Research & Internship Positions

The OES is a small office with big goals! We seek to provide opportunities for students to learn about, engage with, and test solutions to the complexities that come with providing a safe and just space for humanity within the boundaries of a healthy environment. Interested in joining our team? We will be hiring first year students as Eco-Reps and upper-class students as interns. At the beginning of the academic year. Eco-Reps will work within their dorms to engage other first year students in campus sustainability, and upperclassmen will engage will help with designing and running a number of initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable practices and awareness on campus.

You don’t need any previous experience working with the OES or sustainability, just a willingness to come together with your peers, attend the weekly meetings, and do a few hours of work each week**.  Committing to these positions for the full year is encouraged, but not required.

* meeting frequency will vary between weekly and bi-weekly meetings
** total hours will vary given position, time of year

Summer Internship Programs

The Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) often hires student workers throughout the year and during the summer to work on a variety of sustainability-related projects and/or as research assistants. Some of these projects are student-initiated while others have gone on to become student-run programs on campus. See profiles of our awesome student workers below.

Summer 2019 Intern Spotlight

Allyah profile

Allyah Pimentel Landestoy ’21

I worked over the summer to refine and expand the Green Office Program, which aims to help offices on campus gauge and improve how sustainable their spaces are, and recognize participating offices for their efforts. I worked with a variety of offices on a pilot of the program which will be launched in full this fall, and am excited to be working on an initiative that will help Amherst College become a greener campus!


 See Allyah's project here

Kevin Profile

Kevin Zhang ’21

I am an Economics and Environmental Studies double major and this summer's Climate Action Plan intern. My research involved figuring out ways for Amherst College to further engage faculty, staff, and students with sustainability and climate action, both through the curriculum and beyond. I hope to see Amherst produce the sustainability-minded leaders of tomorrow!


 See Kevin's project here

Witter Profile

Witter Swanson ’21

In the spring of 2018, Amherst College announced its participation in a collaborative power purchase with a soon to be built solar farm in Farmington Maine, which will be largest solar farm in New England. This summer I conducted collaborative research investigating that solar farm with a student from Smith and a student from Williams College. Through research and formal interviews with stakeholders, the interns worked to generate tools for community members to learn about the solar farm and the processes that led to its development.

See Witter's project here and final writeup here

Check out the complete website for the Farmington Solar Project here

Summer 2018 Intern Spotlight

We were lucky to have three fantastic interns working for the OES this summer on a variety of sustainability-focused projects. Read about their projects below!

                                              OES 2018 Interns                    

  Maya Bhandari Maya Bhandari ‘20

Maya was one of three Drawdown Interns at this summer, collaborating with her counterparts at Smith and Williams to produce a regional version of Project Drawdown. Project Drawdown is a global ranking of the 100 most substantive climate solutions, and Maya and her team spent many weeks creating a priority ranking of these solutions as they pertain to New England higher education. Maya has been responsible for the Energy and Buildings sectors, in particular.

See Maya's project here

Nicholas Carolan Nicholas Carolan ‘21

Nick spent the summer mapping out Amherst’s land with existing features such as trails, conservation areas, critical habitat, wetlands, and farms. His aim was to create visualizations that will allow stakeholders to make more informed and sustainable decisions about how the college uses its parcels. He hopes this project will end up making Amherst’s existing natural and historic beauty more accessible for everyone to enjoy.                        

See Nick's project here

John Michael John Michael ‘19

John’s summer project involved digitally aggregating data about the food purchases made by Valentine Dining Hall. His aim was to determine how sustainable the college’s food purchasing habits are using a number of metrics, and his calculations will serve as the basis for a long-term project to better understand the food we consume and the ways to make our consumption more environmentally friendly.


See John's project here

Summer 2017 Intern Spotlight

In the summer of 2017, we had the opportunity to have several interns working in the Office of Environmental Sustainability. Below are their answers to questions we asked about their experience interning at the OES. If you are interested in more depth, check out Sara and James's projects at the bottom of the page! 

Give a short description of your project and what excited you about this position.

James Corbett ('19): This summer I researched carbon pricing schemes—in particular, carbon taxes—and their policy potential. A carbon tax is basically any tax that works by charging people when they pollute. Want a barrel of oil, a ton of coal, or a liter of natural gas? Well, with a carbon tax in place, you’ll have to pay a fee. In this way carbon taxes are a lot like gas taxes, just more comprehensive. I looked into whether Amherst could implement a carbon tax of its own by charging professors and administrators for their energy usage, and I was very excited to figure out how it might work. Unfortunately, I eventually concluded that a carbon tax would not be feasible for Amherst, but only because Amherst would need a huge amount of information about each building to make a carbon tax fair and effective.

Sara Jinee Buck ('19): I spent the summer doing solar energy research and trying to figure out ways solar fits into the College’s future. In the beginning, I heard that UMASS-Amherst and Hampshire College had recently finished extensive solar projects, and so it made a lot of sense to start with those schools since we share geographical locations and similar sustainability goals. Of all the schools that I researched, UMASS probably had the most information readily accessible to the public. Their sustainability website has live data from their solar panels and they even uploaded pdfs of their solar energy plan, which provided sort of a “sneak-peek” into their decision-making process.  Additionally, I checked out the progress of other NESCAC schools and put together a chart that is intended to show each member’s contribution to the total annual energy production in the NESCAC.

Yuko Nakano ('20): The goal of my project was—still is!—to make an educated proposal to the dining staff to ban the distribution of disposable water bottles at Amherst College. It's a very direct way to push for policy change, and the prospect of leaving a lasting mark on school policy is always exciting. 

What was the most interesting thing you learned during this process?

James Corbett ('19): There are quite a few interesting things I learned! One is that Massachusetts is making serious progress towards passing carbon-tax legislation. About one-third of the legislature is currently cosponsoring one of two carbon tax bills. Another interesting thing is that some colleges and universities have already experimented with carbon taxes. Yale University, for instance, has tried charging some its buildings for their emissions; it claims this helped to cut emissions by around ten percent. Other schools, like Swarthmore College, don’t go quite as far as Yale but still have interesting schemes of their own.

Sara Jinee Buck ('19): Something really interesting about renewable energy projects on college campuses is that many times these projects are student-driven. In 2007, Middlebury College students proposed a carbon neutrality plan that included solar energy for various spots on campus. The board of trustees approved it and they achieved carbon neutrality in 2016. At the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), a group of students came together to expand the use of solar energy on the UMD campus. They researched funding options, and constructed a plan for an 11-KW solar project that was approved and is expected to be operational by fall of 2017. For Amherst, based on other schools, I think there is a lot of upside to a student-produced clean energy project if we want to see the college invest in renewables anytime soon. 

Yuko Nakano ('20): While boxed water is a better alternative to plastic disposable bottles, it's miles from using a reusable bottle! Get one at AJ Hastings, CVS, or your local coffee shop. 

What impact do you hope your work has on Amherst College?

James Corbett ('19): I hope my work has gotten Amherst College administrators and students to think about low-cost ways of cutting emissions. I think people assume too often that cutting emissions always means investing in solar panels and new buildings. Those are certainly great ways to reduce emissions, but they aren’t the only way and they aren’t always the most cost-effective way. I think people underestimate the power of behavior change, or they don’t know how to bring about that kind of change. It’s not so difficult, I think, as long as you can give people an incentive to change their behavior (like small amounts of money for reusing grocery bags, or small fines for using plastic ones). In a way, I think my work is similar to what the eco-reps do--all of us are trying to get people to be more conscientious—we just have different methods.

Has this process changed or influenced what you hope to do next? (next summer, after graduation)?

James Corbett ('19): I don’t know if my experience this summer has brought about that kind of large-scale change in my plans for the future, but I can definitely say this: wherever I end up, I’ll be thinking about a bunch of strange and complicated schemes to cut emissions. Especially if I end up in some kind of management position, where I can force my schemes upon my underlings.

Yuko Nakano ('20): Definitely. Through this school-wide project, public policy work is much less intimidating. Concord, MA, has recently banned the sale of single-service plastic water bottles, and it would be rewarding to work on a municipal bylaw in western Massachusetts and/or nationally!

Thank you, Sara, James, and Yuko for a great summer! 

 Amhert's Solar Energy Future (Sara's Summer Project) 

 Carbon Tax Proposoal (James' Summer Project)

Class of 2016 Student Work Profiles

Anna Berglund and Suhasini Ghosh, c/o 2016, were the first two student workers in the Office of Environmental Sustainbility. Before they graduated, we asked them to share some tidbits about their sustainability-related experiences at Amherst College.

                                Anna Berglund                                                               Suhasini Ghosh


What was your favorite sustainability-related experience on campus?

Anna: When I was a junior, GAP was working on our divestment campaign and we put together a week of events intended to bring awareness and support to the issue. It was really rewarding to help organize some of the events and to see the support that was created on campus through these efforts. I have also really enjoyed being a part of the Green Games and I hope that it continues to happen into the future. It's great to see first year dorms uniting around the cause of reducing energy use.

Su: My favorite sustainability-related experience on campus has been the “Amherst All-In” campaign. It was really exciting to engage with such a large amount students who were a part of various groups on campus. Hearing such different perspectives and stories in relation to the environment was eye-opening. It has been very motivating for me to still see students wearing their "Amherst All-In" shirts displaying their support for environmentalism. The envrionment is something that we all hold a stake in and this campaign was proof that we can come together to solve these issues no matter our backgrounds. 

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in the environment?

Anna: The good news for current students who are interested in the environment is that Amherst is rapidly expanding the number of avenues through which students can pursue those interests. When I started at Amherst the only environmental student group had just a few members and a singular focus, but now there are a plethora of clubs, groups, and jobs on campus that relate to environmentalism. I would encourage any student interested in these topics to try out a range of different organizations and find one (or many!) that fit their passion and skills. Talk to Laura in the OES about what opportunities there are and how to get involved. For summer internships, the college will often fund unpaid internships with organizations that are environmentally-focused. And finally, if there is an issue or cause that isn't being addressed, starting your own organization is a really good idea. I have always been really impressed by the initiative taken by individual students to implement new projects that address previously overlooked problems. 

Su: My advice is to keep pursing it! This stuff matters and affects us all. We are the generation that can make a difference. At Amherst, we are lucky enough to have various resources available to us at all times. Use these resources. If you have an idea, tell a professor, staff member, or Laura (Director of the OES). There are people who will listen to you and discuss how to make your ideas a reality. Do not think that your idea is not valuable or your thoughts should go unheard. There are always other students, staff or faculty members around you who share your ideals and together change can be made. 

What would you like to see the College or the OES do in the future to improve and raise awareness of sustainability on campus?

Anna: I had the pleasure of developing the pilot Eco-Reps program this past year for the first-year dorms. I would love to see this program expanded and improved upon in the coming years. Having student representatives in all the dorms who can answer general sustainability questions and raise awareness would be a great asset to our residential life. The OES has done a fantastic job of supporting this program and I think it can be built into something really awesome. I would also love to see powerful student activism on campus that pushes for ambitious institutional change when it comes to environmentalism. I think that the college can leverage its privileged position as an elite educational institution to create change that resonates beyond the confines of the campus. Finally, I am excited about the prospect of the college's first climate action plan, which is being developed by a dedicated coalition of Amherst College community members led by Laura. I hope this plan is ambitious and that the college is committed to achieving whatever goals are put forth in the plan.

Su: I would like to see the College keep supporting the Office of Sustainability in the upcoming years and provide more funding and opportunities for speakers, Environmental Studies professors, and the Environmental Studies Department itself. The Environmental Studies Department and Sustainability Office are both fairly new to campus, but have already made such a positive impact and have garned much student engagement. I would love to see the OES keep engaging students of all different backgrounds and interests. You do not have to be just an Environmental Studies major to be interested or work in this field! I hope that student led environmental activism continues on this campus and these students feel like there is a support system for their efforts. There have been many great intiatives already and I truly hope that it continues. 

Where do you hope to be in the next five years?

Anna: In the next 5 years I hope to be working in environmental policy. I am really interested in local government and how communities can create positive change for themselves. I would love to be working as a community activist on climate change and other environmental and social issues. 

Su: In or finishing up grad school! In the future, I want to work in environmental policy as I have a keen interest in environmental justice and the intersections of social and environmental issues. 

Summer 2016 Research Projects

Summer Student Researchers 2016

What did you work on this summer in the OES?

Allison: I did research on environmental communications on campus. I started out by reading articles about the principles of effective communications and looking at what other schools were doing. Then, I applied what I learned to projects at Amherst, focusing specifically on the new Greenway dorms. I created a communications program that will encourage sustainable habits and educate about the sustainable features of the Greenways. I also prescribed the expansion of the Eco-reps program pilot of last year into the Greenways to create a culture of sustainability in the new dorms from the start.

Carlos: I worked on the waste infrastructure around campus, particularly Grab and Go. Over the past few weeks I have been researching how to cut back on waste from Grab and Go and around campus, while also looking at how we can ensure the waste we do produce on campus is disposed of responsibly. By changing the containers Grab and Go uses, implementing a campus-wide compost program, and promoting recycling, I think we’ll help make the College more sustainable. 

What was the most interesting thing you learned?

Allison: The most interesting thing I learned were ways that other schools are incorporating sustainability into curriculum and daily lives of students. There are some really interesting and effective models that could work at Amherst too. We seem to be a little behind in the environmental game, but I’m confident that we can make strides to catch up. 

Carlos: I think the most interesting thing I learned is role of plastics in society. There are several different kinds of plastic out there, and each one has different properties. PET plastic containers are made of fossil fuels and can be recycled, but they have to be cleaned of food and junk. PLA plastic containers on the other hand are made from corn. They might look exactly like PET plastic containers but they’re compostable and can’t be recycled. It’s pretty overwhelming to distinguish between all the kinds of plastic and how to dispose of each one properly, yet plastics are everywhere in life. If there’s a way to make it easier for people to understand how to dispose of each plastic, I think that’d be a huge plus for the environment.  

What changes would you like to see on campus as a result of your research?

Allison: The most important thing to encourage sustainable habit change is creating a social culture that supports sustainable living. There’s only so much that posters and education programs can do; it’s students who need to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. I would like to see the kind of culture on campus that encourages expanded participation in sustainable living and education - supported by the OES - but led by students.

Carlos: One of the recommendations I proposed is having compost collection in the dorms around campus. Given the amount food students throw out there’s a lot of food that ends up in a landfill. I think we can really do some good by making sure the food that usually gets thrown out in dorms gets composted and turned into food for plants instead. If we can cut back on the amount of waste we produce as a campus that’d be great, but if we can ensure that the waste is being put into constructive things like recycled materials or plant compost, then I think that’d be a great accomplishment.

Thank you for your hard work!

Trip to the Landfill!

By Allison Tennant

Wonder where your trash goes after you throw it away? Summer interns Carlos and Allison had some questions too, so they took a trip to the landfill where our trash is sent, located an hour away in Southbridge. Carlos and Allison met with Tracy Markham, the Site Manager at Southbridge Landfill, for a tour of the facility. The landfill is owned by Casella Resource Solutions and is the most regulated landfill in Massachusetts. The interns got to see a massive generator that collects and burns methane to power 2,000 homes in the area.

Methane-to-Electricity Generator

Methane is captured by pipes and sent to this very loud generator to be burned for electricity.

Then they saw all of the layers that go under a landfill and the giant tanks that collect leachate and prevent contamination.

Landfill Layers

 A model of the many layers put under a landfill for protection built by Markham.

They even stood on one mound of trash and watched another one being formed. The process is very regulated with many water-spraying dust prevention trucks and bull dozers with giant wheels to compact the trash.

Open Landfill

The view of many vehicles forming a new trash mound.

Both were surprised at how little the whole area smelled, at least from their vantage point upwind. However, the landfill only has two years of life left, so let’s reduce the amount of trash we send there by recycling and composting.