Promoting long-term sustainable practices at Georgetown University requires determining community members’ roles in enhancing environmental consciousness, panelists said at a Nov. 14 event.
The event, titled “The Sustainable Hoya: On Campus and Beyond,” was sponsored by Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network in the Healey Family Student Center Social Room. Panelists assessed the current generation’s progress addressing climate change and systemic environmental issues.
The panelists included Krystle Corpuz (SFS ’09), a program manager at international development firm Chemonics International; Charlotte Dreizen (GRD ’22), an analyst at the Office of Waste Diversion in the Washington D.C. Department of Public Works; Shanika Whitehurst (GRD ’05), the environmental justice coordinator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Greg Burton, the associate director of the Office of Planning and Facilities Management; and Peter Marra, the director of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative.
Individual participation and advocacy are necessary to create a sustainable campus environment, according to Giulia Manno, the program and metrics manager at the Georgetown Office of Sustainability.
“I guess first of all I would say that collective individual actions do make a difference,” Manno said. “Whenever everybody is doing the same actions and you have shared values, that’s where culture change comes.”
The Office of Sustainability was established in 2013 as a branch of the Office of Planning and Facilities Management. The Office of Sustainability has contributed to the bee-friendly campus initiative and the residential compost program, among other projects.
Since creating the Office of Sustainability, Georgetown has made caring for the environment a priority, Corpuz said.
“Back in the day, there was no Office of Sustainability,” Corpuz said. “You guys are lucky because there was definitely a need back then for that sort of vision for the university and I’m glad Georgetown has adopted that view as the years progressed after I graduated.”
Helping people understand their personal relationship with nature by spending more time interacting with their surroundings can bring urgency to sustainability issues, according to Marra.
“Most people don’t feel like they’re a part of nature,” Marra said. “They feel like they are completely detached. The more we can talk about people’s relationship to nature and the more we can get people out into nature, the better off we’re going to be.”
An internship in the Philippines informed the way that Corpuz thinks about sustainability, she said. Although participating in tangible environmental preservation efforts is important, activists should consider how initiatives will impact communities.
“Being exposed to that sort of conservation language through my internship was really important,” Corpuz said. “It wasn’t really necessarily sustainability in terms of not using plastic straws or reducing usage of plastic bags or anything, but it was more focused on how do we give communities.”
The event was moderated by Nareg Kuyumjian (SFS ’21), co-coordinator of Project Green First Year, a Laudato Si’ Fund recipient. The event included university, federal and local government perspectives to spotlight the diversity sustainable solutions, according to Kuyumjian.
“Sustainability is something that can’t be thought of in a box, so it was really intentional to have people from federal government, D.C. government, and then people affiliated with the Georgetown system more directly,” Kuyumjian said in an interview with The Hoya.
The Office of Sustainability’s Laudato Si’ fund granted a total of $300,000 dollars to 11 different projects in September, ranging from projects to incorporate sustainability education into curriculum to environmental research projects. The grant also funded “Design Transfigured,” a sustainable fashion project, and “Disability, Disaster and Climate Change: A Public Ethics Project.”
The panel encouraged community members to prioritize daily environmentally friendly choices, according to Kuyumjian.
“I think what came out of it was ideas about how sustainability comes up in our daily lives in different settings and a realization that if we’re serious about a greener future, we can’t be afraid about making concrete changes, whether that be light switches or changing infrastructure,” Kuyumjian said.
Elizabeth Hutter says
Proud of GU for initiating its Office of Sustainability.