State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Your Choices Matter

By Michael D’Agostino

The Earth Institute and Emerald Brand recently co-hosted “Your Choices Matter,” a sustainability awareness event at Columbia University’s Alfred Lerner Hall. The event coincided with Climate Week NYC 2015 and was promoted by the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program within the School of International and Public Affairs and by the Sustainability Management Student Association.

ycm_9.22The event was open to Columbia University faculty, alumni, students and people from other New York City academic institutions. Dozens of attendees rotated through the event’s interactive tables and activities, which included a live-stream feed, where individuals provided personal “Your Choices Matter” testimonials; a “tree-building” craft using compostable Emerald Brand plates, where students wrote their “What’s your why?” for pursing environmentally sustainable lifestyles; and educational tables with professional and academic experts discussing topics such as agriculture, energy and water resources. Free food and prizes were also provided, including Emerald Brand t-shirts, BPA-free water bottles and tree-free tissue packs.


Event lead Gabrielle Lindau, director of marketing and communications at Emerald Brand, was enthusiastic about the number of students who attended and heartened by their interest in becoming more knowledgeable consumers and environmental stewards. Education, she said, lies at the center of Emerald Brand, a Long Island-based business that creates compostable, plant-based office and cleaning products using sustainable production materials such as sugarcane byproducts.

“By joining forces with some of today’s youngest experts on climate change, we were not only able to educate people on sustainability, but we also assisted in empowering generations across the board to make responsible choices,” she said. “By making sustainable choices, we are able to conserve the environment, reduce poverty, improve health conditions and ensure economic growth,” Lindau said.ycm_9.22_3

Shaun Hoyte, a part-time student and president of the Sustainability Management Student Association, said he received lots of positive feedback from the faculty and students who attended. They appreciated the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and to learn about new trends and opportunities in the emerging sustainability field.

“The function was about raising awareness, giving each other different perspectives and sharing our stories,” Hoyte said. A student pursing a master of construction administration at Columbia University, for instance, approached Hoyte to say he was eager to share his experience with classmates and to integrate sustainability practices into his future career. The student was particularly impacted by a conversation with green roof expert Alan Burchell, a Columbia University alumnus.

Natalie Unwin-Kuruneri, associate director of education at the Earth Institute, was pleased that the event fostered thoughtful conversations about sustainability throughout the Columbia community and beyond. Dozens of individuals participated online, watching a live-stream feed and engaging through social media.

“It was a pleasure to collaborate with Emerald Brand and the MPA-ESP and SUMA student groups,” Unwin-Kuruneri said. “The enthusiasm and creativity that everyone contributed really helped to make the event successful on all fronts.”

Your choices matter. So “What’s your why?”

Michael D’Agostino is a student in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program at the School of International and Public Affairs.   

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