Intern, Carbon Leadership Forum
Prajin is a student at the University of Washington currently seeking a degree in Architecture, with a focus on sustainability. Past research and environmental restoration projects encourage an ongoing commitment to climate justice through continued academic experiences and work with the CLF. Prajin’s beliefs are centered around taking racial and economic disparities into account when working towards carbon reduction and broader climate action.
By Prajin Uttamchandani
Growing up in the age of digital communication has shaped the way I and others view the world around us. The threat of the climate crisis has loomed over our heads at every waking moment. Even as a child, I recognized that the world around me was at risk of collapse: with record breaking heat, cold, and rains, every day brought a new headline signaling impending disaster. The adults around me encouraged my learning about this, reminding me that I had the power to fix the mistakes that their generation had helped create.
I remember being aware of the power of nature all my life: even in third grade I wrote a book, as well as a third grader can, about Yellowstone National Park. I knew that the world was powerful. In fourth grade, I wrote about electric cars, learning as much as I could about them. I knew that human behaviors were damaging the world. As the years went on, I continued to learn about the climate crisis. Our natural environment is critical to our survival, and human behavior was on track to pillage it until nothing remained. I decided to do something about it.
In high school, I began a series of projects focusing on anthropogenic impacts and preserving the natural world. Behind my local middle school, I spearheaded the restoration of an outdoor classroom and overgrown pond area with the help of dozens of volunteers — the area is still used and maintained to this day, with students planting flowers and tracking wildlife each year. With the help of a mentor at Fordham University, I led a project analyzing the presence of metals in aquatic plants in rivers and watersheds throughout New York State, finding how anthropogenic activities—particularly around material factories and construction sites—dramatically increased the pollution in these sites. Thus began my interest in embodied carbon.
In my first year of university, I discovered the Carbon Leadership Forum. Finding an organization at the intersection of my passions was revolutionary for me. Centered around the built environments, climate-centric change, and embodying the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), it was clear to me that the CLF team was one for me to learn from. As my first year went on, I joined the organization in January 2022 as an administrative assistant, working on various tasks including database management, community moderation, and search engine optimization. I began to learn how the CLF was structured, and just how passionate are all of the individuals who work towards our collective impact initiative.
As the year went on, I continued to dive deeper into the organization’s goals, spending the summer learning about material and building research conducted by similar facilities around the country. Working at and learning about the CLF has changed the way that I view sustainable efforts, and reminded me of the ongoing commitment and amount of dedication required for any substantial progress. Simply put, the CLF’s goals are inspiring to me: a small group of people is creating guidelines, standards, and discussion spaces for thousands of people around the world.
In September 2022, I began to work with two fellow students from the University of Washington as interns at the CLF. Despite my 9 months of work with the organization, I am still working to develop a deep, complex understanding of the research and sustainable building processes that guide change in embodied carbon. Over the course of this internship, I hope to build a foundational understanding of the ongoing research throughout the industry, and learn how these discoveries can be used as a means of revamping our existing standards to meet a more climate-safe future. I hope to work closer with people within the Carbon Leadership Forum and meet those beyond our bounds. Most importantly, I hope to continue to contribute to the CLF’s theory of change, bringing my lived experiences to the table in any way possible.