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Cream of the Crop

Student Stories: Michael Steinhoff

steinhoffThird-year dual Master's student Michael Steinhoff wants to leave his mark on the world by leaving no mark at all.

Whether riding his bike everywhere he goes or using super-efficient fluorescent bulbs, he’s dedicated to conserving energy and dedicating his life to making the world more energy-efficient.

After a busy year during which he helped plan Earth Week, Steinhoff, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Volunteer of the Year, organized an event planting 700 trees in Carbon Grove on campus—the number of trees selected was to counteract the amount of carbon burned to get all the attendants to the event.

Steinhoff’s effort at Carbon Grove is only a small example of what he would like to accomplish over the long term.

“It would be exciting to be working on something that had never been done before,” he said. “Most of the cutting-edge research goes on in the Northwest, but I would like to see it applied everywhere in the world. I think I could make more of a difference spreading these ideas.”

Living in a bicycle-friendly town like Bloomington helps him get around and has him thinking about mass transit. One of his missions is adding more bike lanes and turning better public transit and electric cars into the norm instead of depending on oil.

When conducting an inventory of greenhouse gases released in Bloomington, it was “pretty shocking” how quickly bad trends are increasing and how reversing the damage looks difficult, he said.

Though evidence of global warming is clear, Steinhoff said it’s difficult to get people to take action. He said that as long as people are comfortable in the moment, they feel no reason to change.

“I hope it doesn’t take a huge disaster to convince people that caring about energy is important and will have impact on their future,” he said.

Flashy ideas such as electric and hydrogen cars draw a lot of attention. But practical ideas like energy efficiency, which might not be as exciting, are far more realistic, Steinhoff said. That mind-set has people within SPEA excited about his potential.

“Among the SPEA community, Michael is considered to be the next Al Gore,” SPEA’s executive director of external affairs, Susan Johnson, said in a letter sent to INside magazine nominating Steinhoff for the publication’s “Future Famous Alumni” feature. “We have no doubt that Michael is going to be a major player in sustainability issues of our planet.”

During his time at IU, Steinhoff has gathered a “wide breadth of knowledge” he can use in a number of areas. But he’s still searching for a specific focus after he graduates in May.

The first big plan in his immediate future is getting married to his girlfriend of eight years, whom he started dating when he was a freshman in college.

When asked where he sees himself ten years from now, Steinhoff shrugged and said, “I don’t even know what I’m doing a year from now.”

(Reprinted by permission from the
Indiana Daily Student, 04/04/07; written by Zack Teibloom.)