Manomet’s new internship program for college students, U360, picked up momentum over the summer. An offshoot of Root360, Manomet’s small business sustainability toolkit, U360 teaches college students about sustainability by connecting them with small business owners nationwide to learn about their current business practices.
In late August, Lilyanna Sollberger, a graduating senior from College of the Atlantic, shared what she learned about small business and sustainability during her U360 internship with Manomet staff and Trustees in downtown Boston. As the culmination of her U360 education and training, Lilyanna delivered a presentation that was much more than your typical “How I Spent My Summer Internship”— she provided an in-depth examination of 16 small food-related businesses, as viewed through a sustainability lens.
As research for her final college thesis on food waste, Lilyanna chose to exclusively focus on businesses from the food industry—including nine restaurants, two natural food markets, two food manufacturers, two food distributors, and one brewery. An avid traveler, she performed her U360 responsibilities from campgrounds, rest stops, stores with Wi-Fi, and even Japan!
U360 helps students develop vital career skills, gain extensive real-world experience, and begin building their network of professional contacts. “I originally wanted to intern with U360 to improve my communication skills around sustainability,” says Lilyanna. “Not only did I come out of the experience with clear and concise verbal and written communication, but I also strengthened other skills like project management, collaboration, and problem solving. Additionally, U360 deepened my understanding of small business sustainability to go beyond environmental practices like recycling and energy monitoring to consider social and governance practices.”
Lilyanna began her presentation by sharing trends she observed across the 16 businesses. Some of what she shared with the audience about the businesses she interviewed included:
- Their waste reduction efforts are primarily focused on recycling, rather than reducing consumption;
- They place high importance on fostering employee creativity and innovation, but are weak when it comes to workforce support;
- Nearly all of the larger businesses separate their financial duties, while almost none of the smaller businesses (<15 employees) do; and
- Despite being a water-intensive industry, most of the businesses that produce food or beverages utilize very little water-saving technology and report efforts to minimize water as ‘fair’ or ‘poor.’
She then presented case studies for a small juice bar and café in Maine, a natural food store in Montana, and a large New England-wide food distributor. She offered five-six recommendations per business; no two suggestions were the same, demonstrating her ability to apply general sustainability principles to specific businesses. (For a more detailed overview of Lilyanna’s presentation, please click here.)
The audience was riveted throughout Lilyanna’s presentation, and all commended the caliber of her analysis. “Lilyanna knocked it out of the park!” says Lora Winslow, Manomet’s Program Associate for the Sustainable Economies Program and U360 project manager. “The content she presented far surpassed the expectations for an undergraduate project—her ability to apply the general sustainability concepts we’d discussed to the individual businesses she’d studied was exemplary.”
Winslow added, “One of Manomet’s long-standing priorities has been to engage with younger generations and help raise their awareness of the opportunities available to better the world around us…and U360 is making that happen.”
If you would like more information about U360, please contact Lora Winslow at firstname.lastname@example.org.