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A Living Laboratory for Green Solutions

Students in a green supply chain management course find sustainable options for campus.

Informal portrait of Laura Zazyczny.
Senior Laura Zazyczny participated in a collaboration between her green supply chain management class and the Office of Sustainability Management.

As a first-year student, Laura Zazyczny ’21 received a pen made from recycled plastic bottles at a giveaway on the Quad.

“When I saw the Office of Sustainability Management logo on the pen, I was immediately interested in learning more about the initiatives happening on campus,” says Zazyczny, who is double majoring in supply chain management and entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management .

Last semester, Zazyczny, who is also minoring in environment and society in the College of Arts and Sciences | the Maxwell School , was excited to combine her interests in supply chain and sustainability through a course on green supply chain management taught by Patrick Penfield, a professor of practice and the director of executive education at Whitman. Penfield wanted to give his students real-world experience implementing the initiatives and ideas they discussed in class, so he partnered with sustainability coordinator Melissa Cadwell to have them research sustainable product options for the campus.

This project was unlike any other I have worked on, because I had to report to stakeholders and generate deliverables.

—Laura Zazyczny 

Cadwell put together 10 proposals for the students to consider, such as finding local food options for the dining centers; examining sustainable food packaging for the stadium; developing a reverse logistics process for athletic gear; or setting up a local source section for the bookstore. “An important part of the education was explaining to the students how purchasing local supports our community and the surrounding communities, and why purchasing sustainably made items is important to the global issue of climate change,” Cadwell says.

Marketing Sustainability on Campus

Informal portrait of Laura Zazyczny.

For Penfield’s class, Zazyczny’s group was tasked with finding sustainable giveaway products that could be used as promotional tools for the Office of Sustainability Management. The team was instructed to source at least three different items made from recycled materials. “We felt very responsible for upholding the sustainability management team’s mission throughout the project and searched diligently for sources that aligned with their goals,” she says.

The group was given a budget and instructed to consider items ranging in size and price from pens and stickers to drawstring bags and sunglasses. Zazyczny and her team were surprised that many products are not as sustainable as they claimed to be. “It is very difficult to find products that are truly sustainable,” she says. “I think this issue that we experienced on a micro level reflects issues regarding sustainability at an industrywide scale. While incorporating sustainability into supply chains, it is important to be thorough in research.”

Her team settled on three products: tote bags made from 100% recycled materials; lip balm in a biodegradable paper container made with post-consumer content; and sticky notes made in the U.S. from recycled paper.

It is very difficult to find products that are truly sustainable. I think this issue that we experienced on a micro level reflects issues regarding sustainability at an industrywide scale.

—Laura Zazyczny 

Zazyczny is grateful for the skills she and her classmates learned in their role as industry consultants for the project. “This project was unlike any other I have worked on, because I had to report to stakeholders and generate deliverables,” she says. “The project gave me insight on how to formally communicate with stakeholders; how to properly structure a project and set deadlines to stay on track; and how to make an effective presentation that articulated our objective, problem statement, solutions and next steps in an organized way.”

Most importantly, she says, she learned how sustainability can be incorporated into any supply chain and deliver significant benefits to customers and companies. After graduation, Zazyczny will be joining Morgan Stanley as an operations analyst in their New York City office. “I aspire to focus on sustainability initiatives within the industry,” she says.

Thanks to Zazyczny’s research, Cadwell plans to purchase organic, petroleum-free lip balm that her office will emblazon with their logo to promote their department.

Native Plants for Campus Bees

Informal portrait of Rex Anderson in Pete's Giving Garden. Click to read his story.
Senior Rex Anderson investigated sources of native plants for South Campus.

Rex Anderson ’21, a finance and supply chain double major who took the course, was part of a group tasked with finding a supply chain of native Northeast plant sources for Syracuse University’s Bee Campus USA pollinator garden.

“We read many case studies that exemplified green supply chain practices, and how they were actually more efficient and cost effective when sustainable practices were implemented,” he says. “I was really interested in the ability to put what I was learning in the classroom to good use.”

Informal portrait of Rex Anderson in Pete's Giving Garden, examining a plant.

His team first narrowed down which native species grew well together, and which species were easy to maintain. Then they began to identify potential suppliers, reaching out to local growers to see if they had any fully matured species or could commit to growing those native plants.

The team organized their findings in a database with contact information for each potential grower. “Having a semester-long project required us to plan ahead and make sure we were meeting our goals,” he says. They made recommendations of which native plant species and local nurseries would be ideal for the garden based on cost, lead time (growth cycle and bloom time) and capacity. Cadwell plans to pursue these leads to create a new pollinator garden at 161 Farm Acre Road on South Campus.

I was really interested in the ability to put what I was learning in the classroom to good use. 

—Rex Anderson

Anderson, who hopes to work in renewable energy and sustainable energy consumption, says the skills he learned can be applied in his career when determining the benefit of a product or service. “This class introduced me to the idea of total cost of ownership—taking into consideration the energy and resource costs required to make the product, the cost of the product itself, and the costs that using the product will incur.” After graduating, he plans to pursue an M.S. in sustainability management and an M.B.A. from Stevens Institute of Technology.

A Future for Student Collaborations

Cadwell is using the results of the students’ research to pitch many of these products and solutions to their respective offices on campus. She feels the collaboration was a success on multiple levels.

The school is a living laboratory, and these projects make great learning experiences for our students.

—Professor Patrick Penfield

“A project for us is not always about the actual item,” she says. “When we have any interaction with students, our goal is to have them look at the project from a sustainable lens and standpoint, and make sure they learn why it is important to consider where and what an item is made from. We want our interactions with students to broaden their perspectives.”

Penfield echoes that sentiment. “The school is a living laboratory, and these projects make great learning experiences for our students.”

Shaina M. Hill

This story was published on .


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