Sustainability Spotlight: Lindsy Pang, Co-Head EcoRep

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We met with co-head EcoRep Lindsy Pang (Martel ’16) to talk about her environmental health interests, her future plans, and her accomplishments as an environmental leader at Rice.

Where are you from?
LP: I’m from a small suburb in Massachusetts called Bedford. I knew everybody in my class because we all grew up with each other. It’s a very peaceful and homey town but I am grateful to be able to experience the busy Houston city life as well.

How did you first become interested in environmental issues?
It started the same time my interests in medicine began. I developed severe allergies around middle school. I’ve always been someone who loved petting animals, running around outside, and going camping. Unfortunately, I learned that I was allergic to practically all of those things. Since then, I have been passionate about learning more about our biological condition and how we can overcome challenges presented to it. Furthermore, it opened my eyes to how our environment affects our human body. Later I learned that pollution and environmental degradation further exacerbates allergies, asthma, and pulmonary illnesses. I empathized with that and realized we need to improve environmental issues not only for the nature around us but for our own health too.

Are there particular environmental topics that interest you?
LP: I was shadowing a pulmonologist a few years ago and it was interesting and eye-opening to see that a large number of his Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients were from underserved areas that experienced greater air pollution. I am interested in areas in environmentalism, such as air pollution, that directly affect disease.

You helped lead a project in your old neighborhood to protect the water quality of a nearby lake. What did that involve, and what did you learn from the process?
LP: My high school team and I promoted the installment of waste bins and bags around the lake to encourage dog walkers to pick up after their pets. It was an effort to decrease water pollution and eutrophication from pet waste. It was one of my first environmental projects and it acted as a catalyst to those I spearheaded at Rice.

When you came to Rice, you became the EcoRep for Martel College. What sorts of projects have you led at Martel?
LP: Some long-term structural changes include introducing ceramic mugs to decrease paper cup waste and retrofitting LED lights. The most important thing was to increase environmental awareness at Martel and throughout Rice through those projects. This year, I led a fair trade Katz coffee study break. It was fun to try organic nitrogen cold brew coffee but what was really great was to talk to everybody who came about their ideas on how our college could be more sustainable.

You are now sharing the head EcoRep position and recently administered the Green Dorm Initiative, a green living competition for Rice students. Please share some of the highlights of that contest.
LP: We broke 500 participants this year and it’s a new record! Exciting changes were implemented this year such as using a raffle system to determine the weekly winners. It set a new, collaborative tone to the event. Furthermore, I also worked to build more student-faculty partnerships towards Rice sustainability. We brought back Y. Ping Sun but also asked Provost Miranda, Dr. Adrienne Correa from the Biosciences department, and David McDonald from H&D to participate in the event.

As a senior who has been actively involved in environmental clubs and activities during your four years at Rice, what advice would you give to first year students with environmental interests?
LP: I matriculated as an excited freshman who wanted to be involved but was nervous about how to start. My advice is to embrace the nervousness and jump into new experiences because that is exactly how you learn to step out of your comfort zone. Think about all the projects and events you want to happen. Think about the first step that you need to do and the people you might want to reach out to. Then, do it! The great thing about Rice is that there are so many different fields of environmentalism to explore – from Real Food Revolution to Rice Oceans Club.

Graduation is rapidly approaching. What’s next for Lindsy Pang?
LP: I’m attending medical school. Concurrently, I will be pursuing a joint Masters in Public Health (MPH) degree so I have the toolbox to tackle environmental health issues from both a clinical and policy perspective.