The Planet Blue Ambassador Program launched in 2011. Nine years later it has grown into a vibrant community of thousands of students, staff, faculty, and alumni members. Without all of you, we would not be able to work towards our mission of engaging the campus community in sustainability, advancing the University of Michigan’s sustainability commitments, and moving towards a campus-wide ethic of sustainability. I recently got the opportunity to chat with Ari Weil, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan who had a special role in making the PBA program what it is today.
Background in Sustainability
Ari grew up going to a summer camp which sparked his love for nature. “I was hiking and canoeing every single summer. I was really fascinated by talking to people who take action for sustainability and care about protecting the environment….” Later, during his time as an undergraduate student at U-M, Ari earned a degree in Psychology with a minor in Environmental Science. His interest was in the intersection between the two: behavior change and what motivates people to take sustainable actions.
Between undergrad and grad school, Ari took a year to work for a program called Repair the World. “I was volunteering with urban farms in the city of Detroit, helping to recruit volunteers and planting gardens in the city,” Ari said. He added that the experience allowed him to discover his interest in community health such as providing access to healthy food to a population whose access was limited.
When Ari started grad school at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, he became a PBA Program Assistant. “Fortunately, I was hired as a PBA Program Assistant right before my start at SEAS which became a great opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of sustainability throughout the University.” Ari attributes this experience to giving him an advantage in his grad program because the role gave him an opportunity to learn how to tap into the University community to make a difference specifically around behavior change.
As a PBA Program Assistant, he helped to put on film screenings, connect student organizations that focus on sustainability, organize ‘Sustain Yourself Days’ for SEAS and PitE students in the Dana building, and he even had the opportunity to carry out interviews like these.
Experiences as a Young Alumnus
After graduation, Ari’s first full-time position was with Michigan Medicine. One project that he worked on was ‘blue wrap’ recycling in the C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals. Blue wrap is a blue plastic that goes around medical devices that need to be sterile for surgical procedures. Ari coordinated with blue wrap recycling vendors and worked to integrate this change into the hospital’s existing operations procedures. Another project Ari was a part of was expanding composting. Michigan Medicine has had pre-consumer composting behind the scenes in areas including the cafeteria, retail spaces, and the patient food kitchens, but the focus of this project was to enable post-consumer composting at the patient food kitchen so that leftover food coming down from patient floors could get composted as well. For more information about continued work on blue wrap recycling or composting at Michigan Medicine, visit their new environmental stewardship website.
Ari has recently transitioned to a new position as an Energy & Resource Analyst working at Sun Communities, a real estate company specialized in manufactured homes and RV resorts. While a very different setting, his role still focuses on implementing sustainability across the organization. He oversees the daily operations related to utility management, energy conservation, and company-wide sustainability efforts, including installing solar, LEDs, and water saving technologies.
Looking back on his experiences as a recent graduate, I asked Ari for any advice he would give to other students who would soon be in his shoes. From his experience on the job hunt, he encouraged job seekers to reach out to people who share similar interests, “Whether you are looking for a job professionally or just a group that you are interested in joining, just reach out because it’s more likely that you’ll find new and exciting opportunities.” He expressed the challenges that come with post-grad life and switching to a 9 to 5 schedule, but encourages students to find new activities and hobbies that allow you to connect with people who share your interests.