October 23, 2018
It was in middle school that Maximilian Christman first thought about how people impact the environment, when his mom showed him an article from People magazine about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. “While I wasn’t familiar with the term ‘sustainability’ at the time, I knew that I wanted my life and career to leave a positive mark on the world,” he said.
Fueled by this passion, Christman graduated from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in 2014 with a bachelor of science focusing on sustainable energy, materials and technology. He later received a master of environmental management from Duke University. Since wrapping up his studies, Christman worked for two years as the sustainability specialist for the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s health department (UW Health), and he recently accepted a new position as the sustainability manager for the California Institute of Technology.
“We can follow different paths, but each of us sustainability professionals is forging our way ahead towards progress in our field and our world,” he said.
Christman answered a few questions about his experience at the School of Sustainability and what he’s been doing since graduation.
Question: Why did you choose ASU/the School of Sustainability?
Answer: I became acquainted with the term “sustainability” in high school, and it broadened my mandate as far as having not just a positive environmental impact, but also socioeconomic impact. ASU was and is the premier school in this discipline, and I felt that I could learn the most from the widest variety of experts given the history of the program.
Q: What has been the most interesting and/or challenging part about applying what you learned during your degrees to your sustainability career?
A: Sustainability and business principles go hand in hand — that’s common sense for me when discussing efficiency and resiliency for anything from a business to an ecosystem. The most interesting challenge of my career is helping other people see that connection; providing succinct education and proper communication are critical skills for any sustainability professional.
Q: Can you describe the “network of green champions” you established at UW Health?
A: My main goal of growing the green team network at UW Health was to connect the over 80 different sites that made up the UW Health system while providing a consistent set of tools for the champions at each site. This was done by utilizing tools from other educational institutions to create a green team scorecard, and this scorecard was then used to provide green certifications for each site. It was a very effective engagement tool.
Q: What does your new role as the California Institute of Technology’s sustainability manager entail?
A: In this role, I manage all aspects of Caltech’s sustainability program, while providing strategic direction on anything from de-carbonization, laboratory sustainability, waste management, alternative transportation and sustainability engagement. We have a separate team that works directly on energy services and efficiency which frees me up to focus on the integration of renewables to our portfolio along with the above stated initiatives.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability is personal, but it’s also global. There are general principles to be followed, but implementation requires a tailored approach. Natural and constructed systems are interconnected, and sustainable progress will be much more complete and comprehensive if we adhere to and internalize that in all that we do.
Photos: Elephant conservation trip in Thailand; skiing in Jackson Hole, WY