Students help local businesses green up
Students in Associate Professor Gerry Segal’s “Management 3781: Sustainable Business Management” class can’t say they weren’t warned. It’s right there in the course description: “Be prepared to see what’s in trash bins and note all waste generated.”
If you ask the 23 students whether this was a valuable application of their tuition dollars, they’d all likely respond with an enthusiastic yes. It allowed them to get out of their seats, get their hands dirty and positively impact not only the environment, but a business – Chez Boët (formerly Bamboo Café) in Naples, owned by Lisa Kelly Boet.
Frank Lee, a 23-year-old business management major, had taken University Colloquium – a required sustainability course for all undergraduates – but this class took that a step further.
“This time the experience outside the classroom didn’t just involve a grade, but could potentially involve the well-being of a business owner,” he says. “That’s how she (Boet) makes her livelihood. Not that she’s relying on our professional skills to consult her in that direction, but we have the potential to affect that.”
Says Segal, “This is not the traditional textbook course where they learn a lot of theories and spit it back on an exam – and then maybe forget half of it a few months down the road. This is a learn-by-doing sort of course where they have to go out and problem-solve. They have to do the research. This is more like what they’re going to do after graduation. This is the real hands-on course that’s going to give them practical skills that will serve them well after graduation.”
Segal divided the class into five teams, with each responsible for a sustainability report that offered recommendations for six functional areas: energy audit (electricity and natural gas); water; waste and pollution; product and supply chain; green marketing; and change management. On Dec. 15, they presented their findings to Boet.
That’s where the Dumpster diving came in. They examined what was being thrown out and noticed that the vast majority was food waste. Their suggestion: have a bucket in the kitchen when vegetables are trimmed, then donate the trimmings to a local farmer to use for compost or to feed animals.
Boet was struck by the students’ enthusiasm and determination.
“They understood our limitations – some of the things we’re faced with,” she says. “It’s not easy to say, ‘OK, we’re going to change everything in a week.’ It’s a process. They have been very astute about that. It’s been a great process because both sides have learned.”