Ever since the 2018 United Nations Report on climate change, countries across the world are having more conversations about sustainability. Citizens are becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment and the future of our seemingly fragile planet. Some, however, have been focused on these issues for most of their lives, one being civil and environmental engineering graduate student Darin Son.
Son finished her undergraduate studies in environmental engineering at Cal Poly last spring, and decided to stay at Cal Poly to obtain her master’s degree. When she’s not doing yoga or surfing at the beach, Son continues working tirelessly on her thesis about algal and bacterial process used to enhance dairy wastewater treatments.
Her dedication for environmental engineering began years ago. Back when she was living in Korea, Son frequented trips to visit family in Thailand. “I saw the differences between Korea and Thailand and the way the environment and infrastructure were maintained and developed,” she said. “In Thailand, there was a lack of pollution management that made me think, ‘We can do better.’” After high school, Son decided to pursue the technical aspect of environmental work through engineering.
Since then, Son’s studies in SLO have changed her view of the world and her role in it. She said, “Environmental engineering helped me realize how big a role the government plays in the ways we see ‘sustainability’ in our lives … As much as I believe that every individual’s efforts count — like the sustainable habits I try to practice — I realize there’s a bigger issue that also needs to be addressed.”
Son believes that someday, she could play a role in implementing better systems and infrastructures to ensure people have access to healthier, more sustainable lives. Without this support, Son notes that these lifestyles are hard to sustain.
Until that day, Son is working to help provide more sustainable options to students right here on Cal Poly’s campus. These past two years, she’s helped run the CP Thrift Fair, which collects and sells reusable goods ranging from college supplies to household items. This provides students with the opportunity to make a more conscious effort to be green with their life choices. By reusing or donating goods, students are cutting down on waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and use of valuable resources. Son said, “I want to provide the option for sustainability and make that option as convenient as possible so that people wouldn’t have to think twice about it.”
Son believes that being more environmentally conscious benefits not only our campus, but our planet too. With optimism and dedicated hard work, she is making changes, however big or small, to positively impact the environment for years to come.
Son is a great reminder that holding onto hope in the face of growing environmental concerns, even when we feel it’s hard to find, is always worthwhile. Son believes all you have to do is look to your community, and you’ll find hope in those around you.
“It was easier for me to be resilient once I saw that there are people who do care, there are organizations and jobs dedicated to this cause,” Son said. “I’d advise to get involved, look around, and just be in those circles who care and trust that you’ll find your way to contribute to the same cause.”