, the team’s goal was achieved by developing tools that are easy to use and able to facilitate training and education for a population of low literacy.

Less Trash in the Trash: Waste Auditing at Columbia University

Spring 2018

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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.

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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

Brewing a Sustainable Future: Elysian

Spring 2018 Project

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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 Projects

Fall 2018 Projects

The Board at SUMA Net Impact has set up fascinating projects for you to take on, this Fall. You can now get involved, gain valuable experience with sustainability projects and make a tangible impact.

  1. Sustainable Westchester – Food waste-processing feasibility analysis.
  2. Town of Lenox – Implementation plan for water-related targets.
  3. Sea Change Capital Partners – Financial and Impact analysis of a NYC based impact investing fund.
  4. Pact Innovation – Supporting renewable energy-based micro entrepreneurship in rural Myanmar.

Stay tuned to Facebook for our most up-to-date information of Fall 2018 projects or email us at suma@netimpact.org