Alumni speak about sustainability during Scholar in Residence event

Tessa Augsberger

The Kutler Center invited 2020 Scholar in Residence Adam Werbach ’91 and environmental attorney Jake Levine ’02 to discuss sustainability strategies during a Zoom webinar Tuesday.

The school originally scheduled the Scholar in Residence Program to be a three day experience from March 11 to March 13, in which Werbach would attend classes and meet with students and faculty. The discussion itself was originally planned as an in-person event on March 12 to celebrate the first decade of the Kutler Center and its impact on the school but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Through the Scholar in Residence program, leading intellectuals share their unique perspectives and understandings of their fields with the school community. Previous Scholars in Residence include national security expert Juliette Kayyem ’87 in 2019, seismologist Lucy Jones in 2018 and cultural historian Josh Kun ’89 in 2017.

“We have striven to have a diverse representation of interdisciplinary topics and approaches as well as a diverse set of scholars,” Director of Kutler Center Jim Patterson said. “Scholars are chosen for their ability to demonstrate how they use interdisciplinary approaches in their work. In [Werbach’s] case, we were very intrigued by his consulting practice given that he started as an environmental activist.”

Elected as the youngest Sierra Club President in 1996, Werbach has worked to protect national parks, implement sustainable practices in corporations and spearhead reuse programs for clothing companies. Werbach currently works as a sustainability consultant through his company Planet 10B and recently wrote Strategy for Sustainability, a book published by Harvard Business Press.

Werbach said students should take action themselves on matters they want to change instead of waiting for the ideal circumstances to come about.

“For the students out there, really ask yourself the question: If the opportunities aren’t presenting themselves, can you start a company to do something about it?” Werbach said. “If you feel passionate about something, just start. Don’t wait for the opportunity to magically present itself, just get to work. There is nothing to wait for other than yourself. You have everything at your disposal to get started and we desperately need you to.”

HW Venture Alumni Family Mobilization Lead Jacky Zhang ’21 said he would love to have Werbach speak at Venture. He said it would be interesting to hear more about emerging technologies and sustainability-focused startups that Werbach works with through Planet 10B.

“I hope [his message] inspires Harvard-Westlake students to take more initiative on campus, whether it’s something small like rewarding students who use reusable water bottles or creating a company or organization to address a specific issue regarding sustainability,” Zhang said. “For the upcoming school year and the future, we hope to help cultivate more projects in Venture that address sustainability issues, and we think that he would be a perfect mentor to help support those kinds of projects.”