Royal couple visit to Greentown offers Northeastern co-op student a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ moment

Catherine, Princess of Wales and Prince William, Prince of Wales arrive at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. The Prince and Princess of Wales are visiting the coastal city of Boston to attend the second annual Earthshot Prize Awards Ceremony, an event which celebrates those whose work is helping to repair the planet. During their trip, which will last for three days, the royal couple will learn about the environmental challenges Boston faces as well as meeting those who are combating the effects of climate change in the area. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Northeastern University student Natalie Hill would be the first to say that while amazing things happen daily at her place of employment, Greentown Labs, the visit of the prince and princess of Wales is out of the ordinary.

The royal couple is scheduled to visit the Somerville, Massachusetts, company, which bills itself as the world’s largest climate technology startup incubator, Thursday in the middle of a three-day visit to Boston that concludes with the 2022 Earthshot Prize Awards ceremony.

Hill, a marketing and events associate at Greentown Labs, plans to watch from a distance from an interior balcony.

“It’s certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re just really honored to have them come and learn about the climate tech innovation ecosystem in Boston,” Hill says.

Greentown Labs, which is currently in its 11th year, is home to more than 200 climate tech startups at its 100,000-square-foot campus in Somerville and at a site in Houston, Texas.

Hill says the company supports startups working on innovative solutions to greenhouse gas emissions by providing them with laboratory space, a machine shop, wet lab and office space in addition to investor connections and a variety of marketing services.

Greentown provides “everything a startup would need to grow and develop their technology,” she says.

headshot of Natalie Hill
Greentown co-op and Northeastern student Natalie Hill. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

“There are so many solutions that are being developed. It’s all about getting them out of the lab and into the world,” says Hill, who has accepted an offer to work full time for Greentown Labs after she graduates from Northeastern in December with a major in politics, philosophy and economics.

As an example, Hill says, “We have a member who is decarbonizing the cement-making process,” which currently accounts for a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Hill says Greentown Labs’ environment of optimism and hope for the future fuels her passion for the job.

Startups that call Greentown Labs home are coming up with answers “you would never even have imagined,” she says.

It doesn’t hurt that the company also has a number of Northeastern graduates on its team, including Erin Silver Wheeler, Dan Cliff and Genevieve Fischer, whom Hill says also started as co-op students.

“We’ve hired so many Northeastern co-ops,” Hill says. 

“What makes Greentown such a special place is the community that is united by a shared belief that it’s not too late to take collaborative climate action for net-zero emissions by 2050,” says Wheeler, who first worked for Greentown Labs as a co-op student in 2018 and is currently senior member experience manager.

“Entrepreneurship is hard and we believe leaning into optimism and supporting one another will make a difference in our climate trajectory,” she says.

“One of our mottos here is ‘Climate Action at Work,’ and that is really apparent when you visit either one of our locations,” says Cliff, who works for the Houston team as member success coordinator.

Hill  originally went to work for Greentown Labs as a co-op student in the fall of 2021. She left to study abroad in Italy during the spring semester and returned to the marketing and events team part time in September.

William and Kate arrived in Boston Wednesday. Their itinerary includes visits to the Chelsea nonprofit organization Roca, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester, where they will be accompanied by the late president’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, ambassador to Australia.

The royal couple’s visit concludes with the Earthshot Prize Awards at the MGM Music Hall Friday.

The  visit to Greentown Labs is private and by invitation only, according to the company’s website.

Hill says she is content with the opportunity to view William and Kate “from afar.” 

“I watched William and Kate get married in a class in elementary school” as a child in northern Virginia, via televised images projected on the classroom wall, she says. “Our teacher was really into it.”

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