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Land of opportunity

“Sustainability is an endless land of opportunity,” says Brad Cray ’15, a business and psychology double major. He co- founded a green business with sociology major and business minor John Manning ’14, thanks to last fall’s entrepreneur- ship course taught by Cathy Hill, Harder Professor of Busi- ness Administration. In developing their business plan for Evolv Composting, Cray and Manning recall, “One of the harder tasks was forecasting the financials. We had to do de- tailed market research on expected profits and losses, in part using Skidmore’s business databases.” But the course work paid off, and “our business-model canvass greatly assisted us in entering the Saratoga Springs marketplace.” As Cray puts it, “Once we had combined our sustainable vision of food- waste handling in Saratoga Springs with a viable business plan, it was a no-brainer to continue the business after the class ended.” By summer, they had lined up more than a dozen residential customers and the Comfort Kitchen restau- rant (where Manning has worked as a cook). Evolv supplies its customers with specialized, airtight con- tainers and with the right microbes to ferment a wide range of food scraps and even paper towels and packaging that typically go to land- fills. The centuries-old Japanese bokashi method that turns it all into nutrient-rich soil is quick and odor- less and can be done indoors. Clients can have the compost col- lected or keep it for themselves. Evolv aims “to help close the door

on food waste and get vital nutrients back into food produc- tion through widespread composting that is convenient for everyone.”

Now that they’ve been businessmen for several months, Cray and Manning credit their business plan with “provid- ing us a great basis, though we’ve pivoted from some of our initial ideas about the operations.” They say that after “help- ing immensely” with their in-class planning work, Hill “has since proven even more helpful by mentoring us and intro- ducing us to the larger Capital Region clean-tech business community.” In fact, the duo signed up for the first New York Executive Clean Energy Leadership workshop, a new program spearheaded by Hill with support from New York State’s Energy Research and Development Authority. The NY- EXCEL institute brought business professionals to Skidmore this summer for an executive “boot camp” that continues this fall with visits to clean-tech firms around the state.

The academic habitat

At Skidmore, sustainability is remarkably adaptable and widespread. First-year students encounter it in several Scrib- ner Seminars. It’s a policy challenge in “The Adirondacks:

Forever Wild?” It’s a global social issue in “Without Bound? An Exploration of Human Population Growth.” And it’s a psychological, even spiritual question in “Human Dilem- mas.”

Michael Marx, an English professor who has directed



Skidmore’s environmental studies program, introduces fresh- men to the topic in his honors expository-writing class “What is Sustainability?” His students question it as a buzz- word or marketing ploy and also explore its “triple bottom line” of environment, economics, and social justice. Of course, sustainability largely grew out of the ES pro- gram, offering a minor since 1992 and a major since 2002. Its former faculty director Karen Kellogg—who is currently associate dean for infrastructure, sustainability, and civic engagement—is pleased that ES “is now the sixth largest major on campus, and many students combine it with other majors and minors.” The more students, the better, she says, since “every student should understand why it is so critical to be thinking about all the issues related to our burgeoning human population and limited resources.” Skidmore currently offers some 70 courses with an express focus on sus- tainability—from “Political Ecology,” with service learning that recently helped Saratoga Springs draw up its first urban-forest master plan, to “En- vironmental Education,” including curriculum design for elementary schools, homeless services, and a wildlife preserve—and as many as 200 courses that touch on sustainability.

The management and business department recently re- designed its curriculum to bring environmental issues more explicitly into more courses. Business professor Ela Lepkow - ska-White, who also directs the international affairs pro- gram, explains, “It’s broader than the environment. It’s also ethics in general, principles of economics and government.” She and her colleagues want students to think about how each business decision affects people and the environment. One of the department’s “six dimensions for studying management and business in context” is called Natural En- vironment and Sustainability, a course of study that helps students “to learn about close connections between business and the natural environment in areas such as resource deple- tion, air and water pollution, and environmental risk fac- tors” and to explore green technologies, renewable energy, and the role of government regulation. “I believe that busi- ness can be very beneficial for society if we do things the right way,” Lepkowska-White says. She talks with students about the profitability of sustainable business—“you save money and resources and you also gain another target mar- ket, yes?”—and describes it as not just respecting the envi- ronment but “being a good businessperson in other ways,

FALL 2014 SCOPE 21

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