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Eliminating Electronic Waste in the Tech Industry
Charissa Rujanavech ’13 MEM is a tech industry innovator, developing novel ways to recycle and eliminate electronic waste. Shortly after graduating from YSE, she invented Liam, an automated disassembly system that can take apart more than 1 million iPhones a year so the components can be reused. She has continued her work in the circular economy, promoting a closed-loop supply chain for major retailers, including Amazon, and is now developing new technologies and partnerships to decarbonize refrigeration, retail operations, and food waste at Albertsons Companies.
Stewarding Forests in the Face of Climate Change
Forests help mitigate climate change because of their ability to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but they become carbon emitters during wildfires. PhD student Reid Lewis '20 MF is researching how satellite data and machine learning models can help fire-prone forests become more resilient.
“When we make these forests more fire resilient, we can not only store more carbon, we can also help protect human communities, foster wildlife habitat, safeguard watersheds, and can use the process of restoration to partner with and empower Indigenous nations,” says Lewis.
Creating Sustainable Fashion
Jinali Mody ’23 MEM is reducing the environmental impacts from fashion with a new vegan alternative leather made from banana crop waste that the company says uses 90% less water in production than animal leather products and results in 90% less carbon emissions. “Solving the climate crisis requires concerted efforts across all industries and not just energy, transportation, and carbon capture. Building a sustainable fashion industry is the need of the hour,” says Mody.
In 2023, Mody’s company, Banofi Leather, won the $1 million Hult Prize, which is given to student entrepreneurs whose ideas create a measurable positive impact on people and the planet.
Fighting Fire with Fire
As wildfires across the U.S. and Canada continue to endanger human health and wildlife, Pete Caligiuri ’10 MF, forest strategy director for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon, is working on fire suppression.
And these efforts include setting fires. “Frequent, extreme wildfires are a threat, but fire has to be part of the solution. Fire always has been a part of these landscapes. Beneficial fire — like prescribed burns and managed wildfires — is essential to the long-term resilience of these forest landscapes into the future,” Caligiuri says.
Financing the Transition to Clean Energy
Transitioning to clean energy is key to combating climate change. As director of policy and network at the Coalition for Green Capitol, Nenha Young ’20 MEM is targeting greenhouse gas reduction initiatives through investments in the environmental, social, and economic sectors and working to establish the National Green Bank.
“I attended YSE because of its leadership in the clean energy field,” Young says. “Through coursework, internships, and independent studies, I was able to design a career at the intersection of clean energy and economic development.”
Redefining Human-Wildlife Conflict
In the Tibetan Plateau, Yufang Gao ’14 MESc, ’23 PhD interviews, observes, and travels with Tibetan herders and Buddhist monks. He sets up camera traps and collects scat to analyze the diet of snow leopards. And he has hiked a mountainside 15,000 feet above sea level — all in pursuit of data for his dissertation focused on the quest for harmonious coexistence between people and large carnivores. What is needed for human-wildlife coexistence is a different perspective about conflict, Gao says. “Conflict,” he has found, “is part of coexistence.”
Meet the 2023 Alumni Award Winners
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