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Is B-School Student Globetrotting Killing the Earth? MIT Students Take Action

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Fridays from the Frontline

MIT’s two-year Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program is a unique dual-degree offering that the Sloan School of Management established in partnership with the School of Engineering. The LGO program merges a state-of-the-art management curriculum with advanced engineering training to prepare students to handle global operations, product development, and manufacturing problems with aplomb.

LGO students pursue six-month research internships at a wide range of partner companies in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, energy, high-tech, and global supply chain industries. Notable LGO alumni like Verizon’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Viju Menon (LGO ’94), Tesla’s VP of Engineering Doug Field (LGO ’92), Google’s VP of Worldwide Operations Jim Miller (LGO ’93), and Apple’s VP of Manufacturing Design Rob York (LGO ’95) prove that LGO graduates are highly coveted on the job market.

Today’s Fridays from the Frontline comes to us from current LGO student Yakov Berenshteyn and describes the program’s unique Domestic Plant Trek (DPT), which takes LGO students on a tour of almost a dozen different partner companies spread throughout the United States. For the first time this year, a student planning committee took measures to offset the CO2 emissions racked up over the course of the trip. Read on to learn more about what they did, why they felt it was important, and how they hope their efforts can help pave the way for additional ways of offsetting student travel at MIT.

The following post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the “MIT LGO Blog.”

Offsetting Student Travel at MIT

By Yakov Berenshteyn (LGO ‘19)

Looking over the barren New Mexico landscape from seat 14F, it’s hard to believe the LGO class of 2019 is only on our fourth flight of seven on the Domestic Plant Trek (DPT)—our annual whirlwind trip around the country visiting our partner companies. With the generosity of these partners, we’ve made this year’s DPT the longest ever: 11 sites in 7 states over 17 days.

This is a big trip: bouncing around the country to visit manufacturing sites, fulfillment centers, and other cutting-edge operations means flying a total of about 400,000 passenger air miles between 50 classmates and staff. LGOs have recognized that in addition to airline points, we’re racking up a significant amount of CO2 emissions given the carbon intensity of air travel. I’m proud to say that for the first time, the student planning committee for DPT and the LGO program have purchased carbon offsets to reflect the CO2 emissions of our seven DPT flights.

While these offsets do not reduce our immediate environmental impact, they represent an acknowledgement of the externalities of our decisions and set a precedent for student travel at MIT. By purchasing offsets through Gold Standard—a trusted non-profit maximizing the environmental and social impact of such purchases—we generate meaningful environmental benefit in parallel to our travel impacts, in this case supporting a reforestation project in Panama.

A savvy environmentalist might point out that we’ve neglected the impacts of our inter-city bus rides, hotel stays, and non-CO2 emissions from flights. In fact, we made a conscious choice to address impact over precision. A detailed analysis of our exact impacts could easily fill a PhD thesis, so we opted to prioritize the most obvious and most readily quantified impact. Similarly, simply not traveling is not an option: the wealth of insight we gain on DPT is unparalleled and critical to our dual degree program.

As we move forward to institutionalize this practice of offsetting student travel at MIT, we will expand our thinking both with respect to our broader impacts and to more immediate and tangible mitigation options. In the meantime, I hope we’ve set a new standard for LGO and helped inform the travel decisions of our class and our LGO stakeholders.