My name is Michael Bryan II and I am a second-year Environmental Engineer working in the Office of Campus Sustainability.  I was honored to speak at the Living Building Launch on November 2, 2017 as a representative for the student body of Georgia Tech. It was an amazing event that offered many networking opportunities, including the ability to meet the different partners who work behind-the-scenes and around-the-clock to make sure the Living Building is designed. Being able to meet Dena Kimball, the woman behind the $30 million-dollar grant for Georgia Tech, was humbling as it reminded me how influential women have always been in our society.

Below is the speech I presented at the launch:

 “Thanks to The Kendeda Fund for the gracious grant to Georgia Tech, my mother, Latina Bryan, and the rest of my family for raising me to lead a fulfilling life and supporting me at every step, the Institute for accepting me, and the Office of campus sustainability for hiring me.

These flowers are beautiful, and I will take care of them greatly, but I cannot accept them alone. As a student of Georgia Tech, I am accepting these flowers on behalf of all the students here. Sustainability is not just about protecting the environment; It is about creating a strong, equitable community, and through the efforts of all the students on campus, Georgia Tech has strived to become the epitome of a sustainable university. By embodying these ideas throughout their curriculum (with help from groups like Serve-Learn-Sustain) students leave Tech not only with a blood, sweat, and tear covered diploma, but with the understanding that their environment is not only comprised of where they live, but the people who they live and interact with as well.

I was not always an environmental engineer, in fact, I only just became one technically this semester. When I came to Tech, I had the idea that I would major in Aerospace engineering and design cars—AE’s now tell me I made the right decision to jump ship early—but as I got drawn into the work of the office and reflected on my high school career, I realized that I always had an undying passion for the environment. Here today being able to be a part of this project, not only am I fulfilling my true goals in life, but I am being granted the opportunity to see the collaboration and innovation of a community that defines the idealism of sustainability.

In lieu of traditional shovels and hard hats to celebrating the beginning of construction, we would like for the entire community to take part in the celebration of the Launch of the Living Building. Take a packet of the seeds to plant under this oak behind us, which will continue to grow our campus’ commitment to sustainability. This is our gift to you”.

The Living Building will truly be a next level collaboration. As a university Georgia Tech is setting an example not only for the City of Atlanta but also the Southeastern region of the United States. With sustainability increasingly becoming a household word (my parents love sending me articles about sustainability ever since I became so involved in it), the official opening of the Living Building I believe will not only attract future investors and partners, but families and school groups who want to understand how their efforts to recycle and be sustainable at home look on an industry-wide scale.

The Living Building is just the beginning of what Tech can accomplish, and with the City of Atlanta pushing the boundaries as one of the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities, Tech will play a large part in helping to maintain that position. The hard work is far from over, but it is important that we celebrate every milestone we achieve.