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The Green Life: Lighting the Way: How College Sustainability Officers Do It

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September 06, 2011

Lighting the Way: How College Sustainability Officers Do It

Their titles differ slightly but their jobs are pretty much the same: to make sure the college campus they’re responsible for is doing all it can to care for the planet. 

HOWARD WAYS, Director of Planning and Sustainability, University of the District of Columbia (2,700 students)

"The Woodsy Owl commercial and crying Native American on TV had a big impact on me as a child. As a former architect and urban planner, I have always embedded what we now call green building practices into my projects. UDC could be a poster child for a low-carbon-footprint university. Our facility is built on top of a metro system, we have a bus depot right here, and we have bike share and Zipcar. Sustainability is becoming mainstream here — it's the way that we've decided to live together in this city."

MEGAN ZANELLA-LITKE, Sustainability Coordinator, University of Richmond (3,000 students)

"I grew up on a blueberry farm in a small town, so I was always outside. In college, I was exposed for the first time to people who hadn't spent any time outdoors. That's when I realized I wanted to help expand these efforts. I've been working on college campuses for a while now, and it's just remarkable how every year the movement gets bigger. The excitement generated by our new solar panels was really exhilarating. At a liberal-arts school, where people aren't used to labs, it's fun to get them out of the classroom working on solar and renewable projects."
SID ENGLAND, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, UC Davis (31,000 students)

"As long as I can remember, I've been working on environmental planning issues. Everybody at Davis is incredibly supportive of sustainability efforts. It comes from our background as a land-grant college that's strong in the sciences. The fact that my office didn't exist three years ago — it was just environmental planning — shows that the institution has adopted sustainability and made it part of its policies. The biggest challenge here is the scale. To meet some of our longer term goals, society needs to evolve as well. We can't do it as an island."

JEREMY FRIEDMAN, Manager of Sustainability Initiatives, New York University (40,000 students)

"The values that underlie my work are the same values that underlie my whole life. It's a holistic worldview, and for me the challenge of transforming our world is a very personal and political project. I see my job as creating the capacity for real change and then allowing countless individuals who care to lend their sweat and knowledge to the enormous task of transforming the world around us. We need to embed sustainability across all levels of society more quickly than any social movement in history has ever done before. It's a time when some of the most important efforts aren't the most glamorous ones."
—interviews by Rosie Spinks

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