As Alcoa Earthwatch Fellowship Recipient, Miyashiro Studied the Environment to Help Educate the Community on Global Issues

Each year 15 employees of Alcoa and its many global subsidiaries, including Kawneer, are selected to engage with an environmental project of their choice to increase knowledge about global environment issues and to bring that knowledge back to the community where they live and work. Kris Miyashiro, project manager in Kawneer’s Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada facility has recently returned from a visit to the rainforests of Puerto Rico – making her dreams of visiting and studying the rainforests a reality.

Kris, along with five Alcoa employees and two community members, spent two weeks of the summer studying an 800-hectare region of Las Casas de la Selva in central Puerto Rico. The expedition was a joint effort with Tropic Ventures, a rainforest enrichment and sustainable forestry project founded in 1983 in the highland city of Patillas. The project aims to research and demonstrate to visitors and volunteers various methods of using rainforest resources without damaging the area’s volatile ecology.

For years Kawneer and Alcoa have made sustainability a key priority; showing our dedication through a range of versatile, sustainable solutions, interactive tools, programs like “Make an Impact” (designed to help individuals manage their carbon footprint and reduce energy costs), and “Earthwatch” and even through Kawneer’s message “Every Day You Make a Choice. Make a Choice That Counts.” We are committed to developing products that enhance energy efficiency and thermal performance; creating solutions that encourage innovative, environmentally responsible design; managing our own carbon footprint through investment in renewables, productivity improvements, recycling and technological innovation; and encouraging employees, their families, the community and customers and architects to make environmentally responsible choices where they can.

The inspiration for Kris’ application came from her own commitment to sustainability and from a hiking trip on Vancouver Island (The West Coast Trail) that she took with friends. “I hold environmental conservation in high regard,” said Kris on the expedition blog. “How wonderful it is to know that I work for a company that holds these same values.”

The fellowship is conducted in partnership with Alcoa Foundation and the Earthwatch Institute, a non-profit organization geared towards educating those concerned about sustainability in natural and biological sciences. Volunteers with the organization work with local scientists on every continent to create solutions to environmental problems. In addition to conducting valuable research at their various locations, the fellows are charged with bringing their experience back to the workplace to put a face on the larger picture of sustainability.

The 2010 Earthwatch Fellowship welcomed Alcoa volunteers from China, Russia, Australia, Iceland, Canada, USA and Brazil to project locations on three continents. Since 2003, the program’s 94 employee fellows have logged over 6,800 research hours around the globe.

As part of the fellowship, Kris is required to take what she learns and apply it in her own community once she returns. Though she hasn’t yet decided what she might do, some things that she has considered are presenting information and research to her colleagues and possibly some local schools. In a recent article in The Lethbridge Journal, Kris said, “I think it will make environmental issues more real. We read about it, we hear about it but most people don’t do anything about it. Maybe seeing the repercussions of what we do in real life and having someone explain that to (us) will make us not want to be bystanders anymore.”

Through our commitment to sustainability and programs like the Earthwatch fellowship, Kawneer is working hard to make a difference in the future of the planet. Like Kris, Kawneer understands that we cannot be bystanders anymore. Though we have achieved a great deal, we know there is more to be done. When we work together – business, institutions, government and community – real outcomes can be achieved.

Read about Kris’ experiences, as well as those of the other Earthwatch fellows, here