“Sustainability is being able to get the most of what you have and still have enough to give others what they need.” -Farhad Tahir
While most students were running to class last Tuesday, Farhad Tahir was reviewing his notes before speaking to the Houston City Council. The city was considering the removal of Houston’s curbside recycling program due to budget constraints, and citizens were encouraged to speak at that day’s city council meeting to address the issue. Tahir found out about the opportunity just hours before it was scheduled to begin and jumped at the chance to speak his mind. With about ten minutes to prepare, Tahir whipped up a speech that eloquently argued for the city to keep a recycling program. Days later, the city renewed the contract with Waste Management. It’s a little far-fetched to say Tahir’s words single-handedly influenced city policy, but his efforts to create real change are just the beginning.
When Tahir recounted his experience, he seemed to view it as more of a civic duty than a moment to shine. He described it only as “a little daunting at first.”
This isn’t Tahir’s first encounter with Houston city council members. His father is also active in the local political scene and was heavily involved in the campaign to elect Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“I don’t feel shy about speaking my mind on issues,” said Tahir. “So if an issue comes up where someone is advocating something which I don’t believe in, I will let them say what they want to say, but I don’t feel scared to voice my opinion.”
His mentality is atypical for a 21-year-old college student, many of whom are absent from the political scene. Yet Tahir’s cool and collected response seemed to be normal for him. His accomplishments speak for themselves: Dean’s List, Academic Excellence Scholarship recipient, Bauer College of Business Excellence Scholarship recipient–the list goes on. Well-dressed and just as well-spoken, Tahir has the presence of someone twice his age. It was easy to forget that he was just an undergrad.
A senior majoring in finance and accounting with a minor in energy and sustainability, Tahir has his eyes set on something bigger than just advocating for recycling. After working as an intern with Siemens’ wind power group, Tahir saw a pressing need to bridge the gap between alternative and traditional energy sources. His interest led him to do independent research under University of Houston professor Joe Pratt, which resulted in a proposal that outlined a method for the U.S. to prioritize sustainable energy.
Tahir is a proud Coog and part of a family legacy of UH alumni. Naturally, he is involved with the university in more than just an academic capacity. Tahir is a UH Energy Ambassador, a position that allows him to encourage campus involvement in the UH Energy Symposium Series. He hopes to take it a step further and connect with the Energy Institute High School located just a few minutes away from the UH campus.
“I wanted to reach out to them and get us ambassadors to go over there, promote what we are doing at UH in terms of energy and hopefully spark some interest among juniors and seniors to get them to look into attending UH,” said Tahir.
Tahir hasn’t always been an environmentally-conscious person, especially when it comes to energy. As Tahir put it, living in Houston, you have just as much oil as blood coursing through your veins. When asked about the biggest challenge he’s faced in his endeavor to improve sustainability, Tahir bluntly admitted that it was convincing himself of its importance.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced is convincing myself,” said Tahir. “I had that mentality of ‘oh, they’re all environmentalists, treehuggers, but they’re still printing paper.’ I thought the renewable industry was pointless, and oil and gas was the way to go.
“I think the thing that helped me overcome this was my (Siemens) internship. Going into it, I didn’t know how happy I would be in renewables; I didn’t know how fun it would be. Once you go to a wind turbine, see it up close, climb it and go inside of it, you’re like wow; this is pretty intense.”
Sustainable energy is only one of Tahir’s many interests. Even with his hobbies, Tahir is looking to create a fusion between unlikely sources. In his free time, he enjoys cooking up his newly-discovered signature dish–a savory balsamic vinaigrette pasta with greek- and caribbean jerk-seasoned grilled chicken.
Tahir will be giving a COOGTalk about building the bridge toward sustainable energy next Tuesday, April 5 at 5 p.m. in the Student Center. To learn more, visit the UH Student Program Board’s Facebook event.
Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond to make sustainable improvements in your community? Nominate them to be featured in the Sustainable Coog Series! For more information, visit our website at uh.edu/sustainability.