Packer ’15 Creates Online Community to Unify Collegiate Sustainability Movement

Brent Packer '15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared.

Brent Packer ’15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Brent Packer from the Class of 2015. 

Q: Brent, where are you from and what are you majoring in?

A: I was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Growing up nearby Amish farms and having tortoises, dogs and a semi-domesticated duck scampering around my house piqued my environmental interests. At Wesleyan, I’m a member of the College of the Environment with a double major in economics and environmental studies.

Q: You are the founder of Potlux, an online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are aggregated and shared. What is the community’s mission?

A: Our mission is to accelerate global environmental progress by unifying the collegiate sustainability movement. View our pitchdeck online.

Q: When did you come up with the idea for Potlux? When did you begin the project?

A: While studying abroad last spring, my days revolved around solitary essay writing with far too much time trapped in thoughts. This isolation allowed me to critically analyze the major constraints of collegiate sustainability — collective knowledge and collaboration. The foundation of Potlux was built on these reflections. Immediately upon returning to Wesleyan, I began hand-picking students to join in building the organization.

potlux-logo-300x114-300x114Q: Why “Potlux”? What does that mean?

A: “Potlux” = “Sharing Light.” The name conveys the sharing culture of a potluck meal as well as the inspiration, innovation, and illumination connection in the latin word for light — “lux.”

Q: Your website currently features sustainable initiatives at Wesleyan such as the Green Fund, Wild Walls, Compost Committee, Wild Wes, Office of Sustainability and more. How did you find these particular groups? Any more to come at Wesleyan specifically?

A: The Potlux team worked closely with Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability coordinator, to gather a list of campus sustainability leaders. We then hosted an intimate gathering where these leaders could share their incredible work with each other while providing valuable feedback for Potlux. There are more environmental ventures on this campus that will soon join the community.

Potlux received a $5,000 seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Potlux, pictured on the screen, received a $5,000 seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Q: In early March, Potlux received a $5,000 seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The award includes training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace and other resources from the Patricelli Center. How do you plan to use this seed grant?

A: We plan to harness the grant to finance website operating expenses as well as expand our online community growth efforts.

Q: Will you be expanding to serve other universities? If so, what is your game plan?

A: Absolutely! Our team has already made initial contact with 25 universities across three countries. So many universities understand the needs we address and are excited to contribute to the solution. By the start of 2016, we’re planning to grow the community to over 200 universities worldwide. It’s certainly ambitious, and we’re ready for the challenge.

Q: Who else is a member of the Potlux team, and how often do you meet and/or collaborate? Does everyone serve a special purpose for the team?

A: Potlux is only possible because of the all-star team leading its creation and growth. We span 11 majors, four home countries, and a breadth of knowledge across numerous domains. The Design Team — Aaron Rosen ’15, Jared Geilich ’15 and Gerard Liu ’15 — has the complete set of skills to made a beautiful and effective website. The Outreach Team — Cassia Patel ’17, Keren Reichler ’16 and Ellen Paik ’16 — is highly involved in numerous environmental initiatives. The Strategy Team — Joaquin Benares ’15 and Gabe Frankel ’15 — has strategic experience across the public, private and social sectors.

Q: What is your personal interest in sustainable initiatives on campus or beyond?

A: I’m keenly interested in bridging environmental interests with business objectives and have organized much of my professional development goals around exploring this link.

Q: Are you involved in any student groups or activities?

A: I split my time between environmental and musical projects. On the environmental side, I’m involved in the Wesleyan Green Fund and Wishing Wells. On the music side, I’m part of a cappella ensemble Notably Sharp and synth-pop/ acou-step band Swordfish Doula with Jared. Stay tuned for our upcoming album!

Q: You’ll be graduating in two months. What are you post-Wes plans? What will become of Potlux?

A: After graduation, I will be joining management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. To have time to continue growing Potlux, I decided to postpone my start date until 2016. Everyone on the Potlux team is committed to achieving our mission and will work to make it a reality.