University creates green office

The University recently established an Office of Sustainability to promote environmentally friendly initiatives at GW based on a recommendation from last year’s task force on sustainability.

The Office of Sustainability will be used to coordinate the University’s environmentally friendly efforts, University President Steven Knapp said.

“The aim is to create an office that can serve as an operational umbrella to coordinate the many activities in sustainability going on at GW,” Knapp wrote in an e-mail. “From procurement to environmental management to new construction projects, the idea was to create a go-to office. This office will also coordinate with the academic groups working on a parallel track to create new opportunities in research and new courses in this key area.”

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said the office will focus on business and operational issues – especially moving GW toward carbon neutrality – but academic and student life initiatives will also play a role.

“The biggest initiative that the office is going to be doing out of the box is overseeing the Greenhouse Gas Inventory which we have to complete within a year, and then we have two years to create a carbon neutrality plan,” Schario said. The timeline is dictated by The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which Knapp signed in the spring, she said.

The office is currently conducting a search for a director, Schario said.

“Ideally, you’re looking for someone who has both the managerial as well as subject matter expertise to be able to move forward,” she said. “It’s a new field so there are a lot of opportunities.”

Schario said completing many of the goals will not happen overnight, including the calculation of the University’s carbon footprint.

“The first batch of schools who signed the Presidents Climate Commitment had their green house gas emission inventories due in September and not all of them have completed it,” Schario said.

She added that there are many aspects to consider when calculating the carbon footprint of a large school.

“It’s really daunting. I mean, how do you calculate your footprint when you’ve got commuter students, students who live here, faculty and staff, you have all these events on campus. Do you count the visitors? How do you account for students’ carbon footprints when they travel by airplane home?” said Schario, noting that there is little precedent for tackling these questions and that the University already has a facilities group working on the issue.

Presidential Administrative Fellow Josh Lasky, a graduate student, is the only person currently working in the Office of Sustainability. He said the office has several immediate objectives it must accomplish before it can start making a significant changes in sustainability at GW.

“In the short term, the Office of Sustainability is focused on meeting with a broad range of stakeholders throughout the University including student, faculty, staff, alumni, and community groups; managing our responsibilities to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment; and successfully recruiting a director,” Lasky wrote in an e-mail.

“In the long term, the Office of Sustainability is dedicated to elevating GW’s sustainability efforts so that the University can achieve leadership among its peers,” he added.

Though the office will mainly work with the business and administration aspect of sustainability, students are encouraged to get involved.

Lasky said, “We must also facilitate and utilize the enthusiasm by student groups to form lasting collaborative initiatives that involve a wide array of University stakeholders.”

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