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Five Questions with Sustainability Director Jack Nye

Formerly the Director of Facilities Planning, Jack Nye was named Towson University’s first Director of Sustainability this fall. Below, he shares his insight on the role and how he hopes to shape it in the years to come.

What is the role of a sustainability director? What will you be doing in this role?

I am very excited by the opportunity to serve as the first Director of Sustainability in the history of Towson University.  The creation of an Office of Sustainability was discussed for several years and is now a reality. The primary role of the position and the office in general will be to facilitate campus sustainability initiatives and education, manage natural resources, and maintain compliance with the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

Why is sustainability important?

Simply stated, sustainability is meeting the basic needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their basic needs.  Existing scientific evidence concludes that over-reliance on fossil fuels and the resulting carbon generation is destabilizing the global climate. This climate destabilization is disrupting our ecological systems and, if unchecked, will only worsen. These climatic changes will stress our water resources, challenge crop and livestock production, increase risks from rising sea levels and storm surge, threaten basic human health and social structures, and possibly undermine international stability and national security.

Institutions of higher education will play a vital role if we are to successfully change course and address the threat of climate change. Therefore,  it is important that TU administrators, faculty, staff and students be aligned with the principles of sustainability, and that learning content embraces interdisciplinary systems which can address sustainable action at all levels over the short and long term so that our graduates and the entire TU community understand their impact and how they can change it.

What is TU doing to become more sustainable now?

The university has made substantial strides and accomplished much without dedicated sustainability staff or resources.  Some major ongoing accomplishments since 2007 include:

  • Signed the ACUPCC and developing an action plan to become climate neutral by 2050
  • Developed and implemented a single stream recycling system which has resulted in a more than 20% increase in the tonnage of materials recycled on campus annually
  • Required all new capital construction and renovation projects to achieve LEED silver standards resulting in more energy-efficient buildings
  • Preserved 15 acres of high priority forest areas in perpetual conservation easements to offset carbon emissions generated on campus
  •  Expanded off-campus shuttle services to reduce automobile traffic to and from campus. This increased service has resulted in an estimated 800 fewer automobiles traveling to campus daily
  • Reduced our campus carbon footprint by 5.7% from 2008 to 2009

What are the university’s goals for sustainability and the institutional structures for achieving these goals?

Major sustainability objectives for the upcoming year/s include:

  1. Develop a comprehensive campus sustainability plan, including strategies for implementing and funding the climate action plan recommendations for achieving climate neutrality.
  2. Develop and implement more opportunities and initiatives for sustainability education, outreach and research on campus.
  3. Continue existing programs and initiatives that promote or advance sustainability and develop strategies for expansion.
  4. Move the university toward making campus sustainability a higher strategic priority and part of the institutional culture and ethos.
  5. Build the Office of Sustainability to have adequate personnel and financial resources to support and advance the previously listed objectives.

What are your recommendations to faculty, staff and students who want to reduce their impact on the environment at work and at home?

Each of us has many daily opportunities to take action and make choices that help foster sustainability locally and globally. Every individual action and choice to conserve can make a difference.  To find out more I encourage you to explore the TU website at www.towson.edu/gogreen or contact the Office of Sustainability at gogreen@towson.edu about how you can make a difference.

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