Paige Onsott


My name is Paige Onstott. I'm from Michigan. I recently graduated from the University of Denver with a Master of Social Work degree.

What sustainability, energy, and community issues are important to you?

Being from Michigan, I have always been passionate about the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes hold around 80% of North America’s fresh surface water, but many cities in Michigan still struggle to have consistent access to clean drinking water. It wasn’t until the Flint Water Crisis and attending college that I realized how many problems there are regarding the Great Lakes and the population’s access to clean drinking water. Several years after the Flint Water Crisis, some homes in the area still do not have access to clean water, additionally, this community now has a high distrust of any government authority because of how the crisis was handled. The Intergovernmental Council on Climate Change issued a report stating that 60% of the world’s population will soon not have the access to drinking water that they need to survive. Water should be a basic human right and should be protected from for-profit industry greed; this is not the case in many areas with large bodies of water. One of these large bodies of water being the Great Lakes. Policy needs to be reformed so that individuals living in communities have access to the water in their communities, not only access, but clean and consistent access to the drinking water they need to survive. This is a huge community issue, and sustainability and energy should be looked at from every angle while trying to protect the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes ecosystem.

What exciting projects/research are you working on now?

I just graduated from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work in June, where I did a few research projects and advocacy examples for coursework. I am currently looking to get my foot in the door anywhere that I can hopefully affect policy change for the Great Lakes or water protection in general. In addition, I moved back to Michigan from Colorado to pursue sustainable policy with the Great Lakes. I am currently transitioning out of school and into the work environment, so that will be my main upcoming project!

What are your plans for the next five years?

I am hoping to affect policy at the government level on sustainability and protection of the Great Lakes; I plan to start small or anywhere I can since our Earth does not have much time. Nestle is stealing water from the Great Lakes for a very small price on their part and profiting upwards of 240% off of the water taken that is bottled and sold. Clean, drinking water should always be accessible by every human being and there are individuals in the state of Michigan who don’t have that privilege; this happens all while Nestle makes $7.7 billion worldwide from their product, Ice Mountain Water. My plan is to protect the Great Lakes so Nestle does not have access to this resource to make such a profit.

What made you want to apply to SISE?

I recently graduated with my master’s degree in social work, which has given me all the tools to affect change at a policy or legislative level; my concentration was in organizational leadership and policy practice. Since I pursued a degree that focuses more on action to be taken in whichever field I choose, I am looking to broaden my horizons and expand my knowledge on sustainability. Our government has almost always forgotten or chose not to give any thought to environmental or non-human animal level consequences when making policies. I believe that I can bring a new perspective to the policy and legislative field with my passion for the environment. This pushed me to apply to this program to learn best how integrate sustainability into policy while also engaging community stakeholders. I believe that this hands-on experience will give me those necessary tools.

What are you most looking forward to doing in Chicago?

I am looking forward to exploring a new place, I have only visited Chicago several times very briefly. I am most looking forward to visiting some new parks and maybe trying to catch a concert while in town!

Do you like Cats? If not, are you willing to learn to like cats?

I do like cats, I am currently living with 3 of them: Meeko, Monty, and Nani!