To further celebrate “Think Green,” we sat down with Young Patrons Circle member Sydney Krueger, a leading consultant in clean energy transportation and classical music enthusiast, who shared her thoughts on sustainability, symphonic sound, and supporting the AFIPO x Aspiration partnership.
Tell us about how you got involved with clean energy and why you feel so passionate about this work.
It’s in my blood—I come from a family that’s been involved in transit for 40 years, always seeking to improve public transit and encourage people to jump on the bus instead of into their cars, reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment. After I graduated from business school, it was a natural fit for me to start a clean-energy transit consulting business, focusing on strategies for marketing products to the transit, coach, and rail industries.
I like to describe myself as the middleperson between manufacturers of clean-energy products, and the buses on the road. Two years ago, for example, I formed a partnership with Ballard Fuel Cell Systems. They’re a leader in fuel cell power systems, using hydrogen and oxygen to covert chemical energy to electrical energy with a catalyst—and their mission is literally to change the world. My perspective is that we can’t just rely on electricity to decarbonize the planet; we need both hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles to get there!
I am convinced that healing the plant is the most urgent thing we can do every day—there is nothing more important that reworking our habits and considering the health of our planet, the health of our bodies, and the health of our communities.
How does that passion relate to your love for classical music?
Music opens up creative pathways in our brains. It helps us see things differently and work together. It helps us hold on to our dreams—like a greener future.
While completing my MBA in France, I went to the Philharmonie de Paris often. I’m quite an impassioned person. When I hear a symphony, I walk in and immediately feel teary-eyed as the harmony hits me. It feels old but in a good way—ancient entertainment in a digital world. There’s something so beautiful about the merging of that. I also love the musicians’ passion and their application of separate skills to form such a sublime, impactful sound.
When I’m able to bring partners together to work to decarbonize the planet to combat climate change, I feel like that teamwork is just like an orchestra harmonizing.
Speaking of holding on to dreams, what is one of yours?
I did my MBA in France. My sister works in fashion in Paris. Together, we have a dream of strolling through Le Bon Marché, picking out a beautiful dress to wear to say, an Israel Philharmonic event, made of sustainable yet elegant material, draped off a recyclable hanger and wrapped in an environmentally friendly garment bag. Purchase in hand, you stop for a plant-based bite at a lively café and are served with biodegradable plates and cutlery. Then you walk, bike, or take a hydrogen-powered taxi home, a perfect après-midi with a sustainable element at every step.
We’ll meet you there! How do you think the Planting Seeds initiative can help create a scenario like that?
I was thrilled to hear about my two great interests—sustainability and music—merging in the Israel Philharmonic’s Planting Seeds Initiative. I love that an orchestra going carbon neutral is somewhat unexpected, but completely makes sense. There’s a way for every company to do their part.
The model is so easy – just click to visit Aspiration’s site, and you’ve already planted a tree! In my industry, we know that replacing one diesel bus with one fuel-cell bus yields a reduction in carbon dioxide levels equivalent to planting 14,000 trees over five years.
I’m excited to see how many clicks—and instrument donations!—this partnership yields. The impact could be tremendous.
We hope so too. Tell us more about the challenges we face in reaching these goals.
A big obstacle in converting transit systems to renewable energy is that businesses are reluctant to change too much and fearful to risk their bottom line. They wonder, “How can I afford changing our practices for the better of the environment, when the return on investment is not yet there in the immediate future?” That’s a valid concern—the pricing dynamics aren’t there yet but maintenance savings are evident and real.
In the long run, green energy technology and infrastructure will be much more conducive to better bottom lines, creating more jobs, having equipped service stations. Plus, the health impacts caused by fossil fuel emissions and antiquated energy systems is incredibly high. The calculus needs to be long term and on a grand scale.
The other big obstacle is building infrastructure. We can’t just produce a massive fleet of electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles. We need the fuel to go hand and hand with it, like charging stations or hydrogen refueling depots. We have a long way to go, but the time is now.
Work is in progress. For example, we just drove a fuel-cell electric bus from Seattle to Eugene, roughly 700 miles on only 2.5 fuels. Each fuel took six to twelve minutes instead of four to six hours with a conventional electric bus. We brought the bus to events with Washington state politicians, transit operators, city residents, and even to Microsoft. This fuel cell powered technology aligns perfectly with Washington states new law to stop the sale of gasoline powered vehicles statewide by 2030. It was such a thrill to work on that project and watch the world move towards a decarbonized planet!
But, we need to move faster in the United States. China has 3,000 fuel cell buses on the road; the U.S. has 64. California aims to change this and get 10,000 zero-emissions buses on the road by 2040… but I fear we don’t have that long to wait. The time is now.
What’s your hope for the post-pandemic world?
I hope to see that everyone noticed that brief period during COVID-19 when there was less pollution—when everyone was hunkering down, the worlds emissions were at historic lows.
But I also hope that we noticed how excessive we can be as a society. Maybe during the pandemic, we needed to have home deliveries to stay physically distanced and safe, but let’s not make that business as usual! Rugged individual consumption is not a sustainable habit for humans to keep feeding.
And I hope we figured out how to address the challenge of getting people excited and happy about making that change. We need not only a monetary investment in the future of green technology, but a psychological investment in embracing new habits. Ultimately, that’s the only thing standing in our way.