MIT Grad and carbon emissions expert Lara Pierpoint Interview

Our fight to save our planet is multi-faceted and change spans across industries. At Present Iteration, we find inspiration from looking up to leaders in sustainable innovation who can paint a picture for a brighter future when we all work together. This is why we were so excited to sit down with MIT Grad and carbon emissions expert Lara Pierpoint, who sheds light on her life work and shares some advice for sustainably minded humans.

Q: Please tell us your story! How did you become passionate about sustainability and climate change?

For me, saving the climate is about saving the environment. I want to contribute to preserving beautiful natural, healthy spaces; and for me, the desire is visceral - not abstract. I care about our climate because connecting with the outside world is what makes me feel most grounded, strong, and happy. Growing up, my family drove up to the Sierras every summer, near Yosemite. When I think about why I do the things I’m most passionate about, it’s because I can smell witch hazel, I can feel the grain of granite under my fingers while I climb, and I can see the deep green sparkly lake I’ve played in for as long as I can remember. And I want my kids, and their kids, and kids who are growing up with a lot less privilege than I have had in my life, all to have these places.


Q: Can you give us a look behind the scenes with some of the technologies that are helping contribute to a cleaner environment? How will this innovation improve the state of carbon emissions today?

There is so much going on with sustainable innovation! My career has almost entirely focused on the energy sector, and there - I’m excited about fusion (yes, really!), advanced nuclear power, and the suite of technologies that is going to solve the challenges renewables have with variability (storage, transmission, and demand response). All of these technologies will help us get toward emissions-free electricity. But I’m excited about sustainable innovation in other sectors too, particularly organic “plastics” that can do the jobs needed, but will decompose quickly when they’re done.


Q: The fashion industry is responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions annually. In your opinion, what considerations - for industry leaders and emerging brands alike - should be taken to be mindful of their impact on the environment?

It is simply VITAL that everyone, from final end-use customers to companies that sit within supply chains, demands carbon-free products and services. Policy can help move some legacy industries to start cleaning up, but few things speak louder than a demand shift that’s tied to the bottom line. If customers are aware of the carbon intensity of their products, and make clear that they’re willing to reward companies who offer low- and no-carbon alternatives, we could start seeing massive shifts - especially in the industrial and transportation sectors that are harder to decarbonize. 


Q: Coming from someone who has dedicated their life and studies to making this world a better place - what is one piece of advice you would give young adults who are passionate about making sustainable changes in their life but aren’t necessarily sure where to start?

My advice: start big and small at the same time, and start now! When I say big, I mean consider a career based on improving sustainability and saving the climate. We need as many bright, dedicated minds as possible dedicating their time to solving these problems. When I say small, I mean do the little things. Buy a reusable, telescoping straw. Start weaning yourself off plastic in the kitchen with beeswax wraps and sustainable tupperware. These actions by themselves won’t save the planet, but they will rewire your mindset, and the mindsets of others, to start being conscious about the big and small ways we can all help. And by now… I mean don’t be daunted by optimizing what you do, just pick a few things you CAN do, and get going. Our best chance of staving off climate disaster comes if we move sooner, and move more quickly. Hopefully, we can also do it together - and enjoy a livable planet into the next century!