Georgetown University hired its first vice president of sustainability in August, furthering the university’s efforts to promote environmental initiatives on campus.
In her new role, Meghan Chapple, former sustainability director and senior adviser on sustainability at The George Washington University, will oversee the Office of Sustainability and lead initiatives focusing on the intersection of sustainability and social justice, according to a Sept. 15 university announcement.
One of the priorities of the Office of Sustainability will be to approach environmental issues on Georgetown’s campus from diverse perspectives, according to Chapple.
“I am personally committed to applying a lens of justice and equity, and will strive to include a diversity of voices in the conversation and the implementation of sustainability at Georgetown,” Chapple wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In order for Georgetown to be effective, our sustainability vision and strategy going forward will be inclusive of a diversity of voices on campus and from the communities that the university impacts.”
The new position demonstrates Georgetown’s continued commitment to environmentalism and sustainability, according to Peter Marra, director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative (GEI).
“We knew that we needed to move the sustainability piece into a piece that was not just on the operation side, but also on the academic side, because students are so engaged and so excited, and so motivated by aspects of sustainability,” Marra said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “They want to be part of an institution that really prioritizes these things.”
Established in 2013, the Office of Sustainability oversees university environmental efforts, including initiatives focused on renewable energy, recycling, sustainable transportation and water conservation.
Chapple’s appointment will help the university double down on its commitment to sustainability, according to Marra.
“I think that it was clear that the office needed to be elevated, because we needed much more rigorous and dedicated approaches to thinking about what we were doing on our land here,” Marra said. “That might mean making sure we’re just communicating with students that if you need a pen, you don’t order it from Amazon — you go to the bookstore; you figure out some other way to be more efficient.”
In response to news of Chapple’s hiring, some students like Victoria Boatwright (COL ’22), former president of the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), have expressed hope that Chapple will improve transparency and work with student organizations like GREEN.
“I am really hopeful that she will help on student involvement fronts and make the university more transparent on environmental initiatives,” Boatwright said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Because that is one thing that throughout my career I’ve been frustrated with: Georgetown’s lack of transparency.”
Chapple’s hiring follows other university steps to improve sustainability. Georgetown’s board of directors approved a policy to divest from fossil fuel investments in February 2020 following advocacy from student organizations. In November 2020, the university announced it would source two-thirds of its energy needs through off-site solar panels.
Chapple’s experience in writing environmental policy will allow her to continue to advance small- and large-scale projects at Georgetown, according to Boatwright.
“I guess the main three areas I’m hoping to see her apply her skills are negotiations for overall campus sustainability, involvement with students and finally on accountability for divestment and other at-large Georgetown university administration-driven initiatives,” Boatwright said.
To reach its sustainability goals, the university must be as open as possible, according to Chapple.
“Transparency on our progress to meet our sustainability commitments is critical,” Chapple wrote. “We will work across the university to collect baseline data on our sustainability impact, to set goals and targets to meet our commitments, and then publicly report on our progress regularly.”
Chapple’s goals for the Office of Sustainability will ensure as many students as possible get involved with sustainability at Georgetown, according to Boatwright.
“Central to her image of sustainability would be to make sure everybody at the university is included and everybody is a stakeholder.”