The fifth MIT Sustainability Summit is an annual event that has grown to include nearly 300 professionals, academics, and students, with a focus of reflecting the urgency of innovation, leadership, and change at numerous scales, from the individual to the firm, and from the city to the world, in the pursuit of global sustainability. It also reflects the fact that most sustainability interventions are scale-specific. Actions that can effectively make progress at one scale are impractical or impossible at another.
As one of the world’s preeminent research universities, MIT and its five schools — science, engineering, architecture and planning, humanities and social science, and management — are in a unique position to bring business and societal leaders together with academic researchers and students to address challenges in sustainability.
I joined the MIT Sustainability Summit team in 2010 because I wanted to expand its reach beyond the Sloan School of Management and to the rest of the school, use technology and graphic design to help market not just the conference but sustainability as a concept and responsibility of all academic leaders, as well as learn to make conscious sustainability-minded decisions about the marketing and logistic aspects of a large event rather than outsource them. Some of the team decisions I took part in proposing and implementing during my time on the MIT Sustainability Summit:
- Using clean, minimalist, white-background design to minimise toner and ink usage
- Reducing printed advertisements to a bare minimum, printing on recycled paper, and using electronic means of promotion to the greatest extent possible. We also found electronic means far more effective, so it was also worthwhile to waste less time with printed materials.
- We reduced our printed conference program to from 16 pages in 2010 to 2 pages in 2011 by putting speaker biographies online; since they were being introduced to everyone before their speeches by moderators at the conference, we felt it was not necessary to waste so much paper to print them. In 2014 I wrote a fully-featured, HTML5-based, mobile accessible online program and we eliminated the printed program altogether except for a small number of copies for users that did not have smart phones.
- All-vegetarian meals at the conference for lower carbon footprint since 2011
- On-site compost bins and compostable flatware since 2013.