On Nov. 18, College sophomore Doug Miller had the opportunity to present his environmental ideas to an important audience — including White House officials.
Earlier in November, The Economist notified Miller that he was chosen to discuss his proposal for the magazine’s global contest at its Carbon Economy Summit.
The contest asked for inventive product or service proposals that aim to fight climate change, enhance energy efficiency or improve the renewable energy industry.
At the end of this past summer, Miller began to think of a way to change consumer behavior by providing information about a product’s environmental impact.
After hearing about the contest, Miller put his idea to paper and developed what he calls the “Production and Transportation Facts” label for packaged items.
Miller’s label proposes seven “aspects” of information: environmental impact, greenhouse emissions from production, energy sources used at the production plant, distance of transport for materials, transportation types, materials and information for proper disposal of item.
“What I was trying to do was look at some of the existing format of labels that are out there,” Miller said. “I wanted to have a format that people were familiar with.”
As a result of his success, Miller was invited to present his proposal to an audience of 120 executives, entrepreneurs and government officials at the summit.
Those in attendance included notable individuals such as Carol Browner, the White House assistant to the President for energy and climate change, James Rogers, president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy, and Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
According to Leslie Behr, The Economist’s strategic planning and development manager, Miller was the only student among 12 individuals selected to demonstrate their product or service.
“These labels … support a growing initiative to change consumer behavior which is essential to combating the impact of global warming,” Behr said in an e-mail.
The project also impressed Professor Alain F. Plante, an assistant professor at Penn’s Department Earth & Environmental Science and Miller’s Environmental Studies 200 instructor.
Miller had met with Plante prior to the summit to discuss any shortcomings and to address concerns about the proposal.
Plante explained that Miller’s label is an important and useful addition to the environmental world as it provides the consumer with the product information that many manufacturers currently have.
“This label that Doug is proposing is making some of that information accessible to the consumer in terms of where does this product come from and how is it made,” Plante said.
“The manufacturers already know this and it’s just a matter of communicating that in a very simple, eloquent way that is this label that Doug proposed,” he added.