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Student Perspectives: Economics and Sustainability

 The potential of the future is in the collective action of the economic agents in the present. Humans are interconnected and dependent on all the inhabitants of the earth. Our values need to reflect this connection and our economic models have to embed responsible stewardship of the planet.  ~Madhavi Venkatesan, PhD (Course instructor)

Sustainability is affected by economics. To the extent that prices are the sole basis of decision-making, decisions may fail to consider the true costs of a product, leading to over-consumption, environmental degradation and human and natural resource exploitation.

 In the spring of 2019, Dr. Venkatesan had the opportunity to assist Annie Lee, a design student, with her sustainability infographic project. The infographics as displayed on this page provide a comparative framework for assessing the sustainability of different fabric options. What is clear after viewing Annie’s work is that all products have an environmental footprint, and this is why reduction of resource use is first in the conservation message “reduce, reuse and recycle.” 

 The more we understand, the better choices we will make to ensure the health of our future and the well-being of our planet.  Fundamentally, human convenience is a price the environment cannot afford.

 About Annie Lee:

 Annie Lee received a BFA in Graphic Design from Northeastern University in 2019. For her senior capstone project, she examined the environmental effects of textiles and designed the information in a visually engaging way. She is passionate about sustainability and design and hopes to see a future with less fast fashion.


In the fall of 2017, students enrolled in Economics of Sustainability pursued individual sustainability projects of their choosing. The projects focused on an assessment of a single issue, and included a literature review, methodology, results and recommendations. During the spring of 2018, we highlight the work of these students to increase awareness of present and emerging issues, share potential solutions, and inspire active participation in sustainability.

About Alejandra Peña

I am a young and passionate entrepreneur from Ecuador. I have lived in Switzerland, London, Paris, and currently in the United States. 

I believe in the use of market forces to drive positive social change and promote sustainable and fair practices.

Among my experiences are starting a non-profit in Africa that gives asset-loans to financially excluded entrepreneurs in Cape Town; working as a consultant for a microfinance in

Pictured left to right Vanessa and Alejandra Peña

Mumbai; working for Kiva, a social enterprise based in San Francisco, and developing an inclusive program for Hispanic entrepreneurs in Oakland. My latest projects are organizing an entrepreneurship conference in Ecuador that aims to develop the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latin America and connect local dreamers with global opportunities.

About Vanessa Peña

A proud young Ecuadorian with a strong international background, I embrace the values of entrepreneurship through awareness, empathy and fair practices. I firmly believe in the power of using market forces to create a sustainable social impact and solve the most pressing issues in society. For me, the notion of giving back and contributing to something you are passionate about are key to happiness.

Since I was 16 I have been living in different places like Switzerland, London, Paris and now the United States. However, my true passion is Latin America and my future goal is to make an impact in the region. Some of my experiences range from sales and marketing for a tech company in New York, consulting for a microfinance in India, to co-funding a nonprofit in South Africa. Among my latest projects is the creation and organization of a conference for entrepreneurs in Ecuador called AWEIK.

Alejandra and Vanessa were recently highlighted by the Northeastern Social Enterprise Institute for their work and most recent success in launching Aweik, a conference targeted to social entrepreneurs in Ecuador, https://www.northeastern.edu/sei/2018/02/aweik-it-just-takes-one-step/

Alejandra’s and Vanessa’s paper focused on the Economics of Sustainability and Bamboo.

About Ian Barton-Hashimoto   

Ian is a fourth year student at Northeastern University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Economics, with a minor in Business Administration. He was born in Orlando, Florida, but he has lived in various parts of the world including East Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, and both North and South America. Prior to moving to Boston, Ian completed high school in Dubai, where he lived for eight years. In terms of academics, Ian’s interests lie in applied econometrics, microeconomics, and finance. Additionally, he has completed two co-ops in the investment management sector.

Ian decided to enroll in this course because of his interest in learning more about sustainability in an economics context.

Ian Barton-Hashimoto’s paper is A lifecycle assessment of plastic bottles and potential policy implications.

About Elliott Brewer

Elliott is a senior and with a dual concentration in Economics and Math. He is interested in sustainable investing, development, and living. He also enjoys learning Arabic, playing soccer, and pretending he already has a full-time job lined up after school.


Elliot Brewers’ paper is Environmental, Social, and Governance Investing as a Solution to Responsible Growth Problems.


About Katie Powers

Katie is a fifth year Economics & International Affairs major with minors in Global Social Entrepreneurship and Political Science. She has had a range of experiences at Northeastern, including three dialogues and three co-ops in all different disciplines. Katie spent time studying conflict resolution in Northern Ireland the summer before her first co-op at CODEPINK: Women for Peace, an activist organization in Washington, DC. After being exposed to life on Capitol Hill, Katie decided to focus more on economics than political science, which led her to travel with SEI to South Africa, which really ignited her passion for social enterprise. After her second co-op at John Hancock in Boston, Katie traveled on her final dialogue to the United Nations in Geneva, which both helped provide valuable insight for what she wanted to pursue as a final co-op. Katie was fortunate to land an internship at Kiva, a non-profit microfinance organization in San Francisco where she worked on the Kiva US operations team (and ate the best avocados she’s ever had).

Katie Powers’ paper is Food Waste: An Evaluation and Solution Focused Assessment.