State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Speaker Series Guest Discusses Green Solutions

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development was pleased to host Margaret Oloriz, a staff engineer within Arcadis Water Division as part of the Fall 2019 Speaker Series. Oloriz has six years of experience working with public and private institutions on infrastructure and technology transformations. During her talk, Oloriz shared her experiences and knowledge in designing green infrastructure solutions to serve local communities.

Photo: Cari Shimkus

Arcadis is a leading design and consultancy firm for natural and built assets. The company started in the Netherlands but now has offices all over the globe. Oloriz began the discussion by highlighting a few of the benefits of working with a global company, such as international training opportunities and exposure to diverse teams. As a global company, Arcadis works in different regions to find green solutions to local problems. The green solutions are comprehensive approaches to urban development planning and design that make sure cities and businesses can grow in as sustainable a way as possible. For example, in Florida, Arcadis helps breweries develop an efficient water usage system. More locally, Arcadis helps develop more resilient water infrastructure in New York City.

Oloriz gave details about her experience in New York. After Superstorm Sandy, building climate resilience on the east coast became paramount and attention turned toward strengthening the region’s ability to recover from and prevent disturbances from natural events in the future. Arcadis assumed the task of developing strategies for stormwater management to mitigate chronic flooding and instances of combined sewer overflows. Oloriz emphasized that solutions should focus on improving the lives of people, as environmental events directly affect communities’ and citizens’ well-being. For example, reducing combined sewer overflow events ensures clean water and safe housing, which are critical in our daily lives.

Direct interaction with communities is imperative in developing and tailoring strategies that deal with today’s most pressing issues, Oloriz added. Each problem has a different solution since environmental and cultural contexts vary by region. In order to succeed, Oloriz underscored the need for collaboration, citing her team’s experience conducting surveys in project sites, leading community meetings, and collecting soil samples. When communities are given the opportunity to be involved in the design and planning process, solutions are often more meaningful and have a longer-lasting impact. For example, through community involvement, Arcadis was able to gauge the need for parking areas and sidewalks and gained support from the community. Arcadis’ work exemplifies the mission of sustainability — working with people and the environment in concert to improve and safeguard life on our planet.

Photo: Cari Shimkus

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 Erin Morey from New York City Department of Environmental Protection on November 15. 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.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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