Alumni Profile: Summer Hanson '16

Oct. 22, 2018

Major: Public and International Affairs

Professional Role and Organization: Co-owner of Eco Collective

How do you define sustainability? 

Dictionary.com's definition is a good place to start: Sustainability is "the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance." 

To me, this means being able continue a behavior indefinitely without causing harmful externalities that would prevent future generations or other people from practicing the same behavior. Tapping into infinite resources (like the sun) rather than finite (fossil fuels) and composting (letting a tomato decompose and turn back into a tomato) are good examples of sustainable behaviors that could continue indefinitely. 

How does your work relate to sustainability and how did Princeton prepare you for your role?

Currently, I am the co-owner of Eco Collective, a Seattle-based company that offers sustainable alternatives to everyday essentials. I am the head of e-commerce and product research & development.
Princeton prepared me for this role by educating me in Environmental studies. I learned the significance of environmental issues, political and economical solutions, and how to research and communicate such topics. Most notably, I took a class called "The Environment Can Be Funny" taught by Jenny Price, and interned with the Princeton Office of Sustainability, both of which had a lighthearted approach to communicating a heavy subject. I use this approach in my work today.

What advice would you offer to students seeking to focus on or incorporate sustainability in their careers?

Stay informed and engaged in the environmental movement, no matter your job. Use this perspective to think creatively about how you can incorporate sustainability into your work, or even spot new business opportunities. Environmentalism is a personal choice and can be proactively applied in infinite ways, regardless of your job title. In many cases, the sustainable choice may not be the obvious one (due to our societal norms and linear economy), but can often have great financial returns, for instance by using resources more effectively, or by appealing to conscious consumers.