‘Green Officers’ Regarded as Role Models on Sustainability - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

‘Green Officers’ Regarded as Role Models on Sustainability

by Lydia Lum

Soon after becoming sustainability coordinator for Meredith College last year, Laura Fieselman donated her office trash can to a colleague as incentive to recycle. That left Fieselman stashing paper waste in her desk drawer and disposing of her own garbage piece by piece.


Fieselman insists the loss of her own trash can is not a hardship. She doesn’t mind walking three doors down the hall to the break room to throw away lunch scraps and used paper towels. She also believes campus constituencies will more likely adopt conservation-minded practices if she proves, through day-to-day example, that they are not overly difficult.


She and other “green officers” at U.S. colleges agree that the nature of their jobs makes them de facto role models for environmental responsibility. Consequently, they regularly make sacrifices to avoid appearing hypocritical. 


University of Texas-San Antonio energy manager Robert Rodriguez now receives seven print magazine and professional journal subscriptions by e-mail (see Rodriguez in video). But before assuming that job, he consumed all of them as hard-copy publications, spending hours at a time reading while nursing a cup of coffee, tearing out the occasional article, and liberally running his highlighter through interesting parts.


Some situations are minor embarrassments.


Rodriguez recalls that he once – while traveling to a sustainability meeting in Maryland – rented a car at the airport. Conference officials offered parking permits to the crowd of 300 attendees – and Rodriguez was one of only four people sheepishly coming forward. “Everyone in the room looked at me like, ‘What’s this guy thinking?’ ” he said.


Cars present dilemmas for green officers. Those interviewed by Diverse say their jobs require them to commute. Their duties include, but are not limited to, conducting in-person examinations of campus facilities and grounds as well as meeting with administrators to demonstrate earth-friendly ideas. When Dr. Mary Ellen Mallia broke her ankle earlier this year, she carpooled with a co-worker to her job as director of environmental sustainability at the University of Albany until recovering. But her work hours are unpredictable. And she often drops off and picks up her daughter from school. So Mallia cannot justify a permanent carpool.


Barbara Weist of the University of Puget Sound sums up the overall professional challenge this way: “The more environmental awareness I create on campus, the more I notice my own behavior.”


The university’s web manager, Weist is a key member of the school’s sustainability advisory committee. She has dragged an occasional trash bag behind her on campus sifting the garbage for aluminum cans she takes home to recycle with her own cans.


At Meredith, Fieselman says her lack of a trash can results in the custodial staff replacing one less plastic bag daily.


Furthermore, several of her colleagues have followed suit in disposing of their trash cans, a move she jokingly describes as “saving the world one bag at a time.”   


Organizers of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference urge attendees to take similar measures. Bring your own tote bags. Don’t distribute paper handouts; e-mail materials instead.


At last year’s AASHE gathering, conference-goers discarded items into bins marked “recyclable” and “compostable.” Then, behind-the-scenes volunteers manually sorted everything to ensure the highest purity level.


Back on campus, co-workers tease green officers for compulsive habits like policing thermostats as if their lives depend on it. But some environmental enemies still linger.


Rodriguez, who has been UTSA energy manager since 2002, leaves styrofoam cups untouched, despite they’re not being biodegradable. He realizes that coercing staff, faculty and students to use only mugs and refillable bottles would make them fight him much harder over thermostat settings.


That’s a battle, Rodriguez believes, not worth fighting. “Some things you can’t win.” 



Extreme Weather Testing Infrastructures of Schools Across Nation From raging forest fires on the West Coast to heavy snowfall on the East Coast and bone-chilling cold between, extreme and unpredicted weather patterns this school year have disrupted college classes and tested campus infrastructures. America’s ma...
Weather, Maintenance Issues Delay Start of Spring Semester at Howard   Ruptured pipes and ongoing heating issues has caused Howard University to delay the start of spring classes by a week. Howard University Classes at the historically Black college located in Washington, D.C., was supposed to start on ...
Commentary: Campuses Can Take the LEED in Going Green Go ahead — try putting something in the trash bin at St. Louis Community College in Wildwood, Mo. No one is going to stop you — no alarms or buzzers will sound. But at STLCC-Wildwood, one of the first 100 percent LEED-certified, or leadership in ener...
Purdue Naming Library After Black Alumnus WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University is renovating a library that will become the first major campus facility to be named for a Black alumnus. The Journal & Courier of Lafayette reports that Roland Parrish gave $2 million toward the renovati...
Semantic Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *