Moving the Needle: Engaging College Students on Climate Solutions

Reprinted from Drawdown Georgia's Weekly Blog

“We’ve always done it this way” was declared to be the most dangerous phrase in business by Forbes in 2019. It’s certainly the most dangerous phrase when it comes to climate change. As the IPCC has demonstrated, a business-as-usual approach will leave us high and not-so-dry in 2100 as our atmosphere warms 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. So what does it take to overcome this inertia to change? I competed in the Carbon Reduction Challenge sponsored by the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business and the Georgia Tech Global Change Program in 2018, and learned that sometimes all it takes is a stubborn college student with a calculator.

Two years ago, Chick-fil-A’s Natural Resources Program Lead Stephanie Armistead and I helped the Sustainability and Design and Construction teams coordinate to install dishwashers and LED parking lot lights at restaurants. The internal business case for these initiatives had not considered the reduction in the restaurant’s resource use footprint. For example, the energy needed to heat water for dishwashing in restaurant sinks. So we dove deep and calculated the energy and water savings to create a stronger internal business case.  When we did the math, it was impressive: The initiative saves the company approximately $3.5M and 736 metric tons of carbon per year. This experience got me hooked on hunting carbon. Now graduated and building solar power plants for a living, I’ve started an initiative called the MoveTheNeedle Project which aims to create as many stubborn college students as possible.

Read the full blog here.