When I spoke at Texas State University – San Marcos a few weeks ago, I met Janet Hale, J.D., Senior Lecturer in the Department of Finance and Economics. She is also the sponsor of the Net Impact Student Organization. Janet told me of a young lady in this group named Natalie Rodriguez.
Natalie had apparently and suddenly become a leader when the opportunity to lead presented itself.
“It all started when I enrolled in a business law honors course with Dr. Hale,” Natalie explains. “We took on a project that involved visiting a local hospital to understand their sustainability initiatives.”
The students delved into the social and economic aspects of sustainability. They interviewed patients who expressed their wishes that we could return to a life of simplicity, to the old days of drying their clothes outside and other such things.
Back on campus, the students found themselves discussing the idea of solar drying—using the free sun to dry things, instead of using energy intensive appliances like dryers. They realized that they could save money and consume less electrical energy by returning to the simplicity for which the patients at the hospital longed. Natalie suggested an awareness campaign to get many students on campus to join them. So began a project that ultimate connected her group of business students to environmentally-minded students in different groups around campus.
“We realized we all had the same goal,” Natalie said. “When we combined business and environmental studies students we became very powerful. The project was ultimately funded by a grant from the environmental committee.”
Natalie led the production of a fantastic video called “Wear the Sun”to educate students on campus about the environmental and economic benefits of solar drying their clothes. Notice: environmental AND economic benefits, together. Did I mention Natalie is a senior student in the business school majoring in accounting? She gets it. It’s not environmental OR economic benefits. Prizes go to those who think about how to improve and create benefits in both categories simultaneously, then act upon these ideas—just like the ten innovators featured in Latinnovating.
In select on-campus dorms, drying racks are provided for students to check out. As word has spread of the multiple benefits of solar drying, more students have elected to prop up the drying rack outside the laundry room, hang their clothes on it and let the sun do the drying for free as they study nearby. It’s caught on.
“People know who I am now,” Natalie shares. “They know about my core values and what I strongly believe. I’ve been able to educate people about the true meaning of sustainability by showing that it’s about so much more than recycling. There’s so much more we can do as individuals. We’re doing the work now to show both the economic savings to the university (less dryers running), savings to the student (clothes lasts longer, the sun is free) and the environment (measuring emissions avoided).”
Natalie is, without a doubt, one of our nation’s future environmental entrepreneurs, a star in a future volume of the Latinnovating series. She will no doubt one day dramatically improve how we utilize our natural resources in some yet-to-be-determined way. It will be exciting to watch her career and see where she makes her impact!
To witness Natalie’s ability to mobilize students on campus to introduce an idea she is passionate about, and to learn how to implement the idea on your college campus, watch “Wear the Sun.”