A new green challenge

University President Steven Knapp has recruited a former corporate adviser to lead the newly established sustainability office.

Before taking her current position at GW, new Office of Sustainability Director Meghan Chapple-Brown worked with a consulting firm aptly named Sustainability, where she advised corporations such as Nike, Wal-Mart and Ford on issues related to climate change, transparency and human rights.

Despite differences between the Fortune 500 companies and academic institutions, Chapple-Brown said she sees parallels between their sustainability efforts.

“I’ve advised large companies, and GW is comparable to a large company,” she said. “There are lots of people involved. I have experience in seeing sustainability take a root in a corporation, so I know how to make change in a large organization.”

Chapple-Brown, who holds a degree in environmental studies from Northwestern University and an MBA and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, said she hopes to “help the folks who are already working on the issue of sustainability to continue their success and help them be more successful.”

She added, “President Knapp wants the University to be in a leadership position on sustainability.”

Chapple-Brown said she decided to make the transition to the University because she wanted a new career challenge and was interested in the new and “holistic” approach GW was taking toward sustainability.

As part of this approach, the University has already taken several steps to mitigate its carbon footprint. School of Media and Public Affairs professor and CNN correspondent Frank Sesno has started a program called Planet Forward, an interactive initiative that is built around input from the public for ideas on sustainability. Campus groups like Green GW, Campaign GW, the Student Association and The Institute for the Analysis of Solar Energy have all contributed to make Foggy Bottom a “greener” campus.

As head of the Office of Sustainability, Chapple-Brown hopes to continue and further what has already started.

“I want to help provide a vision for where the University wants to go,” she said. “It is my job to make sure we meet the commitments we have made.”

Chapple-Brown said she is eager to work with the student efforts.

“I want to work with those folks who are excited about improving our sustainable system here,” Chapple-Brown said.

Immediate plans for the Office of Sustainability include the program RecycleMania, which raises awareness about and encourages recycling on campus, and several programs during Earth Week.

Eventually, Chapple-Brown said she would like to improve the carbon footprint at all three of GW’s campuses. She acknowledges the challenges ahead of her, including getting people around GW to have a sustainable mentality.

“It’s about being green but also about development for now and future generation and good quality of life,” Chapple-Brown said.

Though the Office of Sustainability remains a new and small program at GW – only one employee, graduate student Josh Lasky, works in the office with Chapple-Brown – she remains optimistic that she will be able to meet the difficulties of sustainability head on.

She said, “As we are learning to walk, we will learn how to run pretty quickly.”

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