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Feature

Carlson senior Erick Boustead.

Carlson senior Erick Boustead, Udall scholar and co-founder of Substance, an environmentally friendly nonprofit.

Conscious collaborator

U's first Udall Scholar is an environmentalist and entrepreneur

By Kristi Goldade and Katy Holmgren

From eNews, March 20, 2008

Some rock bands, like Jack Johnson and the Black Eyed Peas, are known for espousing green causes--and others, for gas-guzzling tour buses and over-the-top consumerism. Carlson School senior Erick Boustead has been working to help bands keep their shows as green as their words.

In spring 2007 Boustead was named the University of Minnesota's first Udall Scholar. Morris K. (Mo) Udall represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. In 1991 legislation established a foundation honoring Udall's legacy as an advocate of Native American rights and environmentalism. Each year, the foundation awards scholarships to 80-some undergraduates who demonstrate a commitment to one of these two areas. As part of his application, Boustead wrote about improving the U.S. economy while also supporting environmentalism.

He attended the weeklong recognition event in Arizona, which was, he says, "one of the best weeks of my life." As one of only a few business majors at the event, he enjoyed hearing the other scholarship recipients' points of view.

"Everyone was really passionate about improving the environment through their own specializations, and it was interesting to hear such a variety of solutions to key environmental crises," he notes. "I also connected with Native American scholars who taught me about their culture and beliefs."

Boustead's commitment to environmentalism and entrepreneurialism has led him to several organizations, all of which merge art and activism with green politics. His latest venture has been to cofound Substance, a non-profit booking company.

Substance unites activists with entertainers and stage performances that highlight issues such as homelessness prevention and human rights. With the help of a Carlson business-planning course and previous experience managing student groups, Boustead and two other socially conscious students have learned to coordinate event logistics while connecting established organizations with independent artists--all in the hopes of leaving fans with messages of positive change, and not just ringing in their ears. "Substance hopes to make every event as sustainable as possible. We call it a holistic activist approach," says Boustead. "Our mission is to lead fans to constructive action."

"Focus the Nation", a national teach-in about global warming solutions in America, hosted by explorer and activist Will Steger, was the latest--and largest--Substance event. It drew more than 500 people to First Avenue, a music club in downtown Minneapolis, and it was coorganized by the Bell Museum of Natural History and other University of Minnesota partners, such as the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Humphrey Institute.

Substance booked performers Sha Cage, El Guante, and Truth Maze from the local label "Tru Ruts" and helped with promotions, as well as communicating with the largely student audience about the importance of connecting people with education, art, and the environment. "We were very excited to be involved with First Avenue because we grew up idolizing the bands on that stage," says Boustead. "It was a big opportunity with lots of visibility."

In the coming months, Substance is slated to organize several events, including an environmental festival in Dinkytown (for which, Boustead is in charge of making sustainable by way of renewable energy for stage and sound, minimizing waste, and recycling) and musical entertainment for the Republican National Convention in September.

This spring is a busy one for the soon-to-graduate Boustead, who besides leading Substance, is conducting research on expanding America's biomass supply for biofuels through the U's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, planning the Youth Forum for Global Change with Governor Tim Pawlenty and Will Steger, and overseeing a laundry list of other social justice projects. He intends to move to Washington D.C. in the fall to work in environmental strategy, consulting, or management.

And as if all this wasn't enough, Boustead plays drums for the local band Gena.

The band released an album in October and have since been playing at Substance-presented shows. And once again, Boustead proves his commitment to the environment in the sleeves of Gena's CDs. One day he was walking by a trash can on the Twin Cities campus and noticed a huge roll of plain brown paper. It was exactly what they were looking for--100% post consumer! The band members cut it up and screen-printed designs, eliminating the possibility of unnecessary waste.

"I believe there is a cultural shift toward sustainability," he says. "People are beginning to realize that the environment and the economy can work together."