Energy Conservation Internship Results in Green Career with ARAMARK
Energy Conservation Internship Results in Green Career with ARAMARK
Paul Loesch of New Braunfels, Texas, was one of the first 10 interns to take part in the ARAMARK Environmental Intern program. The environmental interns were selected to work at ARAMARK client locations across the country in 2011, in partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). The interns collaborated with ARAMARK employees and applied their expertise and passion to help ARAMARK and its clients meet environmental goals in a variety of areas – from local purchasing and food waste composting, to energy conservation.
Working with ARAMARK at Baylor University in Texas, Loesch organized Baylor’s Energy Awareness Month, which included an energy conservation competition. He also developed energy awareness materials that addressed energy efficiency standards and procedures. Loesch, an SCA alumnus, is a LEED accredited professional and also worked on certifying high performance green buildings on campus.
In this Q & A with Deirdre Fitzgerald, SCA’s Communications Director, Paul talks about his experience as an ARAMARK environmental intern, what he learned and how he was able to translate his skills to a full time position in environmental compliance with ARAMARK at Baylor University.
Tell me a little bit about your background, and how it led you to this career path.
Growing up, I didn’t really have a huge interest in environmental issues until I started backpacking and really got out into nature and appreciated what it had to offer. I had always been interested in chemistry, physics, science and engineering as a kid, and I started by thinking about finding a career that would combine these interests while allowing me to solve real problems in the natural world.
What did you study in college?
I studied Geography and Urban & Regional Planning at Texas State University in San Marcos. From there, I began to immerse myself in how humans experience the natural world through city planning and urban design. I also became interested in how buildings interact with the world, focusing on the input of resources to construct and operate buildings. During that time, I also studied the history of how civilizations use energy. Through all of these experiences, the importance of energy in our daily lives really began to connect for me.
Why did you decide to pursue an ARAMARK Environmental Internship?
I had previously completed an internship with the SCA (Student Conservation Association) working with the U.S. Forest Service. When I saw an opportunity to foster energy awareness as an ARAMARK Environmental Intern at Baylor University through the Student Conservation Association, my interest grew.
Given the focus of energy conservation -- a major career interest for me -- applying for this job was a no-brainer. The more I learned about ARAMARK and their work in facilities management, plus their global reach, the more excited I became. Working at a world-class higher education institution like Baylor University sealed the deal for me.
Describe your role and responsibilities during this internship.
I was hired to work on the design and implementation of an energy awareness conservation program at Baylor, and assisting with the administration of the program was my main responsibility. Central to the effort was an “Energy Madness” residence hall energy savings competition. The competition had two components – the technical development of metering systems, along with a website that displayed energy usage, plus the marketing and outreach efforts.
Individual halls were metered and energy use was displayed in real time on the web. Residence hall teams went head to head each week to get their usage to its lowest level. During the competition, we were constantly fine-tuning the functionality and content of the website so that it was both useful and interesting for students. We also held other motivational activities, like Energy Jeopardy, and made use of social media like Twitter and Facebook in our communications and marketing.
Ultimately, over the period of the Energy Madness Residence Hall Competition the campus decreased its energy consumption by 5.1% over the previous year. This equates to 909,617 kWh, 1,179,773 lbs of CO2 or approximately $73,000.
What were some of the challenges during your internship?
Energy conservation can be a difficult thing to try and convince someone to do. To most people, electricity comes out of a socket in the wall and that’s the end of it. They don’t think about where the thousands of tons of coal burned in energy plants comes from, or what happens to the spent fuel generated at nuclear reactors. For most people, electricity is complex and out of sight.
Everyone wants to conserve energy, recycle and compost, but accomplishing these tasks in the real world, with safety, customer service and the bottom line at stake can be incredibly challenging.
You really have to exercise patience and do your best to understand the motivations and concerns of all the involved stakeholders. If you approach things with a positive attitude and strive for patience and understanding, in the end you can accomplish anything. For example, at Baylor we encouraged students to report areas that had unnecessary lighting or computer labs that were left on after hours. It involved them in the process, empowered them to create change and ultimately saved money and energy.
What skills did you learn that helped you with your career goals?
This internship taught me a huge amount about the practical application of sustainability initiatives in facilities management. I had a chance to learn a lot about automation systems, commercial HVAC, and general facilities management processes.
More and more, making the decision to do the right thing and consider sustainability makes the most sense from a business standpoint. Client and customer satisfaction is ultimately what we are seeking, and you have to consider how all the pieces fit together. I learned to have respect for this and to integrate it into my thinking as much as possible.
Looking back, what are your thoughts about the Environmental Internship Program?
The program is a really a natural extension of ARAMARK’s commitment to sustainability as a whole, and SCA’s mission to build the next generation of conservation leaders. Many graduates have a strong desire to be involved in something meaningful and get good experience, and the internship program does a fine job of providing these opportunities. The interns get quality training, and ARAMARK and its clients get a fresh set of eyes, hungry for environmentally positive results. I had superb support from ARAMARK’s corporate sustainability folks, and Baylor’s forward thinking approach created an environment where I really felt like my work was inspiring positive change.