The state of Sewanee’s sustainability

Helena Kilburn
Staff Writer

As yet another new year begins, it seems important to not only make new resolutions, but also to check the progress of past ones. At Sewanee, one such resolution is that concerning sustainability.

According to Lauren Newman (C’18), Sustainability Coordinator, the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (OESS) is focusing on the themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work. There is ongoing strategic planning,  revising current programs, and fostering current and future leaders. The OESS is also looking to make their physical office a space for students to both pass time and get engaged with environmental events.

On the more quantitative side, Sewanee has kept its Silver Rating, given by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System). Though the school has made more progress in terms of energy and water usage,  it does not appear that enough progress has been made to obtain a gold rating at this time.

As the Easter semester of 2019 commences, there are many sustainability focused groups at Sewanee including the Sustainability Fellows, Socially Conscious Investment Club, Green Fund, Green House, Environmental Residents, Earthkeepers, Farm Club, and the Water Campaign.  According to Cole Johnson (C’20) these sustainably focused groups are of the utmost importance.

“Sustainability-focused student led groups are incredibly important because ultimately the waste generated in Sewanee from food, water, trash waste, and electricity is determined by students,” Johnson said, “In addition, similar to other academically respected fields such as biology or psychology there are passionate students that want to affect change in order to make an impact for what they believe in.”

Newman believes that  Sewanee has the “ability to address the multifaceted nature of sustainability” both in the OESS Office and in the Environment and Sustainability major. Being more sustainable takes a multitude of perspectives, and it is important for Sewanee to understand that. She also believes that there is room for improvement in working to make sustainability less niche on campus. She hopes to get more support and interest from the other offices and departments as well as from the students.

“In terms of Sustainability, Sewanee does very well at creating sustainable relationships. This is an odd point to make in the perspective of sustainability, however I believe that Sewanee should be appreciated for this,” Johnson said. “Sewanee is a community that cultivates and accumulates relationships that build on each other and last a lifetime… Sustainable relationships are very important to living sustainability.”