S&T alumna emphasizes how ‘little bits’ of effort can help with climate change

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On April 25, 2023

A vice president of Chevron with a petroleum engineering degree from Missouri S&T is highly involved with her alma mater, as well as the nonprofit organization she founded, to help instill sustainable practices into daily life.

Molly Laegeler is an alumna of Missouri S&T’s petroleum engineering program.

It’s possible some people may find her work with Chevron and petroleum engineering to contradict her environmental efforts, but Molly Laegeler, who graduated from S&T in 2000, says it all fits together perfectly.

“Chevron is an energy company and understands that the future of energy is lower carbon,” she says. “Part of Chevron’s business strategy is to lower the carbon intensity of its operations and to grow new energies business lines, such as renewable fuels and products, hydrogen, carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) and offsets. I am able to bring my passion for the energy transition into my work and make a difference every day at the ground level.”

Laegeler says it will take individuals, corporations, governments and nonprofit organizations coming together to effectively mitigate the effects of climate change, which is why she founded Little Bit, a nonprofit organization she hopes will make a big difference.

“So many individuals want to make positive changes, but they may feel like their changes would be insignificant,” Laegeler says. “That is not the case. Small changes, done together, can amplify everyone’s impact.”

She says these efforts, combined with companies’ environmental initiatives and more governmental funding for research, could lead to some significant results.

On Earth Day 2023, Little Bit launched a new website. This website provides its viewers with information on little ways they can be part of a collaborative effort to make sustainable decisions. The new website’s link is www.alittlebit.org.

Laegeler says the organization has collaborated with Dr. Mark Fitch, an associate professor of environmental engineering at S&T, to show which products are best to use when considering the environmental implications.

“Part of our new website will help you see the impact of different products on the environment and understand which products will be best to purchase in your situation,” she says.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to know just by looking at a product if it’s really a sustainable alternative to the traditional product,” she says. “Dr. Fitch’s classes at S&T regularly evaluate these alternatives, and many students have chosen to share their findings with Little Bit.”

The website will also allow people to consider how they can incorporate more sustainable behaviors into their lives.

“Our website will go through the different rooms of an average home to show sustainable practices that everyday people can easily accomplish,” Laegeler says.

For example, in the laundry room, practices would include using cold water when washing clothes, using laundry strip detergent instead of purchasing plastic jugs, or even using a clothesline instead of a dryer — if someone has that much drive and dedication for the cause.

“We know not everyone will do every recommendation we suggest, and that is OK,” she says. “Through conversations with family and friends, we realized there is a strong desire to make a difference, but most people don’t know where to start. These suggestions provide a starting point for people to consciously think about small things they do every day — little changes that will add up.”

Something else that will be special for the new website is its community pages. Volunteers will develop local information for cities across the country highlighting what green businesses and resources are available to support them in living a more sustainable life.

Laegeler has also personally funded a sustainable energy doctoral fellowship at S&T with her husband, Andy, who earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry from S&T in 2001.

The current doctoral fellow, Dr. Ti Zhao, is researching designs to make solar panels more resilient when facing severe weather threats. Dr. Xinzhe Yuan, a previous doctoral fellow, researched using drones with thermal and hyperspectral cameras to inspect solar panels for potential damage, as this could be a significant time- and resource-saver for solar farms.

From the 2024-25 school year onward, this fellowship will be part of the Little Bit organization and renamed the Little Bit Sustainable Energy Fellowship.

“Having the nonprofit administer this effort will allow more people to be involved,” Laegeler says. “This will help the organization’s legacy and relationship with S&T be cemented well into the future.”

Laegeler says she is happy to collaborate with Missouri S&T to give back to the university while working together to make a change.

“Missouri S&T helped jumpstart my career in the energy industry,” she says. “Being involved with the university has been extremely rewarding for me, and I want to continue to partner with the smart and passionate people at S&T to make strides. I have a lot of respect for the knowledge base at S&T and what they are doing to make a difference.”

About Missouri S&T

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top 10 universities for return on investment, according to Business Insider. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.

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