State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Building Greener Urban Environments Through Solar Energy

By Minji Ko

Photo: Cari Shimkus

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development held the first Speaker Series of the semester with Solar One, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to design and deliver innovative education, training, and technical assistance that fosters sustainability and resiliency in diverse urban environments.

Solar One’s Co-Director of Programs, Sarah Pidgeon, introduced Solar One’s various programs to promote solar energy. With diverse approaches, Solar One strives to establish a city-wide discourse about solar energy. As an example, Pidgeon discussed Solar One’s Green Design Lab (K-12) program, which introduces hands-on environmental experiences and provides clean technology education to teachers and students in New York City and beyond.

As the discussion went on, Pidgeon emphasized the importance of partnership in making bigger changes in communities. “If we have any chance of solving the world’s largest issues, we have to work together,” she said. “There is no single program or company that can tackle challenges like climate change on their own. It is all about leveraging strengths and collaboration.”

Pidgeon encouraged students to think about innovative and collaborative models to address pressing issues in communities, presenting Solar One’s unique model, Here Comes Solar, as an example. With this program, Solar One helps to make discounted solar energy subscriptions available to the people through Community Solar, and partners with affordable housing providers, property owners, and community-based organizations to help make solar projects happen.

Photo: Cari Shimkus

Pidgeon also discussed how local policy can add momentum to social movements. For instance, New York State’s recent climate bill has accelerated job creation in the renewable energy field and, in response, Solar One is now working to secure job placements for graduates of its workforce training programs.

By the end of the event, Pidgeon expressed Solar One’s interest in involving students in their volunteer and internship opportunities, and echoed the importance of engaging many stakeholders to tackle climate change and other global sustainability challenges.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development hosts speaker series every semester to provide opportunities for students to explore professional development related to sustainability and the environment. The next Speaker Series will host Margaret Oloriz from Arcadis, a global design and consulting company on October 25.To learn more about the program, please visit our website or contact Program Manager Cari Shimkus at

Minji Ko is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. She is an MPA candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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