Sustainability is a wildly varied industry filled with educators, policy experts, architects, scientists, data analysts, and behavior change specialists. Celia Landesberg, ’14, has tried them all — many before she even landed her first job.
It started in middle school. She introduced a recycling program at her school before moving on to high school, where she was president of the student environmental group. When she came to the University of Richmond, she immediately looked for ways to improve and build sustainable initiatives on campus.
“Sustainability is something I’ve always been passionate about, and something I think needs a lot of thought leaders to actually drive behavior change,” she says.
She joined Green UR, a student-run environmental advocacy and awareness group that focuses on sustainable living at the individual level, as well as understanding and educating about green building practices.
Landesberg, who majored in environmental studies and geography and the environment, also conducted research on the subject. Her senior research project suggested that Richmond conduct a campuswide assessment of indirect emissions to build a better understanding the University’s carbon footprint. She used the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment method, created by the Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute, and supplemented that research with supply chain case studies on Dasani water bottles and Hammermill brand paper.
“I learned a lot about the type of information and software tools out there for this type of analysis,” she says. “It definitely piqued my interest as something that will be increasingly relevant moving forward in developing a smarter and more sustainable planet.”
But it was in the Office for Sustainability that she truly experienced the breadth of the field. Working under Megan Litke, the University’s former sustainability manager, Landesberg was part of a small team trying to make a big impact on campus.
“It was just her and the interns in the office, which is cool because I got to touch so many different projects,” she says. “A lot of things that happened began with me and Megan sitting down and being like, ‘what’s going to work here?’ That was a really powerful experience for me.”
In particular, Landesberg says she learned about the challenges of communicating with a diverse campus.
“We deal with all different types of audiences on campus, like faculty, staff, and students who are motivated to change and people who don’t really feel like sustainability is part of their everyday life,” she says. “I learned how to balance the audience and know who I’m talking to and how to frame the argument. Just demanding that someone do something isn’t the way to get it done.”
Landesberg says she saw a difference in campus awareness during her four years at Richmond, and the initiatives continue to gain momentum among students.
And all of her work in research, behavior change, and even earning her LEED Green Associate certification set Landesberg up for her next step — working as a sustainability data analyst with Goby, a green building consulting firm in Chicago. In her role, she manages and tracks data for energy, water, and waste. She also oversees LEED certifications for buildings that want to improve their efficiency, earn certifications, or comply with city ordinances.
“It was a really unique experience as an undergraduate to have a job for four years,” Landesberg says. “I was lucky to have some continuity and have the same position and be promoted through the ranks while I was also a full-time student. My work at Richmond has definitely helped me hit the ground running at Goby.”