Human Ecology launches grassroots green campaign

Alan Mathios
Mark Vorreuter
Human Ecology Dean Alan Mathios signs the sustainability pledge.

To open the fall semester, more than 30 Human Ecology students, staff and faculty signed on to become Green Ambassadors who will lead a peer-to-peer campaign to conserve campus resources and promote a culture of sustainability across the college.

The program, “Toward a Sustainable Organization,” aligns with Cornell’s Think Big, Live Green campaign, which formed in 2013 to enlist support for the university’s Climate Action Plan, a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Following the College of Engineering, Human Ecology is the second college to join the campaign, according to Cornell energy outreach coordinator Erin Moore.

The college kicked off its campaign in late August as volunteers brainstormed how to use social media, specific conservation goals and other grassroots efforts to guide sustainability efforts for the college’s labs, offices and classrooms.

“I was surprised by their level of passion and engagement,” said Carol James, a staff member in Student Leadership, Engagement and Campus Activities, who led a leadership exercise for the group. “It was really clear that they had chosen to take on this project in a very intentional, driven way. My aim is for each member to have insight into themselves and each other to help facilitate team cohesion.”

Jim Hatch, the college’s facilities manager and leader of the Green Ambassadors program, encouraged volunteers to think broadly about environmental stewardship as the group shared how fiscal responsibility and personal habits contribute to sustainable practices. The program, he noted, builds on the college’s existing conservation efforts, including LEED-certified buildings and renovations, and research and outreach programs on topics ranging from green building design to renewable fibers and polymers and sustainable food systems.

“That’s what Human Ecology is about – a group of people working in a variety of fields coming together to solve common issues,” Hatch said.

As the program advances, volunteers will pick and lead sustainability objectives for the college, said Moore. “It’s exciting to be working with a great group of people who already have sustainability embedded into their work and culture,” she added. “I’m eager to see the different themes and programs that will come from this.”

This summer, Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology; KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services, and Christine Stallman, associate vice president for environmental health and safety, signed a memorandum of understanding formally committing the college to Think Big, Live Green.

Think Big, Live Green follows a successful pilot program, CALS Green, by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which saved more than 2 million pounds of carbon and $230,000 in energy costs from 2010-11.

Sara Birmingham ’15 is a student communications assistant for the College of Human Ecology.