By Emma Jakubik
With the growing concern of climate change, comes the question of how best to go about preserving the planet for future generations. The droughts, wildfires, melting ice caps and unusually mild weather can be overwhelming for most people, but Angie Kim, the sustainability coordinator at Purchase, is not daunted.
She exudes life and enthusiasm, as she sits in her welcoming office that is decorated all over with pictures of her with friends and family. Her long dark hair falls across her petite shoulders as she passionately gesticulates and talks about her job, her eyes big and bright with excitement.
“I guess generally the mission of my position is to embed sustainability into the culture of Purchase,” Kim says. “It entails a lot of different types of work.”
This includes working with students to teach them what sustainability is, working with faculty to adapt a sustainable curriculum and giving opportunities for students to get involved in sustainability projects that are happening on campus. She recently completed a 200 page sustainability report, the very first of its kind at Purchase, that details everything sustainable Purchase has done up until this point.
“I spent a year talking to HR (Human Resources) to OCE (Office of Community Engagement), literally every department on campus to try to back track and learn about the history,” Kim says.
Because of her, there is now a tangible benchmark that future reports can work off of.
In addition, she works on newsletters, social media outreach and handling waste and recycling programs. She even did a complete overhaul of Purchase’s sustainability website, which hadn’t been touched for about eight years.
Kim explains that there she can post what Purchase has done to be sustainable.
“It's a place where we can be like, ‘look at all these accomplishments we've done!’” she says.
It is clear that sustainability is a core part of her life, both professionally and personally.
Some examples of Purchase’s sustainability that she shared in a beaming way similar to that of a mother showing off her child’s drawings on the fridge, are that Purchase’s recycling rate increased by 3 percent and that Purchase participated in a nationwide recycling competition and placed in the top 10 percent across the country.
Kim has only been working at Purchase since January 2018 and she has put in an incredible amount of work to her position. Her boss agrees.
“Angie is phenomenal. You go in with certain expectations of how a new employee is going to transition to be a seasoned employee. Angie didn’t really have that transition,” says Tom Kelly, the senior energy manager. “She just blew my socks off. Phenomenal work ethic and a great learner.”
Kelly even nominated Kim for the Milli Award, an award sponsored by Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journal and seeks to recognize millennials in the workforce that are positively impacting the world in various sectors. Kim received the award in 2018 for her contributions in the “Green” category.
“I was one of the youngest nominees, but it was so inspiring to be surrounded by others who have been doing amazing things and contributing so much in their industries,” Kim says. “I’d like to be a similar example to the younger generations and pave the way for a better future.”
Kim came to Purchase all the way from Virgina, where she grew up and attended college at the University of Virginia. At UVA, she studied environmental studies and played water polo. She worked closely with the sustainability department and the environmental sciences department, collaborating with all the faculty members and grad students. She was also given the opportunity to study abroad in Amsterdam during her junior year where she was able to learn sustainability from a city that has been implementing it for decades. Her time at UVA inspired her to continue working in a collegiate environment.
“I love working in higher-ed. I think it's awesome and I think for students it's such an influential time period; you’re moving away from home for the first time, living on your own, meeting people who have different ideas than you,” Kim says. “You're just learning and grasping all this new knowledge and I think it's very inspiring to be around that type of atmosphere.”
Growing up in Virginia definitely influenced Kim and her sustainable ideals. Her town of Harrisonburg is nestled between the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachian mountains, so she was constantly surrounded by nature.
“Everything is so picturesque and natural,” Kim says. “We lived near multiple national parks, so we would be going to picnics on the weekends and going out for a day trip, running around barefoot, going hiking, camping all the time.”
Kim’s family immigrated from Seoul, South Korea when she was just 1 year old. Her parents were blue collar workers that made sure she and her older brother were involved in all kinds of sports and activities while growing up.
Kim first became aware of sustainability when she was about 16 or 17. At the Massanutten Regional Governor’s School for Environmental Science and Technology, which she attended for her junior and senior year of high school, she took an online quiz that calculated her carbon footprint.
“I was shocked because I think my result was something like ‘if every single person in the world lived like you did, we would need six or seven Earths for all those resources,’” Kim says. “And I was like ‘woah, that's terrifying. Look at this beautiful place I live in, everything I do is harming that.’ That was the first instance where I realized I needed to change.”
Kim’s care for climate initiatives and sustainability is clearly something that connects with her on a deeper level. She is incredibly passionate about her job and making any kind of positive impact in the world.
When asked where she sees her job going in the future she humbly responded, “Ultimately what I would love to see is for me to almost no longer have a job. Everyone on campus in this community is sustainable and has the knowledge of sustainability, and it becomes so embedded in our college system that it is accessible for everyone. Basically, I just want to work until my job doesn't have to exist.”