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A summer of sustainability

July 2013

Read on to learn about sustainability related internships and what NU students have gotten from their experiences.

Company/organization: General Electric (GE) Aviation

Position: Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: I am working to improve the standards of personal safety and waste disposal at a GE electronics manufacturing plant. Ensuring employee safety saves resources on medical expenses and time lost, and ensuring this plant's compliance with waste regulations keeps hazardous waste out of our natural groundwater systems.

Main duties: I am responsible for sending out weekly reports and communications about safety hazards in the workplace, as well as developing safety compliance sessions for our annual EHS training. I also review regulations for plant safety and waste disposal, and I meet with other employees to make improvements in these areas.

Duration of position: June - October 2013

What you learned: I was not familiar with the role of a EHS lead at a manufacturing plant. I have learned communication with fellow employees is crucial to meeting their needs. I have also learned the necessary techniques for successful safety and conservation for projects.

Best part of the internship: I have greatly enjoyed meeting the members of the GE Aviation community and designing training modules that make somewhat tedious training information more exciting.  I love incorporating America's Funniest Home Videos into our talks!

Name: Lizzy Conger

Major(s) and minor(s): Environmental Engineering major.

Dream job/goal and why: I hope someday to use my communication and networking experiences from this internship and apply them to a more technical setting, such as developing renewable energy sources, especially biofuels. Developing new technologies is insignificant if the need for them is not effectively communicated to others.

lizzy conger

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Company/organization: nuCuisine (within Sodexo)

Position: nuCuisine Sustainability Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: Many of our most pressing sustainability issues can be mitigated through better food production practices. As a large institution, Northwestern can use its' buying power to promote a better food system.

Main duties: Tracking the amount of local, organic, fair trade, and humane food purchased across campus, exploring how to increase that amount, and partnering with student groups to expand nuCuisine's sustainability initiatives.

Duration of position: May 2011 - Present

What you learned: Various ways to define “sustainability” in regards to food, evaluating vendor practices, and Microsoft Excel.

Best part of the internship: Being able to explore my own ideas and projects and engaging others on sustainability issues.

Name: Paige Humecki

Major(s) and minor(s): Environmental Engineering major with an ISEN Certificate in Energy and Sustainability.

Dream job/goal and why: Working to build a food system that's healthy, sustainable, and secure.

Paige Humecki

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Company/organization: The 1:1 Movement

Position: Summer Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: The 1:1 Movement is located in San Diego and devoted to raising awareness of sustainability issues in the five main areas of waste, water, energy, transportation, and food. They teach sustainability through an interdisciplinary lens with a bottom up, top down approach (educating elementary students through business professionals).

Main duties: Expanding The Last Straw Pledge by forming and maintaining relationships with restaurants to reduce unnecessary waste, teaching sustainability to students at year round schools, grant writing, writing sustainability-related blog posts, and expanding 1:1’s social media.

Duration of position: June - September 2013

What you learned: I have learned that the effective way to promote sustainability is to make people feel like they are part of the solution, not the problem. Every action matters because it impacts an outcome in a 1:1 ratio.

Best part of the internship: The best part of my internship was signing new restaurants onto The Last Straw Pledge, knowing that each new restaurant will divert over 18,000 straws from the landfill each year.  

Name: Veronica Lee

Major(s) and minor(s): Psychology major and Business Institutions and Environmental Policy minors.

Dream job/goal and why: I don’t have one particular dream job in mind, but I hope it would lead me to travel and mobilize my passions for nature, architecture, and food.

Veronica Lee

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Company/organization: Clean Energy Trust

Position: Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: The Clean Energy Trust (CET) accelerates the development of Midwest clean energy businesses by connecting entrepreneurs, researchers, and early stage companies with the expertise and capital needed to become sustainable. By leveraging the region’s world-class research institutions, corporations, and financial firms to cultivate a clean energy ecosystem, CET attracts top researchers and entrepreneurs to invigorate our region’s economy.

Main duties: I will be writing content for the Clean Energy Exchange, as well as driving user activity, product development strategy, and revenue opportunities for the Exchange. I will also be assisting with new project development including grant proposals, as well as data collection and market research for the Illinois Clean Energy Jobs Census.

Duration of position: June - September 2013

Name: Mark Silberg

Major(s) and minor(s): Philosophy and Environmental Policy and Culture majors with an ISEN Certificate in Energy and Sustainability.

Dream job/goal and why: University president, professor, and best-selling author, while owning a renewable energy venture capital firm, negotiating global sustainable development for the United Nations, and serving as a U.S. Senator.

Mark Silberg

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Company/organization: U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

Position: Federal Policy Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: My department works to align federal policy objectives with best practices in the green building industry. In general, USGBC believes in better buildings that compliment the environment and provide healthier spaces for our communities.

Main duties: Researching energy efficiency legislation at the federal level (particularly focused on the Shaheen Portman Act), writing letters and policy briefs, and attending Congressional hearings and meetings with member companies.

Duration of position: June - September 2013

What you learned: By working in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum space, I've experienced first-hand how the integrative design process considerably boosts employee productivity.  My takeaway from this internship is a testimony to USGBC's advocacy for the triple bottom line-- people, planet, and profit.

Best part of the internship: It’s exciting to be at the whim of Congress, whether that's tracking major legislation or strategizing how we can get our word out to them.  I also enjoy picking herbs off of the indoor garden in our office to spice up my sandwich.

Name: Cody Warner

Major(s) and minor(s): Economics major and Environmental Policy and Culture minor.

Dream job/goal and why: I want to go into finance for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency retrofits.  It's important to unlock capital for these projects, especially because current tax incentives dating back to the 1960’s highly favor conventional sources of energy.

Cody Warner

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Company/organization: Department of Energy Office of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Policy and Compliance

Position: Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: The NEPA Office analyzes federal projects from an environmental standpoint to ensure that government actions comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. NEPA uses existing environmental regulations to ensure the sustainability of each project's affected region.

Main duties: Proofread environmental impact statements and submit suggestions/changes prior to publication, compile data on past NEPA documents and present information coherently (ie. graphs, tables), and prepare relevant articles for office's upcoming “Lessons Learned Quarterly Report.”

Duration of position: June - August 2013

What you learned: I've come to appreciate the NEPA process of preparing environmental impact statements, because it holds the federal government to similar environmental standards as the government holds to the private sector. Nevertheless, I have quickly determined that a career in government or environmental regulation may not be up my alley.

Best part of the internship: Learning the in's and out's of the Department of Energy.

Name: Wes Lien

Major(s) and minor(s): Chemistry and Environmental Science majors and Economics minor.

Dream job/goal and why: I would love to work for a clean technology company, like Tesla Motors, immediately after graduation. I'm beginning to believe that the greatest benefits to the environment are derived not through government regulation, but through businesses that operate with an environmental, sustainable, and ethical conscience.

Wes Lien

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Company/organization: City of Evanston Office of Sustainability

Position: Zero Waste Summer Camp Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: I crafted a sustainability curriculum for youth attending Evanston summer camps. Campers were able to learn about a wide variety of "green" topics, including recycling, water scarcity, transportation, local food, composting, and green design, just to name a few.

Main duties: I was tasked with developing a sustainable curriculum for the Fleetwood Jourdain summer camp, maintaining an Evanston WasteBusters blog tracking our progress, conducting activities with the campers, and creating a final report on the entire process.

Duration of position: June - August 2012

What you learned: I learned that sustainable education is really a community endeavor. I was so encouraged by the way local businesses and organizations were willing to partner with us in teaching young people about sustainability. I also learned that it is important to be flexible and to celebrate the small victories.

Best part of the internship: The best part of the job was seeing the campers get excited about sustainability and really understand why it is important to take care of the planet. I will never forget the day one camper stood up, pumping his arms shouting, "We should compost!"

Name: Jody Bianchini

Major(s) and minor(s): Social Policy major with an Environmental Policy and Culture minor.

Dream job/goal and why: I would love to work on crafting sustainable agricultural policy, because I believe that a healthy food system is critical to both the protection of human rights and a thriving planet.

Jody Bianchini

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Company/organization: White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)

Position: Communications Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: All of CEQ's work is related to environmental, energy, and sustainability issues that affect the U.S. As a communications intern, I helped develop messaging around the issues that reflected President Obama's environmental stance.

Main duties: My primary duties included preparing briefing material, creating a daily environmental newsletter, creating press lists for events and rollouts, as well as drafting press releases and media advisories.

Duration of position: June - September 2012

What you learned: I didn't have a communications background before starting the internship, so I learned a lot about the press, how to pitch a story, and how to write about issues that are consistent with past messaging but incorporates new developments that are always happening around the country. Also, CEQ is an interesting federal office, it is very small and nestled in the executive branch, so there was a lot of exposure to how the executive branch operated, which offered a high-level view of the federal government.

Best part of the internship: Bowling in the Truman Bowling Alley, exploring the West Wing, Bo (the President’s dog), Marine One Landing, and tending to Michelle Obama's vegetable garden.

Name: Amanda Meyers

Major(s) and minor(s): Political Science and Government major with a Chinese Language and Culture minor.

Dream job/goal and why: I'm considering a few different career routes at this time: working a C-level job in a big corporation or working in the executive branch of the federal government or diplomacy. Overall, I find these positions/routes fascinating but more specifically in relation to sustainability, I believe that people who have significant decision-making power for the private sector and public sector have significant decision-making power relating to sustainability initiatives, and that's important to me.

Amanda Meyers

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Company/organization: Dow Chemical

Position: Co-op Process Safety Specialist Engineer

How this position relates to sustainability: With a focus on process safety, I also dealt with environmental, health, and safety (EHS), which are interconnected within the chemical manufacturing world. I worked to ensure chemical containment for the safety of facility staff. Additionally, I networked with the sustainability leaders at Dow to learn about sustainability efforts going on throughout the company.

Main duties: As a Process Safety Specialist my role was to scope out new projects to help our production facility achieve compliance with new safety regulations related to normal operating conditions and emergency situations. The driving principle for my facility was containment as we worked with many dangerous chemicals to make our products.

Duration of position: June - December 2012

What you learned: I learned that while most of the chemical industry has a very checkered past when it comes to sustainability, many companies like Dow are working extremely hard to lead current innovations and drive reductions in carbon emissions. I was excited to work in the industry that has such a massive carbon footprint and therefore our efforts will have large impacts.

Best part of the internship: The best part of working in a large company is getting exposed to so many different roles that are available after graduation. It also helped me understand where sustainability fits into large manufacturing organizations.

Name: Josh Kaplan

Major(s) and minor(s): Chemical Engineering major with a Environmental Policy and Culture minor.  

Dream job/goal and why: My dream job would either be the Vice President of sustainability for a large chemical or energy company or working in consulting with many of those types of businesses. Ideally I would like to have a job where I can work with a wide variety of people to have a large impact on global sustainability.

Josh Kaplan

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Company/organization: Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT)

Position: Policy Intern

How this position relates to sustainability: CNT advocates for better energy efficiency policy within the Chicago and Illinois regions. My job was to help the Policy Director stay abreast of new developments in utility policy and help CNT Energy develop an informed position on new policies.

Main duties: Research and analyze state and federal energy utility policies.

Duration of position: September - December 2011

What you learned: I was exposed to the energy production and regulation industry here in Chicago first-hand, and I was able to see how the various regulatory agencies work together and against each other. The biggest thing I learned was that our energy infrastructure needs to be completely overhauled for any substantial progress to be made.

Best part of the internship: The best part of the internship was getting to work with people who were really smart and passionate about energy efficiency.

Name: Alicia White

Major(s) and minor(s): Environmental Sciences major and Chemistry, Political Science, and History minors.

Dream job/goal and why: My dream job would involve working on a comprehensive redesign of the American electric grid to make it truly connected across the country. For energy efficiency enthusiasts, this is the “holy grail” because it would allow renewables like solar and wind to be a viable source of baseload energy, and would greatly increase efficiency.

Alicia White

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