SOAR Guidebook

Table of Contents

Get Ready to SOAR!

During SOAR you will:

  • Learn about each industry and recognize the environmental impacts they have on our earth.
  • Tour each organization within those industries and understand their eco-dilemmas 
  • Partner with one organization you find most inspiring 
  • Group up with eco-minded peers in SOAR to focus on that organization 
  • Analyze the eco-dilemmas within that organization or industry
  • Research environmental alternatives 
  • Develop a solution
  • Create a detailed strategy on how to achieve that solution (sustainability plan)
  • Present your sustainability plan to the organization to contribute to a greener future
    • Implementation varies depending on the plan but can include implementing over summer or during the next few years

SOAR Guidebook Student Flight Plan

soar guidebook being used by students
Industry Tours
soar partners working with students
Sustainability Plans
SOAR Sustainathon

Sustainability Plan Examples

Creating a More Eco-Friendly Lunch Space
  • Researching the space
  • Providing information on sorting systems, compostable items, usable outdoor space, efficient lighting, bottleless water filter systems, reusable napkins, etc.
  • Presenting your alternative plan
  • Researching the benefits, the cost analysis
  • Providing step by step instructions on how to accomplish this, etc.
  • Researching the current packaging system
  • Figuring out the price differences of packaging
  • Coming up with alternatives, researching the environmental benefits as well as monetary benefits of eco-friendly packaging
  • Presenting your findings, etc.
  • Researching the benefits, the cost analysis
  • Providing step by step instructions on how to accomplish this, etc.

Check out the Launch toolkits on basic how-to’s

Check out the Launch toolkits on basic how-to’s

  • Walk-a-thon, marathon
  • Earth day fair
  • Festival
  • Etc.

Check out the Launch toolkits on basic how-to’s

The possibilities are endless and all depend on the organization. Remember YOU are working directly with this organization. Your goal is to help them (or a similar organization) become more environmentally sustainable.

Last Year’s Professionals

Phase 1: Learn About Industries

Learn About the Industries

Everything we do as humans has an environmental cost and this extends to the industries we have created that propel our daily lives. This year in SOAR, we will be focusing on 6 industry types and their influences on our planet and our way of life. Explore each industry below to learn more about them, their impact on the environment, their role in environmental justice, and how these industries can become more environmentally conscious. You will learn:

  • The basics of the industry
  • Environmental impacts within that industry
  • How the industry affects environmental justice 
  • Ways the industry can become more sustainable

Environmental Topic to Note

What is ESG?

ESG is an acronym that stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance and is a framework used to assess an organization’s business practices and performance on various sustainability and ethical issues. It also provides a way to measure business risks and opportunities in those areas. Investors will use ESG reports to determine which companies match their sustainability goals and values as a brand and for profitability. ESGs are influential for investors, companies, and consumers like you to divest from industries contributing to climate change and support companies that align with sustainable and ethical practices.

Environmental focuses on a company’s impact on the natural world, including its resource usage, emissions, waste management, and efforts toward sustainability and conservation. It assesses how a business operates in relation to ecological concerns and its contributions to mitigating climate change and other environmental challenges.

Social pertains to a company’s interactions with people and society at large. It encompasses factors such as employee relations, diversity and inclusion, community engagement, labor practices, human rights, and overall social impact, reflecting how a business affects and engages with various stakeholders beyond its financial performance.

Governance refers to the structure, processes, and oversight that guide a company’s decision-making and operations. It encompasses elements such as board composition, executive compensation, shareholder rights, transparency, and ethical behavior, reflecting the integrity and effectiveness of a company’s leadership and management practices.

What is Environmental Justice?

“Environmental Justice aims to minimize the environmental impacts on all people, advocating for fairer environmental policies and lawmaking, and installing greater protections for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.” For a history of Environmental Justice, check out this article.

  • For more info about Environmental Justice, read this.
  • For a quick video on Environmental Justice, click here.

How is America Recognizing Environmental Justice?

The Federal Government created the Office of Environmental Justice to combat these injustices. With $3 billion in grants, the new Environmental Justice office will aim to give grants to environmentally unjust communities.

SOAR Industries

The industries we are focusing on this year in SOAR include:

  • Consumer Goods
  • Finance 
  • Technology 
  • Energy & Transportation
  • Building Design & Construction
  • Food & Agriculture

These large industries play a significant role in how they impact the environment. For example, it is estimated that the fashion industry uses over 20 trillion gallons of water to manufacture garments each year which causes about 20% of global industrial water pollution. Additionally, the fashion industry, within consumer goods, accounts for 10% of world carbon emissions annually. The same industry is also accountable for burning one garbage truckload worth of trash every second or sending it to the landfill. The finance industry invests heavily in the fossil fuel industry, which is responsible for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, banks gave $742 billion to fossil fuel financing. Within transportation, the automotive industry produces a copious amount of air pollution and greenhouse gasses.  Airplanes are a huge contributor to climate change because they release CO2 and nitrogen oxide, which has a strong warming effect on our atmosphere. In the agriculture industry, air emissions from livestock cause 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, the production of food creates mass soil erosion and waste issues. These are just a fraction of the environmental impacts of these industries. 

These environmental concerns have not gone unnoticed. Tighter government regulations are forcing these industries to become more sustainable and reduce their environmental impacts. Industries are realizing that in the long term, these environmental policies are more cost-efficient. There are many benefits of becoming more sustainable such as increased productivity, improved image, and employee retainment, to name a few. Certain industries are already doing a phenomenal job altering their daily routines to become more environmentally mindful. Other industries are struggling and may need some assistance. In SOAR, you will first understand the environmental issues each industry faces in order to make an informed recommendation on how to create sustainable changes within that industry.

Climate Topics

What is the Consumer Goods Industry?

The consumer goods industry produces and sells a wide range of products that people use every day from electronics to cosmetics and household items. It also includes manufacturing, packaging, transportation, and retail. This industry plays a significant role in our economy, as it provides important goods, generates jobs, and contributes to economic growth.

What is the Consumer Goods Industry’s Effect on the Environment?

Everything we purchase has an environmental impact. The production and transportation of consumer goods often releases greenhouse gasses and other pollutants, contributing to climate change and air pollution. Manufacturing processes can generate waste and toxic chemicals, harming ecosystems and wildlife if not managed properly. Excessive packaging, especially non-recyclable materials, leads to plastic pollution in oceans and landfills, harming wildlife and affecting human health when plastic particles end up in our food and water sources.

Consumer Good’s Environmental Impact

How is this an Environmental Justice Issue?

Often, industrial facilities and waste disposal sites are located in or near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which already face social and economic challenges. These communities endure most of the pollution and environmental hazards associated with the consumer goods industry. For instance, factories emitting harmful pollutants, or landfills used for disposing of waste from consumer products, can lead to increased health risks, such as respiratory illnesses, cancers, and other health problems. Additionally, vulnerable populations might have limited access to healthier alternatives or sustainable products due to financial constraints. This can result in a cycle of environmental and health disparities, due to the consumer goods industry making existing inequalities bigger.

How Can the Consumer Good’s Industry be More Sustainable?

Making the consumer goods industry more sustainable involves making changes to how products are produced, packaged, and transported to minimize their negative impact on the environment and society. This includes:

  • Responsibly sourcing raw materials from suppliers with ethical and sustainable practices.
  • Using eco-friendly materials in their products and packaging. 
  • Emphasizing energy-efficient manufacturing processes and products in stores and warehouses.
  • Reducing packaging waste by using materials that are easy to recycle or compost.
  • Implementing efficient transportation methods, like consolidating shipments or using greener transportation options.
  • Designing products to be more durable and easily repairable can extend their lifespan and reduce the need for constant replacements.
  • Promoting responsible consumption among consumers to buy only what is needed and consider the environmental impact of their purchases.

What is the Finance Industry?

The finance industry manages money and makes financial decisions for individuals, companies, and governments. It includes activities like banking, investing, lending, and insurance. In simple terms, it helps people save, borrow, and grow their money. Banks provide safe places to keep money, while investing is like planting seeds to make your money grow over time. Companies and governments also use finance to plan and manage their budgets and expenses.

What is the Finance Industry’s Effect in the Environment?

The finance industry can have a significant impact on the environment in several ways. One of the main ways is through its investments. When banks, investment funds, and other financial institutions provide money to companies or projects, they can influence which businesses grow and which projects get funded. Some of these businesses may be involved in environmentally harmful activities, like mining, fossil fuel extraction, or deforestation. By financing such activities, the finance industry indirectly contributes to environmental degradation.

Finance’s Environmental Impact

At first glance, you might not think the finance industry plays a role in the environment. However, most large banks are top funders of fossil fuels!

How is this an Environmental Justice Issue?

Marginalized communities might not have the same access to financial resources, sustainable investments, or green technologies as more affluent communities. This lack of access further worsens existing inequalities and restricts their ability to participate in the transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy. Environmental justice advocates call for greater transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in the finance industry to ensure that environmental decisions consider the well-being of all communities, especially those historically marginalized. They encourage responsible investing that addresses environmental concerns and promotes social equity by directing funds toward projects that benefit both the environment and underserved communities.

How Can the Finance Industry Become More Sustainable?

The finance industry can influence positive change within itself and by supporting sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses and projects. For example, by:

  • Adopting sustainable practices within their operations. 
  • Promoting environmentally conscious investments. 
  • Integrating environmental considerations into their decision-making processes.
  • Investing in renewable energy companies, green technologies, or sustainable agriculture.

What is the Technology Industry?

The technology industry is a dynamic field focused on creating, designing, and improving tools and systems that use science and computers to make our lives better. From smartphones and computers to artificial intelligence and virtual reality, technology is constantly evolving impacting communication, work, learning, and entertainment. With endless opportunities for innovation and creativity, it is an exciting industry for those interested in shaping the future through innovation and problem-solving.

What is the Technology Industry’s Impact on the Environment?

The technology industry has both positive and negative effects on the environment. It has enabled us to develop cleaner energy sources and improved energy efficiency, reducing reliance on fossil fuels. However, the production, use, and disposal of electronic devices contribute to harmful electronic waste (e-waste), and manufacturing technology requires resources that can lead to environmental damage. Also, data centers that power internet services consume massive amounts of electricity, adding to the industry’s carbon footprint. Not to mention the constant demand for newer gadgets can also lead to a throwaway culture.

Technology’s Environmental Impact

How is this an Environmental Justice Issue?

 In the case of technology, some communities, usually disadvantaged or marginalized, face a bigger burden from its negative effects. For example, electronic waste can end up in their neighborhoods, causing pollution and health risks. Also, mining for minerals used in tech devices can harm the environment and the lives of nearby indigenous communities who may not have a say in those decisions. Bridging the digital divide is another concern, as not all communities have equal access to technology and the internet, which can worsen social and economic inequalities. Addressing environmental justice in the technology industry means making sure the good and harmful effects are shared fairly among all communities. This includes using more sustainable practices in manufacturing and recycling, as well as giving everyone a voice in decisions about the environment. It is important to work towards a future where technology benefits everyone and does not harm the environment or leave some communities behind.

How Can the Technology Industry Become More Sustainable?

As the technology industry continues to grow, it is important to prioritize sustainability and eco-friendly practices for a more eco-friendlier future. To become more sustainable, technology companies can take several steps:

  • Focus on designing products and data centers that consume less energy, reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Shift to using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power to power their operations.
  • Implement recycling programs for electronic waste to ensure proper disposal and reduce environmental impact.
  • Use eco-friendly and recyclable materials in product manufacturing to minimize resource consumption.
  • Design durable products that last longer and are easier to repair, discouraging a throwaway culture and reducing electronic waste.
  • Ensure the responsible sourcing of raw materials to prevent environmental damage from extraction.

What are the Energy & Transportation Industries?

The energy industry produces and distributes power for our homes, electronic devices, and vehicles using fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear power.

The transportation industry moves people and goods from one place to another using different modes of transportation, such as cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ships, and bicycles. Transportation is essential for connecting communities, enabling trade, and providing access to goods and services. Both industries are necessary for modern society, powering our lives, and connecting communities.

What are the Energy & Transportation Industries’ Effects on the Environment?

The energy industry’s reliance on fossil fuels results in the release of greenhouse gasses, leading to global warming and climate change. Extraction and use of fossil fuels can cause environmental damage, such as oil spills, habitat destruction, and air and water pollution. The transportation industry is a major contributor to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from vehicles running on gasoline and diesel. Road construction and infrastructure development can also lead to deforestation and habitat fragmentation, harming wildlife, and ecosystems. Addressing the environmental impacts of these industries is crucial for a sustainable future.

Energy & Transportation’s Environmental Impact

How is this an Environmental Justice Issue?

The impact of the energy and transportation industries on the environment often disproportionately affects certain communities, making it an environmental justice issue. Communities living near power plants, refineries, or major transportation hubs may bear the brunt of pollution and environmental hazards. These areas are often low-income neighborhoods or communities of color, which have historically faced systemic inequalities. The emissions from power plants and transportation sources can lead to higher rates of respiratory problems and other health issues among residents in these communities. Conversely, some wealthier or predominantly white communities may have better access to cleaner environments and more sustainable resources. They may be the first to benefit from renewable energy projects and better public transportation options, while disadvantaged communities are left behind. By promoting clean energy alternatives, improving public transportation in underserved areas, and empowering affected communities to participate in environmental decisions, we can work towards a more just and sustainable future for all.

How Can the Energy & Transportation Industries Become More Sustainable?

Energy Industry

  • Invest in and promote renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro power. 
  • Implement technologies and practices that reduce energy waste and make processes more efficient. 
  • Develop and use energy storage systems to store excess energy generated by renewable sources.

Transportation Industry

  • Promote electric vehicles (EVs) by providing incentives for their adoption and expanding charging infrastructure.
  • Improve public transportation options, support, and create infrastructure for walking, cycling, and other forms of active transportation.
  • Explore and utilize alternative fuels like biofuels and hydrogen, which have lower carbon emissions compared to traditional gasoline and diesel.

What is the Building Design & Construction Industry?

The building design and construction industry is a collaborative field that creates structures like houses, schools, offices, and bridges. It involves architects, engineers, builders, skilled workers, and specialized experts working together to turn ideas into reality. This industry is essential to our economy, way of life, and it offers diverse career opportunities that shape the world around us.

What is the Building Design & Construction Industry’s Effect on the Environment?

The building design and construction industry significantly impacts the environment. Constructing buildings requires vast amounts of natural resources, leading to habitat destruction and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Building construction also requires enormous amounts of water for mixing concrete, curing materials, and other purposes. In areas with water scarcity, excessive construction can strain local water resources. Additionally, buildings consume a substantial portion of the world’s energy and generate significant waste such as leftover materials, packaging, and demolished structures.

Building Design and Construction’s Environmental Impact


2 Videos

How is this an Environmental Justice Issue?

 Environmental justice is a crucial concern within the building design and construction industry. Unfortunately, certain communities, often marginalized or low-income, bear a disproportionate burden of environmental problems related to construction. They may face unequal distribution of environmental impacts, leading to higher pollution exposure and health risks. Moreover, large-scale construction projects can trigger gentrification, displacing vulnerable residents and disrupting communities. Additionally, limited access to green spaces and insufficient participation in decision-making processes contribute to environmental injustices. Addressing these issues involves promoting sustainable and equitable development, empowering marginalized groups in decision-making, and holding developers and policymakers accountable for the environmental impacts of their projects.

How Can the Building Design and Construction Industry Become More Sustainable?

  • Architects and engineers can prioritize green building designs: energy efficiency, renewable energy sources like solar panels, natural ventilation, and lighting. 
  • Choosing eco-friendly materials and construction methods with lower environmental impact. 
  • Reducing waste and recycling is integral to the construction process. 
  • Encouraging ongoing research and innovation in sustainable building technologies and practices. 
    • This includes exploring new materials, construction techniques, and technologies that are more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Phase 2: Take a Tour

During this phase, you will meet with all of your SOAR peers, partner organizations, and your Grades of Green advisors. This is a professional setting so please dress and act accordingly. Once you tour each organization, you will then choose one organization to develop a sustainability plan. Please keep these questions in mind for each tour:

  • What about the organization in general sparked your interest?
  • What specific aspect of the tour did you find most compelling? 
  • What is this organization doing that is helping create a healthier environment?
  • Is there anything you want to know more about within this field? 
  • What can this organization change that can create a more eco-conscious atmosphere?
  • What is this organization’s main eco-dilemma? How can you solve it? 

You can view and answer these questions by completing the “SOAR Take a Tour Worksheet” located in the SOAR Resources Google Folder . To make a copy of the worksheet, click “File” and “Make a Copy.”

Phase 3: Analyze the Eco-Issues and Research Alternatives

Now that you’re in your group and have chosen an organization to work with, you can begin the first steps in creating your sustainability plan. First thing is to analyze the issues. A few questions to consider as a group:

  • What are the main eco-issues?
  • What can your group do to improve these eco-issues?
  • What environmental research do you need to do to make sure your eco-plan aligns with the ideals of the organization?

Main Task

Write down the main eco-issues and begin researching environmental alternatives. Make sure each member has a specific task to complete before your next meeting.

You can view and answer these questions by completing the “SOAR Analyze Issues and Research Alternatives Worksheet” located in the SOAR Resources Google Folder . To make a copy of the worksheet, click “File” and “Make a Copy.” Also, be sure to read the “How to Work Together” instructions as a group.

Phase 4: Develop Your Sustainability Plan

You and your group should have your research complete. During this meeting you should put your research and ideas into an outline and be ready to discuss these with your advisor as well as bring any questions to the professional of the organization.  A few questions to consider:

  • What is your sustainability plan?
  • Will it be feasible within the organization?
  • How can the professionals of the organization assist you?
  • Is there any other information you need in order to create your sustainability plan?
  • What resources do you need to carve out your sustainability plan?

Main Task

Meet with your advisor and the professional of the organization to discuss any main ideas and/or changes. Make sure your sustainability plan can be implemented. Begin making the necessary updates in order to create it.

What Does a Sustainability Plan Include?


  • Scope – the problem your team is trying to solve with the necessary context relevant to your company concluding with your final recommendation
  • Operations – the action steps each company will need to take to apply your recommendation
  • Amount – all costs related to your recommendation (e.g money and time)
  • Results – highlighting future benefits to each teams respective company and the environment

You can view and answer these questions by completing the “SOAR Develop Your Sustainability Plan Worksheet” located in the SOAR Resources Google Folder . To make a copy of the worksheet, click “File” and “Make a Copy.”

Phase 5: Implement Your Sustainability Plan

Now that you have created and developed your sustainability plan with the help of a professional, you can create detailed instructions so your plan can be implemented. A few things to consider:

  • How will you present your sustainability plan? (campaign/ visual presentation/ flier/ etc.)
  • Who will present what portions of the sustainability plan?

Main Task

Create step-by-step instructions on how to your chosen organization should implement their sustainability plan.

You can view and answer these questions by completing the “SOAR Sustainability Plan Implementation Instructions Worksheet” located in the SOAR Resources Google Folder . To make a copy of the worksheet, click “File” and “Make a Copy.”

Phase 6: Present Your Sustainability Plan

Be prepared to present your sustainability plan to the entire SOAR team as well as the partner organizations. Your group will have 10 minutes to present your plan and how to implement it.  Be sure your presentation includes:

  • The eco-issue
  • The eco-solution
  • The research as to why this is better for the environment
  • The detailed instructions on how to implement the eco-solution

You are free to choose how you would like to showcase your presentation. Remember, you are presenting this to the partner organization.

Elements of a Good Presentation

  • Visually stimulating 
  • Straightforward
  • Can be easily followed
  • Keeps the audience engaged

Where Do You Go from Here?

Way to complete the SOAR program! There are many paths to choose from now. We’re here to help. 

Below are some resources that will guide you along your path: