Sustainability in Freiburg – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Sustainability in Freiburg

Blocker Fellow David Pessin ’23 examines sustainability practices in Freiburg, Germany.

David Pessin ’23 is a 2021 recipient of the Julius G. Blocker ’53 Fellowship, which enables students to study abroad in Germany while researching a cultural studies project of their interest. A geoscience major with a concentration in atmospheric sciences, Pessin says sustainability offered the perfect lens to conduct a semester-long comparative study of Germany and America.

During the fall semester, Pessin was enrolled in courses with IES Abroad Freiburg. The city has a global reputation for sustainable urban development. In 2020, the British Broadcasting Corporation called the 900-year-old city one of the world’s “most sustainable and livable cities.”

“The project really helped me understand how sustainable Freiburg is… and shed a light on the different laws related to the environment that Germany has in contrast to the United States,” Pessin says. While some of his research was observational, based off his time commuting or grocery shopping, Pessin’s academic coursework included studies in ecosystem management and sustainability practices.

A core component of his studies focused on using ecological principles to manage ecosystems, especially in light of expanding human populations, climate change and industrial development.  Through lectures and field trips, Pessin studied how Freiburg has innovated through urban planning, architecture, water and waste management, energy, mobility, green business and social innovations to solve complex problems.

Pessin created a blog to record his observations about Freiburg’s innovations. Read more about his reflections on green infrastructure projects, such as green roofs, and regenerative agricultural practices that have improved soil quality health here.

A significant part of global education studies at the Colleges is the Center for Global Education’s robust reentry programs. When Blocker Fellows return to the Geneva, N.Y. after their semester abroad, they present their insights about German culture to the HWS community. Pessin says he wants to go one-step further. “I hope to use what I learned about sustainability to come up with new ideas on how the Colleges could be greener, modeling Freiburg’s success.” 

Pessin is also determined to make lessons about sustainability stick in his personal life. “I plan to be more mindful of my impact on the environment, and to make a more concerted effort to reduce my carbon impact. The experience really opened my eyes on how much I personally can still do to help the environment ranging from driving less to buying fewer single-use plastics.” 

The Julius G. Blocker ’53 Endowed Fund provides generous support to students pursuing study abroad opportunities through one of the Colleges’ programs in Germany, enabling Blocker Fellows to experience German culture and society.