An Interview with Myself: The Role of a Sustainability Coordinator from the Sustainability Coordinators Perspective

I was asked by the Loggers Live Green Blog to do a piece on my role here as the Sustainability Coordinator for the University. When I asked how they would like me to write it, someone casually joked that I should make it an interview of myself. I’ve decided to accept that challenge. Enjoy.

Travis: Travis; I’d like to thank you for giving me some of your time today. So my first question is most likely the most important one to ask, what do you do at UPS? I mean I see that on your card it says “Sustainability Coordinator” but what does that actually entail?

Travis: Thanks for having me; you’d be surprised how many of my friends, family, and just your average person asks that of me. The simplest way to describe what I do here is that I am split between supervising the student recycling team, better known as Sustainability Services, and managing the different aspect of sustainability on the Puget Sound campus.  On any given day that can mean that I am meeting with different campus partners/groups to discuss issues with sustainability, researching new products and techniques for sustainable operations, examining utility & solid waste data, figuring how to divert certain types of waste from the landfill, working with other sustainability officers around the Washington & Oregon area, working with the different unities around Tacoma area, preforming project management, writing environmental reports for different audiences on and off-campus, grant writing, and other community engagement/operational management activities.

Travis: Wow that sounds like a lot on your plate.

Travis: Yes and no, somedays are easier than others, as it is with any job, and you have to recognize that sustainability is so ingrained into our campus framework of the university. It is as if you had a grandfather clock, and you took it apart piece by piece and divided them up across campus. One hand it is a great thing because people are receptive and engaged in sustainability, where it becomes hard is to try and understand and essentially put that clock back together in one place. See, this is the first time Puget Sound has ever had a position like this, further we are one of only eight of our 28 peer institutions to even have a full time sustainability position. Which just means there is always going to be a lot of work to do especially if you are an office of one like I am.

Travis: So perhaps a simpler, or maybe not so much, why do you think it is important that we have a position like this on campus?

Travis: Well, as I was getting at earlier Puget Sound has done a really great job of promoting and institutionalizing sustainability, which is evident by the fact that we have one of the lowest carbon footprints in both our area and for our “weight class” Yet, in order to take sustainability to the next level we needed to have a full time staff member who’s focus was that.

Travis: So I saw on your Sustainability Services website that you are alumni from Puget Sound.

Travis: Yes, I am. That is really great that you went to the Sustainability Services website (www.pugetsound.edu/sustainability-services). One of our staff members, Genaviv Chapdelaine, did the entire website from scratch this summer; and we are really proud of the result. Yes, I graduated from Puget Sound and got a BS in Economics and Political Theory with a minor in Math. I worked for the Facilities Services Office during my undergraduate. I worked on some of the stuff that I currently do. Once I graduated the need for a more formalized sustainability office was recognized and Bob Kief, our Associate Vice President for Facilities Services was able to move funds around to support such a position.

Travis: So last question and it is in two parts; what do you think is your biggest challenges and successes thus far in your first ten months on the job?

Travis: That is a tough one to answer; so I guess I’ll go with the easier one first. I think the biggest challenge I face, I would say it would be educating the Puget Sound community on exactly all the different aspects that makes our community sustainable. The fact is that there are a lot of different things that the university engages in that makes it ahead of the pack in sustainability for a small liberal arts university. Further just trying to disseminate this information is tough as well, especially if you realize that our campus population changes by 600 some odd students every year. As far as what my biggest success is I couldn’t tell you. We have had a lot of successes here in the past few months; it is hard to choose just one.  We’ve revamped our move-in and move-out process (which I’ll talk about in more length in another blog post). We’ve also created a more user friendly way of recycling in the residence halls; specifically “waste zones” and the new Slim-bins as we calling them. We’ve also found ways to partner with Tacoma Public School District and donate old musical items to several different schools in the area. I think that if I had to choose just one thing it would be the recycling team’s growth over the past few months. I really challenged the leadership of this group to come up with innovative ways to do our job better, faster, more efficiently. And the fact it they have exceeded all of my expectations; it is evident if you look at what the campus looks like today versus a year ago. They do more and the campus looks better than it ever has.

Travis: Thanks again for your time today.

Travis: It was my pleasure thank you.

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One Response to An Interview with Myself: The Role of a Sustainability Coordinator from the Sustainability Coordinators Perspective

  1. amyk says:

    Is there any way to influence UPS to stop using lawn chemicals? I think it would send a nice message to allow some biodiversity in the lawn, plus make the campus much less toxic. Many university campuses and public parks have chosen to stop using weed killers as there are other options in keeping grass healthy.

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