Students Explore the “Megatrend” of Sustainability with On-Campus Panel

Three experts in sustainability in the government, nonprofit, and business sectors gathered this Friday to form a panel answering students’ questions on careers in sustainability.

Dubbed a “megatrend” by Scott Tew, Executive Director at the Center for Energy Efficiency & Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand, the sustainability movement is opening up new positions in a variety of fields. Mr. Tew spoke about some of the novel ideas that have come out of his company, including Club Car, a golf cart company that is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-wheel, zero-emissions electric vehicles (look for them buzzing around campus!). Ingersoll Rand aims to design products and help customers live more sustainably and reduce their impact on climate change.

Amy Aussieker, Executive Director at Envision Charlotte, was another panelist who, after a variety of career changes, has found herself happily working at a nonprofit that works with the regional economy to promote environmental stewardship. Through four programs on water, air, energy, and waste, Envision Charlotte aims to make Charlotte the most sustainable urban center in the country. By developing electric vehicle programs in the city, developing apps to encourage sustainable behavior, and creating composting programs in restaurants, the organization hopes to reduce the energy use in uptown Charlotte.

Our third panelist was Henry McKoy, businessman and former Assistant Secretary of the NC Department of Commerce. Mr. McKoy currently works at Investment Scientific Equity Partners where sustainability is the bottom line in developing investments. He has even been invited to the White House by President Obama to discuss how sustainable enterprise can fit into the new economy.

During the question and answer section of the discussion, students asked questions on the future of careers in sustainability.  Here are a couple of highlights:

Q: Do you ever feel disconnected from the nature component of your work–from the planet-saving component–when you are in an office all day?

A: No. In Charlotte, with a 40% tree canopy, you can still feel the connection to nature. Working everyday in this environment is a good reminder of the progress that has been made and still can be made.

Q: What are some of the hindrances, or obstacles, to promoting sustainability, particularly in American society?

A: Primarily generational. If the younger employees (the 20-somethings) are inspired to take up a new sustainable practice, they can encourage the higher-ups to do the same. Sometimes it is a matter of finding out what motivates people; is it incentives, power, access to other opportunities? Determining how to energize people to join the movement is one of the key challenges. Elementary school students are a hidden gem! They will take what they have learned about in school and bring these ideas home to convince their parents to recycle, turn off lights, reduce water use when brushing teeth, etc.

Thanks to the above panelists, and especially to Jeff Mittelstadt, Davidson’s Director of Sustainability, for sharing their insight.  Students who are interested in career development opportunities related to sustainability should check out the summer Sustainability Scholars Program and keep an eye on WildcatLink for potential opportunities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *