Trina Hamilton, UB associate professor of geography, and her
daughter, Adele, at Tifft Nature Preserve.
We asked Trina Hamilton, UB assistant professor of geography, to
tell us about her work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
What are you doing to help UB become more
The first thing is that I try to introduce sustainability
concepts in each of my courses. Even though I primarily teach
courses on the global economy and international trade, I introduce
students to issues of corporate social and environmental
responsibility, trade-related sustainability issues, and
cross-national differences in environmental values and regulations.
I also make it a point to introduce students (in my classes and in
guest lectures for other courses) to possible careers in the
sustainability field, particularly around issues of corporate
responsibility and global governance. Secondly, I have been
involved in several administrative initiatives related to
UB’s institutional sustainability goals, including
participating on the UB Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee on
Research, Teaching and Public Service, and the newly formed
Committee for Socially Responsible Investment.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you
pursue at UB?
In general, my research focuses on issues of corporate
responsibility, international trade, and sustainability
politics. I have two current research projects directly
focused on sustainability issues. The first is an ongoing
study in Brooklyn of efforts to clean up Newtown Creek and its
vicinity following decades of heavy industrial use and revelations
of a massive underground oil plume. My research with a colleague at
DePaul University is focused on long-term residents’
cultivation of partnerships with outside environmental groups and
neighborhood newcomers (primarily from public policy circles and
creative industries) to tackling both gentrification and
environmental health issues. There appears to be an exciting
new sustainability ethic taking shape in this part of Brooklyn that
marries environmental cleanup with the redevelopment of a working
waterfront. This ethic is being carried out through ongoing
activism and policy-making, including a cleanup settlement with
Exxon Mobil, and has the potential to add to current debates about
the missing social justice link in many contemporary urban
My second sustainability-related research project is focused on
the ethical diamond industry. The goal of this project is to trace
how retailers’, consumers’, and other
stakeholders’ ethical imaginaries have shifted over
time. In other words, how do we define ethical diamonds, and
how do we imagine and create so-called “ethical”
production spaces in different parts of the world?
How are students involved in your sustainability
I have had several graduate and undergraduate research
assistants on each of my research projects. They have been involved
in many aspects of the research, including transcribing interviews
with stakeholders engaged in sustainability battles and
policy-making, and doing content analysis of policy documents and
retailer websites to understand how sustainability issues are
framed by different constituents. Overall, I think the students
involved have gained an appreciation for the complexity of
sustainability politics, and for the often competing priorities of
different stakeholder groups.
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you
do in your personal life to further sustainability?
Well, I’m far from a perfect model of sustainability, but
I think that my research has made me a much more conscientious
consumer. This extends beyond trying to make my money do
“good” to trying to consume less, to really thinking
through purchases and extending the cycle of planned obsolescence
(i.e. products being designed to fail or at least be quickly
outdated so we’ll buy the next version) as long as possible.
That said, I’m not above an impulse purchase in the check-out
line, particularly if it involves chocolate…
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
I’d love to see an extension of UB’s composting
efforts to allow for more post-consumer composting of food and
take-out containers. While it’s easy to recycle paper waste
and I know UB’s been a leader in composting kitchen scraps
and even post-consumer waste in some facilities, I still feel a
twinge of guilt every time I buy lunch and have to toss the
take-away container or any leftover food.
Learn more about Hamilton's research.