Supporting the environment, one internet search at a time
Imagine if every time you searched the internet, you could make a difference in combating climate change.
St. Olaf College student Cassidy Schnell ’23 has been working on a search engine to turn this idea into a reality.
Schnell is the director of brand and digital marketing for EnviroAI, a Texas-based company committed to using advanced technology to promote sustainability. They created Tundra, a search engine that highlights environmentally related results and offsets carbon dioxide emissions with every search.
EnviroAI financially supports a carbon sequestration project at Rice University certified by the BCarbon system, a standardized approach to moving carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into plots of soil. The company has pledged that for every search on Tundra, it will support the sequestration of one kilogram of carbon. At the end of the quarter, EnviroAI calculates how much monetary support is necessary for Rice University to sequester the amount of carbon promised.
Schnell’s role with the project is predominantly focused on user interface design — a method of anticipating user needs to best format a virtual platform — for both the search engine and EnviroAI’s app, “Home Phase 1.” She is also in charge of managing the organization’s social media pages and creating video advertisements.
An environmental studies and film and media studies major at St. Olaf, Schnell first connected with EnviroAI when she was looking for a summer internship. After being introduced to EnviroAI through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Schnell joined the team as a media marketing intern in June 2021, mostly making videos for their website and advertising outlets. She was promoted to her current position a year later.
“I love teaching others about how they can lead more sustainable lives, here at St. Olaf and beyond,” Schnell says. “Part of this passion for educating others about environmental sustainability is why I’m drawn to EnviroAI and other related companies.”
I love teaching others about how they can lead more sustainable lives, here at St. Olaf and beyond.Cassidy Schnell ’23
Schnell says that with this job comes a bit of a learning curve. She has needed to independently research the effectiveness of certain digital marketing strategies and often relies on the knowledge of her colleagues at the Digital Scholarship Center at St. Olaf (DiSCO) — where she has been interning since Fall 2020 — to learn specific media production skills.
“It’s given me the skills to really change gears quickly and especially learn new skills, which has been a lot of fun,” Schnell says.
The vision behind Tundra comes from EnviroAI founder and St. Olaf alumnus Jed Anderson ’92. After majoring in biology at St. Olaf and spending more than 30 years working in a variety of law firms and as an adjunct professor of law at Houston University Law Center, Anderson wanted to develop a search engine that could deliver results and help professionals be more sustainable. Providing both environmentally related results and standard searches serves as a tool that Anderson felt was lacking.
Helping companies make more environmentally conscious decisions is at the heart of EnviroAI’s goals, prompting the creation of Tundra Pro — a paid subscription best suited for businesses that highlights environmental legal documents and other sources.
Anderson and Schnell have been working together to bring this concept into reality. This past September, Schnell had the opportunity to travel to Houston to attend the 2022 Gulf Coast Industry Forum with Anderson. After partaking in a fast-paced, exciting networking event and seeing the office space of EnviroAI in person, Schnell admits that she can see a future for herself with the company.
“Cassidy is a rock-star for our company,” Anderson says. “Our philosophy at EnviroAI is that if you are ready for the big-time, regardless of age or experience level, you are ready. Cassidy was probably ready at age 12. We kid around with her and tell her we actually work for her.”
Schnell says she is grateful for her relationship with Anderson, who understands the demands of life as a student on the Hill. As a member of the women’s golf team, the vice president of the German Honors Society Delta Phi Alpha, an organizer for the St. Olaf Environmental Coalition, member of the Student Athlete Advisory Board, and member of the St. Olaf Tedx production team, Schnell appreciates that Anderson recognizes the importance of being present in the college experience.
“I’ve been very grateful for how gracious and understanding he is in that regard because he knows that work right now isn’t everything,” Schnell says.
With so much on her plate, Schnell says that the liberal arts experience has helped her develop a sense of ease with being flexible. She has determined that commitments to sustainability go beyond the environment and are reflected in the way you choose to put yourself first through it all.
“There’s a lot going on, but I think the main thing that’s been keeping me sane and aligned is my friends and the community here,” Schnell says. “I have so much support from my housemates, the golf team, my professors, and people in class. Even though life feels a little overwhelming at times, seeing the smiles of those I care about always reminds me that everything is going to be okay.”