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‘Sustainable Catawba’ to Coordinate, Strengthen Environmental Efforts

11/30/11 by John Wear

Students – and prospective students – are placing more importance on colleges’ sustainability record than ever before. Environment & Energy, a publishing firm, recently noted that “colleges are…beginning to see that environmental initiatives have impacts on how their peers, along with their current and past students, perceive them. A school’s reputation may hinge as much on its green credibility as it does on conference titles and championships.”

The article quotes David Soto, director of college ratings at the Princeton Review.  “I think a lot of campuses are realizing that to attract top-tier students, they need to pay attention to sustainability,” he says.

Fortunately, Catawba College has initiated strong efforts in recent years to lessen our ecological footprint. Waste reduction, energy and water conservation, buildings with LEED certification, efforts to encourage alternate transportation – these are just a few examples of campus initiatives that demonstrate Catawba’s robust commitment to sustainability.

Interestingly, it is often the students who really want and drive these types of efforts. This is good because for initiatives like these to succeed, they must be collaborative and inclusive. Ultimately sustainability affects all segments of the campus:  facilities, operations, personnel, student life, classroom study – everything.

Knowing that, we have established “Sustainable Catawba,” which brings all of those working on sustainability efforts to the table. This includes student groups like Environment Catawba Outreach (ECO), the Green Education Outreach (GEO) team, Student Government Association, Tri-Beta National Biology Honor Society, American Chemical Society (ACS) and service clubs as well as departments, like Facilities, initiatives like the Green Pig, even our Chartwells Food Service as well as our Center for the Environment.  All are engaged in significant actions to lessen our footprint.

We have students, administrators, faculty and staff who are making a difference on campus every day. Students in classes, internships, clubs and student government are promoting an assortment of initiatives including cycling, using transit and composting food waste, among other things.

Our Sustainable Catawba lunch and learn meetings in the Community Room of the cafeteria bring students, staff, faculty, administrators and trustees together to learn about and discuss these efforts. In addition, faculty recently adopted a general education requirement which states that students must have experiences in sustainability as well as citizenship and diversity before they graduate.

The commitment to sustainability is strong on our campus. Now we are equally committed to communicating that to our various constituencies. Look for a new webpage on in the near future called Sustainable Catawba, which will outline the fine work of so many.

I hope you will join me in applauding the trustees, administrators, students, faculty and staff for their leadership in this effort. We are well on our way to being known as Sustainable Catawba.

A Sampling of Sustainable Catawba

  • Catawba is partnering with Duke Energy on a year-long energy management pilot program that is made possible by digital, smart-grid technology.
  • Catawba College was among 13 Duke Energy customers in five states to receive Duke Energy’s 2011 Power Partner Award. The awards recognize customers who work with Duke Energy to achieve high levels of energy efficiency and economic growth.
  • Abernethy Village, a complex of five residence halls, has been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
  • The Center for the Environment’s Energy Corps fellows are leading an effort to secure LEED certification for the Center facility, which was built before LEED certification existed.
  • The college has recognized significant savings in waste reduction and energy and water conservation.
  • The Facilities Department refilled the 210,000-gallon swimming pool with water from our geothermal well.
  • The Green Pig initiative is a reminder on campus to live and promote a green, sustainable lifestyle.
  • The Center and other Catawba programs provide multiple opportunities to raise awareness about the environment.
  • Faculty from many disciplines are integrating the study of environmental issues into their courses.
  • New vending machines are Energy Star-rated and LEED-certified.


Dr. Wear, executive director of the Center for the Environment, serves as chairman of Catawba’s American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Committee.  The Center recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary for the organization and 10-year anniversary for the Center building.

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