Sustainability plan moves to final stage

The Office of Sustainability will develop a plan to enhance GW’s urban ecosystem this year, part of broader efforts to shrink the University’s carbon footprint.

The ecosystem plan is the third and final element of GW’s sustainability strategy and a continuation of the University’s May 2010 Climate Action Plan that aims to achieve carbon neutrality.

This year’s ecosystem evaluation will pinpoint future goals for increasing green space, trees and composting on campus, Sophie Waskow, the sustainability project facilitator, said.

“You cannot ‘create’ or ‘achieve’ an ecosystem. We have ecosystems all around us – the question is more how can we enhance or transform them?” Waskow said. “We would like to minimize the negative impacts of waste, pollution and loss of biodiversity.”

An urban ecosystem includes vehicles, humans, buildings, water sources, plants and wildlife, all of which influence one another, Waskow said.

“GW’s operations impact the ecosystem around us,” Waskow said. “Ecosystems provide the highest level of both functional support and visceral beauty to us when they are complex and diverse.”

Precise proposals for addressing GW’s urban ecosystem footprint are slated for release this spring.

These new initiatives will join existing ones on campus that work to add green elements to the urban ecosystem, including rainwater storage units near South Hall, two community gardens and the green roof on the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Waskow said GW’s five-year partnership with Casey Trees will maintain and expand the urban tree canopy on campus. Casey Trees is a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteers to plant trees around the District.

The Office of Sustainability plans to co-host programs with local and student groups in conjunction with the ecosystem plan throughout the year, Waskow said.

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