A team wearing masks outside

Brianna Carr’s passion for sustainability was ignited while working at a restaurant in high school. Stunned by how much waste she saw, she began researching the environmental impact of inefficient supply chains. The resulting emissions figures haunted her.

“I have made it a goal to do everything I can to reduce the waste and emissions a business makes to make the Earth a better place to live in the future,” she said.

That goal drew her to the Pathways for Sustainability case competition at Fisher. The project connected teams of 19 students from all disciplines and paired them with a company and a sustainability challenge.

Brianna Carr
Brianna Carr

Carr’s team was paired with Seamless Rewind, a company that delivers new equipment to Chick-Fil-A restaurants, collects old equipment and sends it to recycling centers. The students’ challenge: help Seamless Rewind calculate the exact amount of emissions it contributes to the atmosphere.

“With my field of work being operations management, this project opened my eyes to all the problems that can come about in the supply chain and how a company does everything they can to avoid interruptions,” she said.

The team eventually created an emissions dashboard for company officials to utilize to ensure they are keeping greenhouse gas emissions low.

“My perspective on logistics companies and the crucial role they play in delivery of equipment has completely been altered,” said Carr, an operations management student. “Going from store to store, I constantly have in the back of my mind how the operations work behind the scenes and I cannot wait to immerse myself in this type of industry.”

Nick Tucker, executive vice president of strategy at Seamless Rewind, said the students provided valuable expertise that was outside the wheelhouse of company officials.   

“Our core competency is transportation, logistics and last-mile delivery,” he said. “Working with the students and continuing to learn based on their area of expertise has been a beneficial and truly enlightening experience.”

Ryan Baldwin, an information systems major, worked with La-Z-Boy on new, greener ways to package parts. The project would create long-term savings and lower the company’s carbon footprint.

“Coming into this, I really knew nothing about the operations of a company,” said Baldwin, who worked with various La-Z-Boy leaders, including CEO Melinda Whittington (BSBA ’89). “I'm amazed people who are this accomplished in their job will listen to college students' ideas of how to make the company better.”

Ryan Baldwin
Ryan Baldwin

Amy Vernon, La-Z-Boy’s director of global product safety and stewardship, saw incredible value in being involved in the competition.

“We do want to commit to the students; someday some of them might be employees of La-Z-Boy,” Vernon said. “In the short time that we got to spend with the students, we really witnessed how they transformed: from taking direction from us to leading meetings, there was a lot of growth we saw in that short time.”

More than $23,000 in prizes were awarded at the competition’s culminating event, where students presented their projects. Owens Corning, La-Z-Boy, Cardinal Health, Williams-Sonoma, Crimson Cup Coffee and Seamless Rewind served as the sponsoring companies.

The team working with Crimson Cup Coffee won the competition for an idea for a sustainable coffee cup design that breaks down with low CO2 emissions. Once scaled, the idea projected a savings of about 4,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions from each month — roughly the equivalent of a car driving 10,000 miles every month.

Projections have also come back for the La-Z-Boy team: its project is estimated to save the company $12,000 per year and prevent the production and disposal of about 350,000 pounds of cardboard. 

“It has made me realize that even though I might be young, I can still make a difference,” Baldwin said. “As cliché as it sounds, it’s true.”

It has made me realize that even though I might be young, I can still make a difference.

Ryan BaldwinInformation Systems Major