Alumni making a difference

Spencer PhillipsMany people in Vietnam may be healthier and better off because of Spencer Phillips’ pro bono environmental consulting work.

Phillips, who earned a Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics in 2004, has volunteered with employees at the Institute of Science for Environmental Management in Hanoi to quantify the benefits of capturing greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s solid waste and wastewater treatment sectors.

They found that taking measures such as capturing methane from landfills for use as fuel has the side benefit of reducing waterborne diseases like typhus and dengue fever. The measures studied could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 million metric tons and produce economic benefits of more than $600 million per year.

“Kids who don’t have dengue can be in school, and their families can save money that would otherwise be spent at the doctor,” Phillips said. “We know from experience that cleaner water makes people better off.”