BY SYDNEY ZUCKERMAN
Release date: April 3, 2019
Ever heard of The Green Program? I hadn’t either. Fortunately, one of their student ambassadors is at our University and took some time to fill us in on what the program entails, who is eligible, and why the experience has made him even more passionate about working on sustainability issues.
Daniel Petrov, a freshman engineering student, had recently returned from one of The Green Program’s trips in Iceland when we sat down to chat. Last semester, Daniel had received an email through the engineering department that promoted The Green Program as a short-term study abroad experience that students could incorporate into their winter break. Immediately after returning from Iceland, Daniel enthusiastically applied to become an ambassador to promote the experience at UB and help others get involved in sustainability work because it was better than he could imagine!
The Green Program is a Philadelphia based independent organization that offers trips to Iceland, Peru, and Japan for any university student looking to learn about and work on sustainability issues while traveling abroad. Each trip is associated with a different sustainability theme. According to The Green Program’s website: the Iceland trips focus on “renewable energy and sustainability,” water “resource management and sustainable practices” are highlighted in Peru, and an experience in Japan is dedicated to “disaster mitigation and nuclear to renewable transitions.”
The Program was established in 2009 by students who wanted to provide experiential learning to people like themselves who were passionate about the environment and sustainability, but also wanted a chance to explore the world. Ten years later, the program has become a popular opportunity for students across the globe like Daniel Petrov.
Daniel’s trip to Iceland this past December included 30 students from both American and international universities which he lists as a highlight of the program. Students stayed both at hostels and in guest houses, and studied at Reykjavik University. Each morning, The Green Program group was bussed to Reykjavik University to attend lectures, engage in discussion, and work together on capstone projects that were presented at the trip’s conclusion.
The Green Program capstone projects consist of about 3 or 4 students who develop a solution to a sustainable problem associated with their trip’s theme. Capstone projects also must be framed through the lens of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which coincidentally, UB Sustainability also uses to frame and justify the work they do. Daniel’s group developed an innovative idea for turning wasted or unused plastic into a concrete replacement. This plastic road material would be permeable, and would direct some of the permeated rainwater into a hydro-electric turbine to create energy. Tackling a number of sustainable development goals with this project idea, Petrov and his team felt passionate about combining plastic pollution issues with a method of creating renewable energy. What’s the coolest part? Daniel and his team are still in touch, sharing articles and ideas about sustainability solutions, even while back at their home universities.
Each day after the morning activities at Reykjavik University, the group went on a variety of excursions. Petrov said the excursions were both fun and adventurous, while also displaying the sobering effects of our changed climate right before his eyes. An especially poignant experience took place on a glacial hike where students could clearly see glaciers receding and contributing to sea level rise, the increased ocean temperatures and a larger list of negative effects.
However, these moments were mixed with pure fun. A particularly memorable excursion for Daniel was when the group went “super jeeping,” speeding across rough terrain in (you guessed it) a jeep and – get this—even crossing rivers! All three trips include time to study with the local host university with excursions to bring what students discussed in the classroom to life.
Multiple excursions included visits and tours of geothermal and hydropower plants in Iceland. Daniel said: “It's a lot different being able to see the turbines and the actual processes of creating the renewable energy in person. In class, we would always have small pictures and diagrams, and then draw trapezoids and call it a turbine. Being able to actually see this in reality is amazing. Learning by doing is a spectacular thing.”
I asked Petrov if the other 30 students were also engineers and he proudly answered no, explaining that the group of diverse academic backgrounds strengthened classroom discussion. Whether the topic was hydro-energy, geo-energy, or bio-fuels, all participants brought something unique to the table.
So, how do others get involved in The Green Program? First off, applications for all three trips are available on The Green Program’s website (thegreenprogram.com). David emphasized that the application doesn’t require your GPA, and instead is focused on the applicant’s interest in sustainability, extracurricular activities, and future goals. In addition to their trips, The Green Program also offers opportunities to students like Daniel, such as becoming an ambassador or joining The Influencer Program. An extensive alumni network also offers networking opportunities for those who have traveled with The Green Program. All opportunities are explained on their website, as well as details about each trip.
Daniel’s interest in sustainability science began his senior year in high school and has only strengthened since attending UB. However, Daniel cites this experience as “inspiring,” and fuels his interests and abilities to connect engineering with sustainability. As the only UB student ambassador for the organization, Daniel hopes to encourage other UB students to get involved with The Green Program and more generally, recruit others to join us in fighting the good fight towards a more sustainable future.
Sustainable Development Goals:
7. Affordable & clean energy: Making reliable and affordable energy more accessible to everyone
13. Climate Action: Taking steps to combat climate change and its impacts