As developing nations strive for a future where all citizens have access to food, inexpensive goods, and modern technology, they often struggle with finding the balance between economic and industrial growth and sustainable living. The transition to sustainable energies and products is costly, and when real money and real lives are concerned, leaders tend to invest in affordable short-term solutions rather than long-term strategy. Technological advances, decreased costs, and strategic policy shifts are all requirements needed to accelerate the transformation of the energy systems in developing countries. At the University of Findlay, Master of Science in Environmental Safety and Health Management student Shushma Kc is researching cost effective, sustainable technology and how to implement it in the hopes of becoming an environmental leader in her home country of Nepal.
“I have always been interested in the environment and sustainability and how it can help my home,” Shushma said. “In Nepal, people dump waste oil in the rivers and leave trash on the street mostly because they don’t know any better.” The lack of environmental policies and public awareness has a notable impact on the country. According to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories, Nepal is ranked 176 overall and 180 in air quality. An article in the Nepali Times reports that 35,000 people die annually due to illnesses caused by polluted air and the average life expectancy is reduced by at least four years in the worst-affected areas such as the capital, Kathmandu Valley.
To combat her country’s pollution problems, she has focused on researching sustainable fuels in the form of biodiesel and developing public awareness strategies. Partnering with assistant professor of chemistry Nathan Tice, Ph.D., they are working to identify a cooking oil that can be converted to biodiesel fuel for use in biodiesel engines. As affordability concerns affect 57% of the population in countries working towards universal access, it is important to make sustainability efforts cost-effective as well. “I want to learn about as many sustainable principles as possible here so I can go home with ideas to convert waste into useful products,” Shushma explained. “Being able to turn that waste and cost into fuel that can save you money is very attractive for companies and developing countries.”
Shushma believes that one of the biggest impacts in combatting Nepal’s pollution issue is educating the public on why sustainability initiatives are important. “It’s not just about laws and policies, it’s about real people in the world contributing to pollution, or not following the laws, simply because they don’t know any better,” she said. “Education is the most valuable tool in making a lasting social impact. Small changes by a lot of people can make a difference and it makes top-down policy changes have a greater impact.”
Under the guidance of Amy Schlessman, D.H.Sc., D.P.T., Findlay faculty member and author of the children’s book Recycle Bin Boogie: Move and Learn with Recyclables!, Shushma is working on a children’s book that will break down sustainability concepts. “Most students have to wait until the end of high school to learn about the environment, climate change, and sustainability and develop good habits, so more books and labs for elementary students are really needed,” she said. She hopes that ingraining these important concepts early will help create habits that will stick with students through their entire lives. Focusing on higher level topics, she will also be teaching a 200-level sustainability course in the Environment, Health, Safety (EHS) & Sustainability undergraduate program at Findlay this Fall.
Shushma has been passionate about sustainability her whole life and knew she wanted to pursue a master’s degree after graduating with a degree in environmental science from the GoldenGate International College in Kathmandu, Nepal. Originally finding the University of Findlay through a Google search, she was immediately drawn in by the hands-on research opportunities and training at the All-Hazards Training Center. In fact, through her coursework she completed a 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) General Industry Compliance course, which covers the basic information and training requirements necessary to develop and implement an in-house Cooperative Compliance Program.
At Findlay, Shushma has found the education and opportunities imperative to taking the next step in her career. “This program has definitely added value to my resume and has fit into my career goals,” she said. With developed knowledge on the application and research of sustainability practices and skills to pass the knowledge along, she is ready to head home and make a difference.
To learn more about the opportunities available through Findlay’s Master of Science in Environmental Safety and Health Management, visit www.findlay.edu/mse.