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International co-op boosts student’s interest in sustainability

Marley Kimelman, S/SSH’18, spent his first co-op experience at Northeastern immersed in one international city’s green initiatives and environmental projects. He learned them, walked them, pitched them, and blogged them.

Kimelman, a rising third-year student and combined major in environmental studies and international affairs, was on co-op from January to July in Cape Town, South Africa, in the city’s Environmental Resource Management Department. He said his proudest achievement was helping to reinvigorate a stagnant water heritage project. The city wanted to showcase water appreciation and its importance to the city’s history, and Kimelman’s boss tapped him and a colleague to design an initiative that would accomplish this objective.

Ultimately, they developed a walking tour across the city featuring stops at water tunnels, dams, treatment plants, reservoirs, and a yet-to-be-built museum. Kimelman conducted extensive research and wrote a feasibility report outlining the project, including the route, the budget, and the economic impact, as well as his own recommendations.

The goals of the project, he said, are two-fold: to explore the city’s rich water history and to raise awareness for protecting and conserving water resources.

“That was the coolest part of the co-op, working on this project every day from start to finish,” said Kimelman, who passed the project along to another city employee upon completing his co-op. “It’s been given the go-ahead, and it was very rewarding to be a part of it.”

Public outreach
Beyond this project, Kimelman was involved in the city’s green initiatives in many other ways. He attended city meetings on sustainability issues and did outreach to promote these efforts to business and community stakeholders as well as to the public at large.

Kimelman noted that his co-op in Cape Town came as the city pushed to reinvest in and attract more people to its green spaces, one of which is Trafalgar Park. He said this park, located in the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock, has been underutilized and was fenced off from local businesses. Part of his job was going door-to-door pitching business owners on the benefits of investing in the park, some tips for which he sought from other thriving city park managers. He also worked on a program to bring a daylong outdoor classroom in the park for teachers and students from nearby schools.

Marley Kimelman visited Spier Wine Farm's bird of prey rehab center, and he blogged about the center's work. The wine farm also uses biodynamic agricultural practices. Photo courtesy of Marley Kimelman

Marley Kimelman visited Spier Wine Farm’s bird of prey rehab center, and he blogged about the center’s work. The wine farm also uses biodynamic agricultural practices. Photo courtesy of Marley Kimelman

Green blog
During Kimelman’s co-op, another unexpected opportunity arose: bringing increased attention to the Cape Town Green Map, which highlights the city’s many green spaces and sustainability projects. To help promote the map, he started a blog that featured his first-person accounts of visiting locations such as a recycling facility, an organic composting farm, and a wine farm that uses biodynamic agricultural practices. The blog, he said, helped “bring a voice” to these interesting places, and his posts were promoted via social media.

Kimelman explained that he gained invaluable experience on this co-op, particularly with regard to learning how a city’s sustainability programs go from inception to implementation. He’s looking forward to applying his new knowledge in the classroom this fall and in his role as director of marketing and public relations for the Husky Environmental Action Team, the student organization also known as HEAT.

“I learned more than I ever thought I could,” Kimelman said of his co-op, adding that the experience opened his eyes to other work opportunities in the environmental sector beyond city government. He pointed in particular to a potential career with an environmental law firm, a social enterprise, or a nongovernmental organization.