Business & Tech, Features

BU climate-focused organizations emphasize importance of action beyond Earth Day

Sustainability came to the forefront of BU discussions this Earth Day. But Boston University business-focused clubs emphasized the need to include cleantech and social justice in these discussions on Earth Day and beyond.

Two business-oriented clubs — BU Energy and Sustainability Club and BU CleanTech Club —  were among BU organizations and clubs who hosted a collaborative event on Wednesday which discussed the significance of sustainability and environmental justice. 

The event, titled “Exploring Environmental Justice: Energy Justice in the Boston Area,” shed light on the critical role sustainability plays in higher education institutions. 

However, the clubs’ work extends beyond this one event and day.

Climate Justice poster
A torn “Climate Justice” poster. Organizations at BU focused on climate change reflect on environmental justice this Earth Week. COURTESY OF MARKUS SPISKE VIA FLICKR

Matthew Tate, vice president of the BU CleanTech Club, said the group welcomes students across majors to environment-related events, including alumni panels and employer-speaking series. 

The club regularly invites professionals in startups, corporations and legislatures who are potential employers of clean technology to speak at such events, Tate said.

For instance, the club invited a guest speaker from Tesla to discuss opportunities in the cleantech field with the group last November.

“It really is cool to have people who are involved in really important and larger corporations as well to come in and speak to undergraduates about their experience and their role in improving and advancing cleantech,” Tate said. “It’s a great way for a number of different majors and interests to come together.”

Tate added that sustainability is important in many fields when moving toward a zero-waste future.

“This is an evolving field that’s going to be growing more and more quickly as we see sustainability challenges unfortunately continue in the future,” Tate said, “but the good news is that there’ll be a lot more opportunities for students who are passionate about sustainability, whether that’s the business, the environmental or the engineering dimensions of those challenges.” 

Kim van Boden, an MBA student at Questrom School of Business and co-president of the Energy and Sustainability Club, said marginalized voices in sustainability need to be represented. 

“Underrepresented communities are typically those that suffer the most from climate change,” Boden said, “and also don’t typically have the greatest access to participate in the solutions.” 

Boden added that these environmental inequalities between communities are why there is a need to increase awareness of environmental justice.

Lisa Tornatore, director at BU Sustainability, wrote in an email there was a need for greater discussions about environmental justice. She added that communities of color and lower-income neighborhoods are more likely to be affected by pollution than white and higher-income areas.

“Climate action is incomplete and ineffective if it doesn’t include everyone,” she wrote. “It is important to have an intersectional and inclusive approach to planning and decision-making in order to create lasting change.”

Neha Chinwalla, the director of environmental affairs for BU Student Government, said her sector of student government aims to promote environmentalism and climate action on campus. 

“Student Government supports the important work that clubs and groups across campus are currently doing for sustainability,” she wrote in an email. “It’s important they have resources and partnerships to connect with through Student Government and to engage with students who are interested in sustainability.”

Like the CleanTech Club, Environmental Affairs also hopes to distribute educational information on sustainability — including through “Sustainability Sundays” on their Instagram — and the committee covers topics from “science communication to environmental justice,” Chinwalla wrote.

Both Tornatore and Chinwalla stressed involvement, with Tornatore pointing to the more than 25 groups on campus that act to increase sustainability awareness.

“I have learned that there is a role for everyone in the climate and sustainability movement,” Chinwalla said. “Whether you are passionate about science or social justice, you are needed in this fight.”

 

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