William Kamkwamba, whose personal memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, was adapted into a Netflix film, will speak at the Dallas College Sustainability Summit on Nov. 1, at 3 p.m. Photo by Myles Pettingill.

Oct. 27, 2023

Hear the inspiring stories of how the sustainability movement is changing our culture from the local to the international level when Dallas College hosts its 13th annual Sustainability Summit next Wednesday.

The all-day event will be held at North Lake Campus, Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free and attendees can participate both in person or via live stream at home. Sign-ups for in-person attendance will be capped at around 400 participants. Register here.

The conference is designed for a diverse audience — from area academics to nonprofit leaders to government agency staff — to explore new ideas around sustainability.

“Really, it's for anyone passionate or even just interested in sustainability,” according to Garrett Rosser, energy manager and head of sustainability at Dallas College, the Summit. 

Rosser says the presenters will touch on topics addressing local, state, national and international perspectives.


The event's headliner is Malawian author, inventor and engineer William Kamkwamba, whose life has been dramatized in both a book and a film. 

William Kamkwamba, the author of the autobiographical memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, will speak at Dallas College's North Lake Campus in Irving on Nov. 1 at 3 p.m. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Kamkwamba will share his story of energy sustainability, which is detailed in his personal memoir, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and the Netflix film adaptation of the same name, directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor.  

According to Kamkwamba’s bio,  his story of sustainability began when a severe famine struck the Kasungu region of Malawi in 2001. Due to the tragedy, Kamkwamba was forced to drop out of school when his family could no longer pay fees.

This did not keep Kamkwamba from pursuing his education, as he’d worked with the village librarian to remain informed in subjects like science, which nurtured his inventive streak. Kamkwamba came across a photo in a U.S. textbook called “Using Energy,”and built a windmill with the power to harness wind electricity simply based off of a photo and no instructions.

He built the windmill out of found material, including blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard.

This sustainable invention is what eventually saved Kamkwamba’s region from drought. 

According to Rosser, this story ties in both sustainability and inspiration. It takes the real-life struggles of someone cornered who “rose to the occasion” and used what he had to help his community and family. 

Kamkwamba’s story is a unique blend of accessibility, sustainability and ingenuity that both motivates and highlights the importance of harnessable energy around the world. 


This year the Summit is broken into four optional breakout sessions, though there are some differences from last year. 

“In the past, it was kind of ‘choose your own adventure,’” Rosser said. 

The structure has shifted in terms of what information is being presented as well as where and how the breakout sessions take place. Rosser says that this year the event is more of a series of “seminars or lectures,” with all sessions being held in the same place, the performance hall. 

Overall, the four optional breakout sessions will cover programs and sustainability, with each having a specific focus — from the local to the state to national level:

Seeds of Change - Nurturing Sustainability in Higher Education taking place at 9:45 a.m., is focused on sustainability and education. According to the website, this first option aims to show the powerful “ripple effect” sustainability can have in the Dallas College community and higher education institutions all around the nation. 

At 10:45 a.m., option two, Sustaining the Hearts of Texas - Impact in the City of Dallas, “takes a deep dive” into the core of Dallas and its journey to sustainability. This workshop focuses on the impact sustainability has had in urban areas around Dallas, and how it continues to “reshape” the Dallas landscape. This workshop will cover everything from community gardens to renewable energy projects.

Texan Trailblazers - Leading Sustainability in the Lone Star State, option three at 1 p.m., covers the effort Texas as a state has made to commit to sustainability. This workshop invites attendees to understand the challenges that Texas has faced in its path to sustainable energy, yet how it tackles them all the same. This workshop will also take attendees on a journey to see just how Texas has harnessed its resources to promote sustainability. 

Finally, at  2 p.m.,  option four, Pioneering Nationwide Progress - Sustainability's Impact on the United States, helps to broaden attendees' perspective as they learn how sustainability efforts have spread throughout the whole United States. This will cover policies and grassroots movements centered around sustainability.  In this workshop, participants will recognize the importance of collective action in pushing for sustainable changes. 

All breakout sessions take place in the performance hall. During the lunch break, attendees can meet with exhibitors.

The keynote speaker Kamkwamba will speak at 3 p.m. following the sessions.

Rosser says that he hopes for attendees to be encouraged to keep pursuing sustainability. He has seen changes reflected in his community following these summits and wants attendees to leave understanding that a “small effort, on an individual basis can grow into a big impact.”

Dallas College Sustainability Summit

About: The 13th annual Sustainability Summit, hosted by Dallas College, aims to inform attendees about sustainability issues and progress made by local, state as well as national and international sustainability advocates. Headliner is William Kamkwamba, whose story is depicted in the personal memoir and Netflix film adaptation of the same name, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

When: Nov. 1, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Dallas College, North Lake Campus, 5001 N. Macarthur Blvd., Irving

Cost: Free

Info: Faye Bajo at fdavis@dallascollege.edu. The event will also be live streamed.



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