New sustainability office to open on campus

August 26, 2013

Joshua Raftis

After over two years of waiting, Georgetown University has created the Office of Sustainability, a department in charge of increasing the University’s sustainable practices, collaborating with the community and peer institutions, and ensuring the integration of sustainability in the Master Planning for the University.

The idea of an office dedicated to sustainability first started in the summer of 2011 when Georgetown students began the Visions for a Sustainable Georgetown Initiative to create a forum where students and University employees could discuss ways to create a strategy to improve sustainability at Georgetown.

Robin Morey, the Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management, believes that establishing an office for sustainability initiatives will raise more awareness for sustainability issues.

“By establishing this office, we are elevating the stature of sustainability on campus—a move which is in line with our peer schools, is what the students want, and is the right thing to do,” Morey wrote. “[W]ith the new office we will be approaching sustainability more in line with the broadly accepted concept of a ‘triple bottom line,’ which means taking a long-term view for a healthy environment, social justice, and sustainable economic outcomes.”

Even after the establishment of the Office of Sustainability, students, GUSA, and the Center for the Environment have continued to play an integral role in the activities of the office.

“The Office has also been very receptive to student ideas,” Gabriel Pincus (SFS ’14), the GUSA Secretary of Sustainability, wrote in an email to the Voice. “Students have been working with the new office a number of issues, including green spaces on campus, bicycling as a sustainable mode of transportation, and planning for new construction.”

Despite its recent establishment on July 1, 2013, the Office of Sustainability—directed by Audrey Stewart, the former Coordinator of Sustainability—has already worked with GUSA on three initiatives: providing reusable water bottles to incoming students, creating more water refilling stations around campus, and improving recycling in residence halls.

“We collaborated with the NSO coordinators, GUSA, the Corp, the Office of Utilities and Energy Programs, BeWell and others to provide all 1,800 incoming students with a reusable, high-quality Nalgene water bottle during orientation,” Stewart wrote. “[This should] help decrease waste from disposable plastic water bottles.”

During the fall semester, the University will be doubling the number of water filling stations on campus to reduce the amount of disposable water bottle waste. “Ten new water bottle filling stations, like those in Regents Hall, have been ordered and will be installed in GU buildings this fall in areas with high foot-traffic thanks to an initiative co-sponsored by the Office of Utilities and Energy Programs,” Stewart wrote.

The Office of Sustainability has also been working with GUSA and the Office of Facilities Management to increase the ease of recycling. “Apartment-style residences have all received stackable recycling bins, and individual rooms will receive recycling crates later this fall to help students easily separate out recyclables in their living spaces,” Stewart wrote.

With the advent of the fall semester, the Office of Sustainability will begin creating sustainability plans for a broader approach to its initiatives. “Creating a sustainability plan will help prioritize sustainability efforts across campus, increase campus wide engagement in sustainability, and meet GU’s College and University Sustainability Pledge (CUSP) to the District of Columbia,” Stewart wrote.

Those working at the Office of Sustainability look forward to advancing the sustainability initiatives at Georgetown.“It is especially exciting to be doing this work at Georgetown, helping equip a future generation of leaders to create sustainable solutions during their time on the Hilltop and beyond,” Stewart wrote.

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