Alumni Profile: Summer Hanson '16

Summer Hanson
Posted on October 22, 2018

Major: Public and International Affairs

Professional Role and Organization: Chief Executive Officer, Emeraldology

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 run a website/media company called Emeraldology that is all about sustainability. We call it a "guide to Earth-friendly living" because all of our content is meant to help viewers with simple actionable steps to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. We are based in Seattle (a.k.a. "the Emerald City"), and currently have content geared toward a general audience as well as specific guides for people based in Seattle. We hope to expand to new cities soon!
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.