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Connecting communities for sustainability

Channeling her passion for community building, Emily Blackwell connects groups across campus to improve sustainable practices at events and beyond.

Emily Blackwell outside in the Science and Engineering Quad at Stanford
Image credit: Nancy Rothstein

Emily Blackwell experienced serious health challenges as a child that culminated in a major surgery at age 12. Out of those worst moments, it was the support from family and friends that sparked a determination to give back.

“I decided that from now on I want to bring that sense of community to other people, to help lift others up,” she said. “But I had no idea how exactly I would do that.”

Learning about environmental justice issues as an undergraduate student at Stanford gave her the answer. “In a human rights class, we were talking about sustainability and my eyes just lit up,” Blackwell said. After that, she got involved with sustainability however she could – changing her degree track, becoming a social change intern for Residential & Dining Enterprises, and thinking critically about environmental practices in her role as a Resident Assistant.

Emily working on her laptop outside on campus
Image credit: Nancy Rothstein

Blackwell is now pursuing her masters degree in Sustainability Science and Practice at Stanford. During this time, she is also participating in the Living Laboratory Fellowship Program, a new collaboration between the Office of Sustainability, the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, and the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

For her fellowship, Blackwell is working to expand sustainability operations within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, focusing on areas such as event planning, procurement, space utilization, and increased stakeholder engagement.

“After meeting with people throughout the school, I saw that admin care deeply about sustainability, and I learned about ways they could further their efforts to achieve Stanford’s climate goals,” she said. To support this within the area of event planning specifically, Blackwell is building a toolkit and website with resources for event coordinators. She is also helping organize a workshop that brings together staff from the school, vendors, and others across campus to connect and share knowledge.

“It’s about finding a way that we can highlight all this amazing work that’s already being done and grow it,” she said.

Blackwell enjoys seeing the direct results of her efforts on campus and looks forward to watching it expand.

“I want to continue working with people and for people,” she said. “Through my experiences so far I’ve seen this overarching idea that, when individuals come together as a community, it can be so impactful and empowering.”

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