On a hot day in the middle of July many years ago, Briana built a solar-powered “oven” to bake a s’more. It was only a cardboard box, no larger than a mini fridge and no heavier than a loaf of bread, covered in bright tin foil and hot glue. The cardboard oven was certainly less convenient to use than a traditional gas-powered oven, but Briana was pleased (1) to have something warm and sugary to eat and (2) to show herself that she could harness a more environmentally-friendly method of energy generation to complete a task, however small. As a seventh grader interested in human interactions with the natural world, she knew that this activity was relatively harmless, but that others, unfortunately, were not.
A quick scan through newspaper headlines and scientific journals revealed only a few of the environmental crises that abounded in her backyard and throughout the world, from the increasingly late arrival of snowfall in the winters of her Michigan hometown to the raging fires painting the sky red in California, from the rapidly vanishing ice sheets at the poles to the rising waters swallowing up islands in the Pacific. It was clear that human activities—our use of natural resources, our generation and consumption of energy, our handling of wastes—played a major role in these crises, and that experts of all kinds were needed to implement environmentally-responsible ways of powering homes, transporting people, consuming goods, and ultimately living better on this planet.
The desire to contribute to a resilient world in the face of climate change led her to earn a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Chicago. Over four years, she filled test tubes with lake water to measure contamination from septic tanks, pored over primary research on environmental health, and set foot in dozens of laboratories to identify conservation strategies in the most energy-intensive spaces on campus. She now serves as an Energy and Conservation Specialist in the Will County Land Use Department, where she improves energy and water efficiency by implementing Will County’s 2021 Energy & Conservation Plan. Her day-to-day involves benchmarking energy consumption and costs in County-owned buildings, collaborating with facilities staff to fund efficiency projects, and coordinating regularly with public- and private-sector partners to advance programs that steward our resources wisely.
She enjoys delving into sustainability topics from a variety of angles, especially the glories and pains of the ongoing clean energy transition. Fortunately, we can make this transition using technologies much more sophisticated than cardboard ovens.