Geneseo establishes Office of Sustainability

Reflecting increased awareness both on campus and throughout our society of the negative effects humans incur on the planet, an Office of Sustainability has been created at Geneseo this semester. Established by Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy and Interim President Carol Long, the Office aims to bring about positive, sustainable changes on campus.

“Sustainability issues are going to become increasingly important for every single person on this planet,” former professor of art and current Director of Sustainability Dan DeZarn said. “As an institution of higher education, I think it’s our responsibility to help.”

While in its beginning stages, the Office has numerous plans for this year. DeZarn explained that projects such as reducing fossil fuels and chemical pesticides used on campus, introducing native species back to the arboretum and working with Campus Auxilliary Services on developing sustainability initiatives are in progress.

“Sustainability is a very broad topic,” he said. “People tend to think of it as just dealing with the environment but it also deals with economic sustainability as well as social justice. You can really go in lots and lots of different directions. An Office of Sustainability is this core that sort of reaches out in every direction.”

DeZarn also plans on reaching out to faculty and student organizations on campus that are already involved in sustainability issues. In doing so, he aims to not only help with their projects, but to spread the word about all the sustainable efforts happening on campus.

“We are doing lots of things that a lot of the schools that have a strong reputation for sustainability are doing, but we are not very good about talking about those things, so I think that there is this impression that Geneseo is not doing as much as we are,” DeZarn said.

Office of Sustainability intern senior Joanna Ostroot plays an important role in helping these projects take off. Since the Office is still in its developmental stages, she’s focusing mostly on helping DeZarn with both clerical work and with current projects. She hopes to implement her own projects in the future.

“It’s really great to work with him because we’re already collaborating so much and I really like that,” she said. “I’m really getting the experience of how to start a sustainability office from the ground up, which is really exciting.”

Ostroot hopes to see the Office grow each year––that when she returns as an alumnus, she will see sustainability further integrated into the campus community.

“I’d like to see more specifically sustainability related courses be part of the college curriculum almost as a requirement,” she said. “I’d like to see sustainability incorporated in every part of college life. I’d like to see a really strong presence of the Office and [it] having workshops and events; coordinating lots of different initiatives ensuring that we make our campus a better place and better for the future.”

Both Ostroot and DeZarn are excited about the new Office and their positions within it and stress the importance of an office like this to the campus community.

“We are a liberal arts institution and we are supposed to be creating well-rounded people and an important component of being a well-rounded individual is considering whether or not your existence on this planet is a sustainable one,” DeZarn said.

Ostroot agrees.

“It’s pretty exciting because we haven’t had this at Geneseo yet. While there’s some uncertainty about where we’re headed, it’s pretty awesome to be a part of the founding of this office in a way,” she said. “I consider myself lucky to be working on this initiative.”