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Catawba President’s Vision for Sustainability

06/20/13 by Juanita Teschner

Catawba President Brien Lewis

For Catawba College President Brien Lewis, advancing sustainable practices on the campus makes perfect sense.

“You have to be a good steward of the resources that are provided to you, whether those are dollars from donors or student tuition or natural resources,” he says. “If you’re not being responsible for and careful with those resources, you’re simply doing a disservice to those who provided them to you.”

The more he has learned about sustainability measures, the more he realizes that those practices also make good business sense. “There are so many ways to save or reuse resources,” Lewis says. “Why wouldn’t you do these things if they will: a) be the right thing to do, and b) actually save you money?”

He connects his vision for sustainability to the four pillars of Catawba’s core values: scholarship, character, culture and service.

The college promotes the scholarship of sustainability through its academic program, which offers majors in environmental science, environmental studies, environmental education and sustainable business and community management. “So it makes sense from a scholarship point of view that we are continuing to try to explore and understand the different aspects of sustainability,” Lewis says.

The character component is reflected in the fact that acting sustainably is the right thing to do. “If we are going to be people in a community of good character, we need to act in ways consistent with those values,” he says.

Instilling a “culture of sustainability in all that we do” is important for Lewis. “It’s not an afterthought but is at the core of our planning,” he says. “Whether we’re doing a campus master plan or planning for a smaller scale project, one of the first questions we ask has to be, ‘How can we do this in a way that enhances and encourages sustainability?’”

Finally, service ties all the elements together. “It’s how can we make sure that students and faculty and staff are doing things on campus that serve all those goals and keep the issues at the forefront?”

Lewis has already taken multiple steps to advance sustainability on the Catawba campus. The college has established a Green Revolving Fund to finance on-campus investments in clean energy and resource reduction. A recent gift of $100,000 is providing the principal to fund the initial projects.

The campus map now highlights areas that reflect sustainability at the college. “It communicates very quickly and powerfully to a first-time visitor or someone who hasn’t been to campus in years how much sustainability is at the core of what we do,” Lewis says.

Two energy audits – one by Carrie Gonnella, an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow, which assessed 23 major campus buildings, and another by Waste Reduction Partners that audited Hedrick Administration Building and Ketner Hall – are being used as the college plans for the future. “Putting all those factors in will help us make informed decisions for our campus master plan that will serve us for the next 20-25 years,” Lewis says.

Lewis acknowledges that many good ideas have surfaced as the Green Revolving Fund Committee has solicited input from faculty, staff and students. “But when you think about it in terms of the campus community and our alumni and our local community, we still have touched only a small percentage of people,” he says, “so there’s much left to do.

“We need to constantly keep the sustainability beacon on our radar so we don’t miss an opportunity to include it in all we do,” he says, “and we need to communicate effectively to all of our audiences how important i

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