Business & Tech, Features

BU’s CleanTech on track to combat environmental harms through green tech

Boston University CleanTech Club is harnessing the power of green technology to create positive impacts for the environment.

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Front-end code. The Boston University CleanTech club is launching two green technology initiatives – a carpool web application “RhettRides” and an energy conservation project “Light Switch” – to combat environmental harms. ILLUSTRATION BY CONOR KELLEY/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

CleanTech President Charles McGinn, a junior in the College of Engineering, said the club focuses on “changing the engineering that we’re using now into better and more sustainable and cleaner and more environmentally friendly solutions.”

“When you think of sustainability, you don’t often think of technology,” McGinn said. “But for us, it’s more about being innovative and being sustainable with our innovation, with the tech that we’re creating and the tech that we’re making better.”

With these principles in mind, BU CleanTech Club is working to launch two new initiatives — RhettRides and Light Switch — that are designed to encourage more socially responsible behavior and combat environmental harms. RhettRides is in finishing stages, while Light Switch has recently begun organizing.

Having been in the works for a couple of years, RhettRides will be a platform for students to coordinate carpools with other students. Whether for a ride home or a weekend trip, students will be able to travel and “share the cost, share the carbon emissions and just share a fun ride together,” McGinn said.

With the help of BU’s Sustainability Innovation Seed Grant, the group hosted a program last summer to conceptualize and program a RhettRides web app, which is in the final stages of production, McGinn said.

Lekhya Sathi, the treasurer of CleanTech, leader of the two projects and junior at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said, “hopefully, it’ll just become a regular thing that a lot of BU students use.” She also said CleanTech is also in the early stages of a project to conserve energy at BU — Light Switch.

“We noticed that [in] a lot of BU buildings, the lights are kept on even when no one’s using them,” Sathi said. “The aim of this project is to collect some data on that and work with facilities to get those turned off when no one’s using them.”

She said that this might be through manually turning them off or installing automatic motion sensors.

“It’s really nice to be able to look out over the Boston skyline and see all the lights lit up at night,” McGinn said. “And then you think about it, and you’re like, ‘Wait a second, those lights are coming from rooms and buildings that are not being used.’”

Richard Stuebi, an affiliated faculty member with the BU Institute for Sustainable Energy and the club’s faculty advisor, said technology serves as both the cause and solution in environmental issues.

“Today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems, and all the problems we’re having … as a result of climate change were due to a tremendous acceleration in human economic progress and standards of living around the world,” he said. “Technology is a potential path out of this climate change conundrum that we’ve found ourselves in the corner of.”

McGinn said that society can “turn it around.”

“We can use technology to combat the things that technology has done by replacing old technology with new technology that actually does the opposite and … heals the earth,” he said.

He said that the club hosts members from all different majors and career paths. The group comes together “for an appreciation of technology and an appreciation for innovation.”

“We like to be a focus for that intersectionality,” he said.

Stuebi said technology is not the only solution to addressing and combating climate change.

“As a society, we should be responding to climate change, and in my opinion, it should be, if not a very high carbon price, some sort of policy measures like carbon caps and carbon emission reduction trading programs,” he said. “Then that will unleash the innovation and spirit of the global economy to respond accordingly.”

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