PKG Social Impact Internships: Paige Vincent (’22)
My name is Paige Vincent, and I am a junior studying materials science and engineering (course 3) with a minor in energy studies. During IAP, I am an intern with the World Wildlife Fund in the Markets division, where I am analyzing greenhouse gas emissions along the supply chain of roundwood products. On campus, I am heavily involved in MIT Divest, which is a campaign advocating for divestment of MIT’s endowment from fossil fuels.
Most MIT community members do not need to be told about the dangers of climate change and the ever growing threat of unsustainable practices on the future of our planet. Climate change has luckily become a common topic of discussion in our community, and there is a lot of discourse at MIT on the technological improvements that can help change our course to a more sustainable one. From my own experience, a discussion around climate change was almost always directly tied to a discussion about renewable energy. Before this IAP, my experience was also exclusively with energy. I did not know much about the agriculture industry and how changes in agriculture could have an impact on the climate crisis.
I was very excited to begin work at the World Wildlife Fund to get a new perspective into conservation and sustainability, and take a look at climate change without a focus on renewable energy. I knew WWF continues to play a large role in conservation efforts across the globe, and was curious how the markets division fit into that vision and how looking at the supply chain for roundwood was relevant to their work. In my first week, I learned that WWF has locations across the globe, and their current work spans a lot more than just conservation. My project in particular was part of a larger project where the markets division works with sponsors to explore different commodities in agriculture and the supply chain’s impact on the environment.
Unique to my work was that roundwood was the one commodity that wasn’t food. Roundwood has many different uses from paper to construction materials, and the processes used to create wood products vary across geographies. Wood products are an important part of most economies, and about 60% of the world’s forests are used for forest products like roundwood. In my day to day life I have become more aware of how many wood or paper products I use. Roundwood is everywhere, from the base of my couch to the poles on the sidewalk to the cardboard packages I receive in the mail. From my work, I have also learned there are a lot of emissions associated with each one of these items. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to reduce those emissions at different stages.
This role has highlighted the necessary role nonprofits are playing in the climate space. My work is just a part of others produced by WWF that will go to sponsors, industry, and government to educate these influential actors on what actions they can take to fight climate change. The process for businesses to make sustainable choices and for climate policy to be enacted requires someone to gather information into a digestible format. WWF takes on a number of necessary roles including field work, fundraising for local organizations, activism, research, and sponsored projects all to contribute to the growing web of climate actors. In a broad sense, every person makes decisions that affect our climate and environment, and we all have a part to play to ensure its future. WWF plays many parts in this web, and provides a connection between many individuals all with the same goal.
Internally, the work will also be used by WWF to further contribute to knowledge of conservation. WWF answers important questions: What factors are driving deforestation? In what regions? What can we do to prevent it? WWF started as a conservation organization but has adapted to growing knowledge over the last half century.
Want to learn more about the PKG Social Impact Internships Program? Visit our webpage to learn about ELO opportunities for Spring 2021, and stay tuned for information for summer 2021 postings!