While the United States is still exploring and refining renewable energy options, many other nations have already integrated various technologies. The GREEN program, which organizes short adventures around the world, challenges students and young professionals to learn more about renewable energies and sustainable practices by experiencing them firsthand.
“The GREEN program is an organization that believes education about sustainability is key,” explained Daniel Liu, an undergraduate student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. “However, this education is incomplete if we just do it in a classroom.”
Liu recently completed a 10-day program in Iceland, where he took classes on sustainable practices and then engaged in trips to ice tunnels, old hydroelectric power plants, and other sights around the country.
“There are a lot of aspects of Iceland that are very progressive,” he explained. “Everyone in Iceland is very proud of the fact that they think sustainably and that they protect the environment that Mother Nature has given them.” However, even though Iceland utilizes a tremendous amount of geothermal and hydroelectric power, there is still debate about using so much energy in the first place.
“There is still a cost no matter what kind of energy you are using,” Liu said. Extensive aluminum production and other industrial processes account for most of the country’s energy expenditures, which is a source of controversy amongst the people.
Participants stayed in hostels near the Reykjavik University and then commuted to various sites. Because the program focuses on energy sources used in the host countries, there are often trips to real-world sites. For instance, students engaged in a class on biofuels coupled with a trip to a rapeseed farm where they learned more information about the process.
“We also paired education with exploring Iceland. We were always learning about what we were seeing,” Liu recalled. Among other activities, he also visited the Reykjadalur Hot Springs—a local favorite formed at the intersection of glacial water and the natural springs.
In addition to renewable energy technologies, the GREEN Program also focuses on sustainable practices around the world. There are currently programs offered in Peru (clean water focus), Hawaii (sustainable food production focus), and Japan (safely transitioning from nuclear energy focus). All programs are currently 10 days long.
“A lot of students are trying to get the job and travel experience at the same time,” Liu explained. “So we give them a short-term adventure abroad so that they can fit it into spring break or summer in a busy schedule.”
While the GREEN program does not currently offer course credit through CSM due to the short duration of the classes, program participants gain both a professional network and a new community through the adventure.
He explained, “You join an alum network and we have a career network set up so that companies can see who went on those adventures and who is passionate about specific aspects of sustainable development.”
For instance, Liu always knew that he wanted to incorporate sustainability somewhere in his career, but the GREEN program challenged him to consider making it his main focus. After he completes the ETM (Engineering Technology Management) program at Mines, he hopes to start his own company that helps other companies implement more sustainable practices. Above all else, however, Liu aims to use his experience with climate change to challenge other students to make a difference too.
“Being able to get out there and see those different landscapes made me think that I am on a program that is here to protect them,” Liu stated. “Sustainable development is fighting for a planet that not many have taken on the battle for.”