As a young child, Danner Doud-Martin remembers her family recycled way before it was cool. In the backyard were bags and bags of cans. Her father would return from the recycling center dealing a fistful of cash he traded for the recyclables, and the money paid for family bowling or ice cream.
Now as Doud-Martin steps into a new administrative role at University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, she remembers those experiences decades ago as the moments where it all began. Doud-Martin, the former associate director of the International Business Development program, now serves as Haas’ sustainability director. She will continue implementing and maintaining a zero-waste policy within campus operations and facilities.
She says she’s focused on eliminating single-use plastics and moving toward reusable cups and using compostable cups, forks, spoons, plates at the many events the business school hosts. She is currently planning to make some changes for graduation that include eradicating plastic bottles and recycling gowns. Of the school’s numerous goals in sustainability, sometimes the well-intended ambitions are met with some pushback.
DOUD-MARTIN’S NEW ROLE AS DIRECTOR
“We’re trying to eliminate plastic water bottles, and there are some groups that, you know, the thought of that is just mind-blowing, because they can’t imagine not offering a guest a plastic water bottle or not ordering it,” she tells Poets&Quants in an interview. In 2020, a university-wide commitment was made to rid the use of one-time plastics within 10 years.
Over the last few years, many B-schools have invested more in studying the biggest issues around climate change. This year, climate change became the 8th most popular major for MBAs in a report that studied the desire of prospective students. It’s not a surprise then that many institutions are surveying their own carbon footprint on the operations side, which is the pinnacle of Doud-Martin’s new position.
For many, losing plastic water bottles seems impossible because it’s a factor of convenience, she says. The university has one of the strongest bans on single-use plastic in the country, but still, she has said to Berkeley Communications, “Haas continues to be the place that the rest of the campus watches.” Much of her job is meeting with stakeholders and noting what are school’s sustainability goals. The main one involves reducing its carbon footprint from energy, transportation and waste standpoints. Oftentimes, stakeholders will then inform her and the Office of Sustainability on any problems with reaching goals.
Haas hosts a number of programs and functions that sometimes make it more difficult to be eco-friendly. Transportation is another emissions problem she is working on, which present hurdles for many other business schools. Logistically it is an unavoidable and a challenging one. The B-school offers different types of programming, including its Executive MBA and weekend & evening MBAs, where students located elsewhere travel to campus often by car or plane.
“Both groups come from far away, some folks are flying in every weekend or every three weeks. So, we can’t really make an impact on that,” she says.
The office is trying to find ways to set up carpooling systems or encouraging those in the city to commute by bike. A large goal of her job, she says, ultimately, is making small waves to dictate a larger difference and influencing people to have a sense of how they can participate in climate-friendly solutions. It’s more about changing mindsets by informing people about lifestyle choices that are more sustainable.
The students are instrumental in the process, too. Doud-Martin says when she sees someone sorting recyclables or she hearings someone talking about composting, she becomes really excited.
SUSTAINABILITY AT UC-BERKELEY
An offset for any university-sponsored air travel is paid to invest in the production of Berkeley’s clean energy hub. It amounts to $25 for international flights and $10 for domestic flights.
The overall university plans to reach climate neutrality from building and vehicle use by 2025 and to be carbon neutral from all sources by 2050. Around 85 solar compacting multi-stream trash bins are installed around campus, separating the disposal of compost, landfill and cans and bottles. Doud-Martin says Haas has four building that combined generate a hefty toll on energy usage.
She was instrumental is leading the effort to build Chou Hall, the B-School’s first and only zero-waste building. The building opened in 2017 and cost $60 million to build through funds provided by alumni donations.
“When Lin King – who is the director of Cal Zero Waste at the campus level – said, ‘Listen, we need a zero-waste building and we need to go down this path of true zero waste with the US Green Building Council’. I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into, but it was it was a perfect introduction into just understanding systems and trying to figure out and solve problems,” Doud-Martin says.
It was the first academic building in the U.S. to achieve a TRUE Zero Waste certification. Everything generated in the building is compostable or recyclable, and event planners and caterers are also required to adhere to a zero-waste guideline.
There’s also loads of engagement in sustainability projects around campus. The Haas Tree Planting Project has committed to planting 400 trees this academic year. Other activities and organizations include Hives@Haas and the Haas FreeCycle, a twice yearly event for students to recycle or donate items in good shape from their homes to others.
HOW A DIFFERENCE CAN BE MADE
In addition to her work at Haas, Doud-Martin is a mother:
“I worry about my kids and what it will look like for them, because if we don’t make serious changes here soon, it’s going to be very different for them.”
While the role of making campus sustainable is an enormous job, she says it’s exciting to have a larger impact on the community and beyond. When asked how individuals can make more sustainable choices, Doud-Martin listed several, such as walking, riding a bike to work, composting, bringing reusables. She says another important behavior would be re-thinking purchases covered in plastic.
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