Louise Gava, Coordinator of Sustainability Projects
Coordinator of Sustainability Projects
St. Lawrence University
Q. What does a sustainability coordinator do?
A. The role of a sustainability coordinator/environmental coordinator/sustainability manager etc. really depends on the University they work for. Some colleges have whole offices dedicated to sustainability initiatives and others like St. Lawrence have one official position with a campus of faculty, staff, students and administrators who are ready to help. No matter what the exact title or which school they work for almost all sustainability coordinators are charged with monitoring and developing plans to reduce the schools’ energy use. It is no secret that schools like SLU that are working toward Climate Neutrality need to pay a lot of attention to their heating and electricity sources and this is one of the sustainability coordinators largest roles. Although some colleges have a different office to deal with student and educational initiatives most sustainability coordinators are also charged with campus education on issues such as energy use and recycling as well as organizing, hosting and publicizing special events related to ‘greening’ the campus.
Q. Why did SLU decide to hire a sustainability coordinator?
A. In May of 2006 the St. Lawrence Board of Trustees approved the student drafted Environmental Resolution which made environmental sustainability a core university value. In this document sustainability was defined to include environmental awareness, environmental education and sustainability in daily operations of St. Lawrence. The enthusiasm surrounding the approval of this resolution and the acceptance of a new university value lead to the drafting of the Environmental Action Plan in January of 2007. This eight section document was the work of over 100 students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members who all lent their expertise to the drafting of this plan. The Environmental Action Plan takes sections of campus, such as energy, waste stream and food systems and looks at the global problem, St. Lawrence’s goals and a suggested path to achieve solutions. I cannot stress enough how this document was a collaborative effort and went through many drafts. With the acceptance of environmental sustainability as a core university value and an action plan laying out how to achieve the goals associated with environmental sustainability it was a logical step for President Sullivan to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. St. Lawrence pledged to work toward Climate Neutrality (what the signing of the Climate Commitment means) in March of 2007. Once this document was signed a clock began to tick and St. Lawrence must now reach certain sustainability goals in a given time frame to fulfill our commitment. Why did SLU hire a sustainability coordinator? Someone must make sure that the university is fulfilling the goals of signing the climate commitment and fostering a culture of sustainability on the SLU campus! I should make the very important note that the administration is both pleased and impressed with the level of grassroots environmental activism that has been present on this campus. It is because of this activism that the Environmental Resolution, Environmental Action Plan, American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and a Sustainability Coordinator are all realities for St. Lawrence. I agree with the administration and would like all students, faculty and staff to know that sustainability coordinator or not, their job in fostering environmentally responsible change at St. Lawrence can never be replaced even if we eventually have an entire office charged with campus sustainability.
Q. What is the importance of a sustainability coordinator?
A. I believe I gave you insights to that above; in the case of St. Lawrence the sustainability coordinator helps the university move toward climate neutrality and work to foster a culture of sustainability on the campus. The importance of the sustainability coordinator is that they are one person that is responsible for supporting ‘green’ initiatives on campus and provide a resource for the many students/faculty/staff/administrators that are already working toward more sustainable daily operations, incorporating sustainability into the classroom or even living more sustainability on a personal level. As a side note, the creation of the new position for a sustainability coordinator is yet another formal display of the university’s commitment to sustainability issues.
Q. How can students get involved?
A. The best way for students to get involved is to go to a meeting of Sustainability Committee, or the Environmental Action Organization. If you want to do something that these groups aren’t doing or you want an idea for a class project or thesis that will contribute directly to SLU’s sustainability the best thing is to contact me directly.