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Global Change Program

Carbon Reduction Challenge Winners Implement Climate Solutions at Georgia Tech

January 29, 2021

By Selena Langner

New energy-efficient LED lights have been installed in a wing of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience building thanks to three Georgia Tech students, whose proposal for energy-saving initiatives within the building won the 2019 Carbon Reduction Challenge

The replacement of fluorescent lights to LEDs. Lance Johnson, a Utilities Engineer at Georgia Tech who helped with the replacement comments “The students did most of the initial legwork. They approached me with a proposal to change the existing fluorescent lamps to LED tubes. I supplied the lighting drawing and fixture schedule and they put the project together. I took the project to my manager, Jamie Ready, and we discussed options. It was decided that since the ceiling would have to be disturbed, that the best option was fixture replacement. I commend the students for bringing this to my attention.”

Graduate students Rebecca Guth-Metzler, Brooke Mancinelli-Rothschild, and Priyam Raut worked with Georgia Tech Facilities Management on the proposal, which focused on simple, efficient changes to their lab space, including replacing fluorescent light bulbs with LEDs, and creating a system for bundling energy-intensive autoclave loads. 

Brooke Rothschild-Mancinelli sees potential for this type of project in other buildings on the Georgia Tech campus. “For me, the Carbon Reduction Challenge felt like a way that I could actually make a difference. Georgia Tech is a large institution, so small changes, like switching from fluorescent to LEDs across the campus, can make a great impact.” When fully implemented, it will result in over 250,000 pounds of CO2 reductions per year. Even the process of making the switch focused on sustainability, as the contractor Hajek Enterprises collected and recycled approximately 10 bags of plastic sheeting used during the construction.

“The Carbon Reduction challenge was a great learning experience and helped us to look at things from a different point of view as a cost to the environment which one usually takes for granted.” Priyam Raut reflected, “We learned a lot from our mentors who helped us during this project. It also made me realize that extremely complex solutions aren’t the only way to bring down carbon footprint. Seeing these changes come to life, I feel delighted as our suggestions will be making an impact and not just exist on paper.” 

The Carbon Reduction Challenge is a year-round program challenging students in the Atlanta area to propose real-world, simple and effective sustainability solutions to major companies to reduce carbon emissions while saving money.  Students enroll in either a semester-long class, Energy, Environment and Society, featuring a classroom Carbon Reduction Challenge (hear from last year’s winners, who saved 4.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide and $247,000 each year with Catholic Relief Services), or participate during their summer co-ops and internships (read about Summer 2020 first-place winner Elina Ebby’s work with Microsoft, and watch the full finalist expo). Throughout the Challenge, they are provided with guidance and mentorship from Challenge co-directors Dr. Kim Cobb (Georgia Power Chair, ADVANCE Professor, and Director of the GT Global Change Program) and Dr. Beril Toktay (Brady Family Chair in Management, Professor, and Faculty Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business).

Brook Rothschild-Mancinelli and Rebecca Guth-Metzler (not pictured, Priyam Raut) celebrate their first-place project with the Challenge Co-directors Kim Cobb and Beril Toktay at the 2019 Carbon Reduction Challenge finalist expo.

The Carbon Reduction Challenge emphasizes that anyone can incorporate sustainability into their career, regardless of major or field, and connects students with the opportunity to make impactful change at a large scale. 

“Students often care about the environment and climate change, but don’t feel empowered to make an impact. Joining in the challenge gave us both a sense of community and the backing to develop a project that would impact our own workplace,” Rebecca Guth-Metzler says. “It was very rewarding when the connections we made with faculty and staff ultimately led to a change that none of us could have done individually. Seeing the project fully implemented showed us that our ideas can become real, and I hope it will inspire continued climate action at GT.”

Learn more about the Carbon Reduction Challenge at

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion dollars in research annually for government, industry, and society.