Living Green, Giving Green

Each month, Georgetown Alumni Online features alumni who are "Living Georgetown"—Hoyas who are living and working in a way that reflects the Georgetown mission of being "women and men for others." For April, in honor of the university's Earth Month celebration, we highlight a few examples of alumni who are Living Georgetown by also living green.

Jessica Robbins stands on the edge of a cliff

Jessica Robbins (SFS'12)
Project Finance Associate, Sol Systems
After reading Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown, Jessica Robbins knew that she wanted to get involved with environmental work. More

“I realized that there is no more fundamental question than how we as humans interact with our environment, and how we can do so sustainably,” said Robbins, whose father gave her the book as a high school graduation present.

As an undergraduate student, Robbins served as Secretary of Sustainability for the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) where she played a key role in helping to create a $250,000 green revolving loan fund. The fund supports sustainability projects, such as the recent installation of new solar panels on the rooftops of student housing, which will produce nearly 20,000 kilowatts of electricity each year; about 27 percent of the electricity for this student housing.

Robbins was also one of five founding members of the student group Georgetown Energy, dedicated to promoting energy innovations on Georgetown’s campus, in the community and abroad.

Currently, as Project Finance Associate for Sol Systems, Robbins talks to solar installers and developers seeking financing for development of commercial and industrial solar systems and helps them find accessible financing options. She is excited to see her work contribute to the progression of energy trends in the right direction. “Utilities are reacting to the presence of solar in the energy mix, and it’s exciting to be a part of that disruptive change,” she said.

Outside of her day job, Robbins keeps busy serving on the steering committee of the DC/MD/VA chapter of Generation Conservation, an initiative of The Nature Conservancy that boosts awareness of its work and mission among a younger generation of urban professionals.

Robbins feels that even a small commitment can yield a major positive outcome. “It’s not necessary to have a career related to the environment to stay educated on these issues,” she says. “As Hoyas, we need to take time to stay informed on the environmental challenges shaping our generation. It is one of the most important contributions we can make as lifelong students.”

Greg Shiedschlag

Gregory Siedschlag (MPP'11)
Program Analyst, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
After completing his Bachelor's degree in English and history at Cornell University, Greg Siedschlag moved to Nashville, where he worked as a web content manager and freelance writer. More

As an undergraduate student, he had spent some time writing for an environmental newspaper and, seeking to make a career change, was inspired to volunteer for the Tennessee Environmental Council, a Nashville nonprofit in need of help. "I just showed up a few times a week and within a month I was working on my own grant project," said Siedschlag.

After weighing his options for graduate studies, Siedschlag elected to get his Master's in Public Policy at Georgetown, in order to be prepared for public service. While working toward his degree, he wanted to jump right into his passion project: environmental work. "The last 200 years of human history have taken a terrible toll on the ecosystem. We need to start making changes in terms of how we manage and protect resources," he said.

As a Program Analyst at EPA, Siedschlag works to coordinate the State Review Framework, under which the agency evaluates state air, water and hazardous waste programs. The framework also works to ensure compliance with data sharing and pollution offender enforcement. He started this position while still a student at Georgetown through the Student Career Experience Program, which at that time allowed him to apply non-competitively for a position once he graduated.

"It was a really great program, with great instruction and a phenomenal group of students. It really opened new ways of looking at things in terms of the economic and statistical training that I received," he explained. "It was enormously helpful and led directly to the job I have now."

Siedschlag enjoys his work, noting on his LinkedIn profile that the agency's mission to protect human health and the environment is a mission he is "honored to fulfill."

He encourages those who want to get involved with environmental causes to seek out groups where there is an unmet need, as he did in Nashville. "Find a group that has a mission that matches yours to help connect with mentors and network," he said. "There are opportunities right now, especially in the nonprofit sector." Environmental work, he said, is extremely crucial. "More than anything else, our climate is staring us in the face right now."

Annie Downs

Anna Downs (MPP'13)
State Policy Research Analyst, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
As an undergraduate student, Annie Downs wasn’t initially interested in doing work for any environmental causes.  More

However, working for the Peace Corps before enrolling in the Master’s in Public Policy program and taking a few domestic energy classes made her realize that energy had become her niche. In 2012, as a fellow of the Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps, Downs was able to significantly improve energy efficiency at the Smithsonian Institution. She identified a need for lighting upgrades around the Institution’s museum and research complex, which, once upgraded, reduced energy use by more than one million kilowatt hours per year, saving the institution more than $620,000 over five years.

She went on to write her thesis on state energy policy, using ACEEE—now her employer—as a source.

As State Policy Research Analyst, Downs heads and contributes research to various reports for ACEEE and is working to advance energy-efficient policies and programs in the United States. The nonprofit organization produces a State Energy Efficiency Scorecard annually, ranking states for their level of energy efficiency Recently, Downs was lead author of a new report released by ACEEE, Energy Efficiency Resource Standards: A New Progress Report on State Experience, which found that energy efficiency objectives implemented in half of U.S. states in 2012 saved enough electricity to power two million homes for a year. This important information helps utilities understand that these state energy efficiency standards are indeed working and making a difference in national energy savings.

Despite this progress, Downs said, there is still much to be done. “Climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the population as whole. I still don’t think there are enough people getting involved and doing something to make a change.”

“There are many ways that you can be involved,” she added.

While conserving energy may not be one of the most popular charitable causes around, Downs says that it is still worth the attention of alumni and the nation in general.

“Energy efficiency may not be particularly ‘sexy,’ but it’s really important,” she said.