April 17, 2006
Emory searches for director to guide sustainability efforts
by Mary Loftus
Underscoring a commitment to sustainability as one of Emory’s fundamental guiding principles, the University is searching for a director of sustainability initiatives, with plans to fill the position by September.
The director, who will report to Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl and Provost Earl Lewis, will be responsible for catalyzing and coordinating sustainability efforts of the University.
“This is going to take environmental initiatives at Emory to the next level,” said Chief Environmental Officer John Wegner. “Up to now, we have been focusing on the environment. Now we can turn our attention to all three E’s of sustainability—environment, economics and equity—and we’ll have the additional resources necessary to do that.”
Last spring, President Jim Wagner charged a committee with developing a plan for a “sustainable Emory” by reducing the University’s harmful impact on the environment while maintaining a thriving economic sector and equitable opportunities for work and study. Sustainability is typically defined as meeting the needs of the current generation without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
The Sustainability Committee set about creating a vision of Emory as a “responsive and responsible part of a life-sustaining ecosystem,” and an educational model for healthy living, locally and globally.
“In some ways, we are really in the forefront, like our ‘green’ buildings and our outstanding alternative transportation programs,” said Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology and co-chair of the committee. “But in other areas, such as creating a sustainable food system, we haven’t really started yet.
“Through this process, we had consultation meetings with 22 different groups around campus, and people are very enthusiastic about the vision we put forward and said they want to do more in their buildings or divisions,” Barlett continued. “The sustainability report gives us a lofty vision, but we need someone to bring it down to the practical reality.”
Among other recommendations, the report set goals of reducing campus energy use by 25 percent and Emory’s total waste by 65 percent by 2015. The report also encouraged restoring the campus to “a forested, walking experience”; controlling harmful, invasive vegetation; restoring streams; reducing use of toxic materials; retrofitting buildings to “green” standards’ and creating “closed-loop” systems of energy, water and food.
Barlett discovered people across campus had overlapping ideas that, with coordination and collaboration, could come to fruition. “Four separate parts of the University wanted to bring a farmers market to campus, and none knew about the other,” she said.
Emory already has built a strong grassroots base for sustainability, Barlett said. “Our other strength is that key leaders, the president and others, are very supportive of these principles,” she said.
“It’s an ideal situation.”
Several universities employ sustainability directors, including the University of Florida, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Brown and Duke.
“A very important part of the director’s job will be communications and outreach—he or she will be an ambassador for the principles of sustainable living, here and elsewhere,” Barlett said. “But this is not a job that one person can do. We need hundreds of people all across the University for these ambitious goals to be realized.”