Umbra Food and Sustainability Studies Program alumnus and Hamilton College student Gerard Pozzi is currently interning at the Food, Forests and Water Program at the World Resources Institute (WRI).
WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States. Its more than 700 experts and staff turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being.
We caught up with Gerard to learn more about his role in WRI and what life looks like post-FSSP.
Umbra: Can you give a summary of your role at the World Resources Institute?
Gerard: I am working in the Food, Forests, and Water Program of WRI. Within this, I am focusing on Food and contributing to both the World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future (WRR) and the Better Buying Lab (BBL). The WRR is a research series that since 2012 has focused on the question of how the world can adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment. The series looks at ways to advance climate-smart agricultural practices, as well as strategies to make consumption patterns more sustainable, including reducing food waste and shifting diets. BBL is a multidisciplinary incubator of strategies that works with major food companies and marketing experts, with the goal of enabling consumers to buy and eat more sustainable foods.
I am an intern in WRI’s DC office until December, at which point I will return to Hamilton College in Clinton, New York and finish up my undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in food sustainability.
Umbra: Do any events or work opportunities particularly stand out?
Gerard: I love being a part of the Better Buying Lab. It involves some really cutting edge research in consumer behavior, behavioral economics, and marketing strategy. We also work with some startups as well as large corporations to promote more sustainable consumption patterns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and land and water use. BBL is partnering with companies such as Sodexo, Unilever, Google, Hilton, Panera, and others with the goal to research, test, and scale strategies aimed at helping consumers choose more sustainable food options. Changing consumer behavior and habits is very difficult to do, and I think BBL is taking some great steps in advancing some innovative strategies to accomplish this. These include testing out language and dish names that communicate the positive benefits of plant-based foods to consumers, and also developing “Power Dishes” rich in plant materials that have the potential to break through on many menus.
Working at WRI has also opened up an incredible network of individuals in all corners of the environmental world. My colleagues love to introduce me to their friends and open up doors whenever possible. I’ve met people from Uruguay, France, Germany, Holland, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries. Collaborating with such a diverse and international group of people has also exposed me to several new cultures. Coworkers travel frequently and often bring back souvenirs and/or foods that they always share with the office. I truly believe WRI benefits from and leads with such a collaborative and diverse culture, where people from each program are actively seeking to learn from those in other programs. This overlap is what pushes progress in tackling so many of the issues facing our planet.
Umbra: How do you think Umbra’s FSSP helped prepare you for this experience?
Gerard: Umbra’s FSSP helped me to conceptualize and understand the food system as a singular unit. It emphasized the importance of cross-collaborative work rather than focusing on a single issue alone. The field trip component of the FSSP taught me to observe from all angles and consider multiple perspectives. Elisa Ascione encouraged her students to observe everything closely and ask questions constantly. I always strive to forge ahead and go that extra mile. New opportunities always lie around the corner.
Umbra: Any plans for the near future?
Gerard: I will head back to Hamilton College for my last semester and write my thesis. I am going to explore the opportunities for plant-based startups in achieving a sustainable food future. This is my topic as of now… knowing me, I’m likely to take a few detours, so stay posted!
After college, I am hoping to travel and work before considering graduate school. My girlfriend, also an Umbra alumnus, graduates in the spring from The George Washington University. We hope to bike or drive cross-country, or pack a bag and go where the wind takes us. I know that the Umbra Institute is hosting a Food Conference in Perugia and I would love to attend and present some of my work! It would be nice to revisit some of my old stomping grounds (and especially grab a panino at La Bottega).
Thank you so much for your time Gerard and best of luck!
To learn more about Umbra’s Food and Sustainability Studies Program, click here.