The UGA Office of Sustainability encouraged students to take a study break on reading day and hop on a Bulldog Bike, bus or just walk to Memorial Hall on April 27 to listen to the presentations at the Spring 2017 Semester in Review.
The event started at 11 a.m. with posters set up that outlined the different sustainability projects that Office of Sustainability interns.
Meagan Bens, a first-year learning leadership and organizational development graduate student from Decatur, organized all the events for the office during the semester, including the Fun Run towards Sustainability, Earth Week celebrations and this one.
As the events intern, Bens said that all the sustainability events went well, starting with the Zero-Waste Extravaganza in February which “set the tone” for the rest of the year.
“Everything was pretty solid,” Bens said. “Patagonia coming to the Zero-Waste Extravaganza really drew people in, and I just kept going at that pace.”
Bens said this semester was focused on social sustainability, and in the fall, there will be a push toward a call for action.
“Social sustainability often gets overlooked,” Bens said. “It focuses on the people and how our initiatives and plans affect them. We wanted people to realize sustainability doesn’t have to be overly serious. They can just come out and engage with us.”
Bens emceed for the event and introduced President Jere Morehead first with remarks on the office’s work over the year.
Morehead said that UGA will exceed their goal of a 25 percent reduction in energy by 2020, has reduced materials to the landfill by 300 tons since 2010 and is expanding their support of alternative modes of transportation.
Office of Sustainability director Kevin Kirsche updated the attendees on the university’s sustainability practices and the work the office continues to do to move toward a greener campus.
“We want more students and faculty to fall in love with the natural resources in Athens, and in order to do that, they need to experience them intimately,” Kirsche said.
Next semester, Kirsche said the goal is to clean up Lake Harris so students can not only use it for research and experiential learning but also for recreation.
The office is currently putting attention on cleaning up the Athens watersheds to help the lake, which they’ve been doing through community events, outreach and projects. He said in two years, he hopes to see students paddle boarding on Lake Harris.
As for this semester’s success, Kirsche said that he’s proud of the expansion to the compost program.
“We’re now servicing 60 buildings with students picking up the compost on electric bikes,” Kirsche said. “It’s a little thing but pretty cool.”
Morehead said these collected materials help restore the soil at UGArden where healthy foods are grown and donated to the community.
Overall, UGA has earned a gold rating under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System measures collegiate sustainability performance. This rating system is a program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which partners with colleges to promote sustainability initiatives.
The presentations narrowed after these overviews to touch on the campus kitchen, artist in residence and material reuse programs.
Afterward, UGA Food Services introduced a menu that tied into the sustainability theme, and attendees continued touring the projects.
Claire McGowan, a junior interior design major from Tyrone, was presenting her project for the ARID 4100/6100 Studio IV class to attendees.
The class aimed to promote non-residential sustainable interior design practices, and she and her group had to pick a campus building and redesign the inside.
They chose to model the UGA Training and Development Center as a sustainable learning center, focusing on the importance of water.
“We wanted to show how important water in Athens is,” McGowan said. “The water quality isn’t the greatest, and it needs help.”
Although this class is not part of the Certificate of Sustainability right now, McGowan said her professor is moving to get it into the curriculum since “sustainability was a push for all the projects.”
Morehead said the certificate, which started last spring semester, now has over 100 students from 11 schools and colleges. The certificate has been approved to extend to the graduate level as well.
“This certificate program provides students with a foundation in the principles and practices of social environmental and economic sustainability, as well as a valued credential to enhance their competitiveness in today’s job market,” Morehead said.