Georgia College is well into a new fiscal year. A new class of Bobcats has recently joined our campus. Two newly renovated buildings – Beeson and Mayfair – opened on campus. In this same spirit of renewal, the Georgia College Sustainability Council held its annual retreat on August 9, 2017, with council members, students, and myself in attendance, to recharge and set goals for the year. However, as newly appointed council chair Dr. Will Hobbs led us through the day’s activities, we realized that sustainability is not a new concept or practice and that implementing sound sustainability on campus requires us to communicate effectively across diverse ideas and value systems.
Throughout the day, Dr. Hobbs engaged us in group activities which stimulated conversation and sharing of ideas. We started the day by taking turns reading questions he had placed on the table and reflecting on them. Over lunch, we watched a presentation by Dianne Dillon Rigley, Board Director for Interface Inc., titled “Inspiring Positive Change. Re-member. Rethink. Remake.” and discussed our reactions. After lunch, Dr. Hobbs read a series of statements and asked us to indicate our level of agreement with each one. We also summarized last year’s progress and set goals for this year.
The council members present expressed various reasons for joining, noting their wishes to interact more with students, to be on the frontline helping improve the campus and Milledgeville community, to engage interest in the environment, and to give back to the campus. One member joined, in part, because he was Georgia College’s first Environmental Science graduate. Ideas for projects such as improving sorting of compostable materials at the dining hall, purchasing electric vehicles for our public safety officers, installing EV stations on campus, and upgrading light fixtures emerged. Lack of mandates, communication, financing and cultural buy-in were discussed as potential barriers to these and other sustainability projects. The council did not provide unanimous responses on any of the seven statements that Dr. Hobbs read aloud.
One idea that was shared, however, seemed to resonate within the group. “Sustainability is nothing new,” explained one council member. “My grandparents used everything.” The group generally agreed that we are not proposing radical concepts and that we can educate the Georgia College community on the common sense solutions that sustainability provides. However, as evidenced by our own varied viewpoints, we must do so while effectively communicating with all of the diverse value systems present in our community.
Once finalized, the minutes from the council retreat will be available at this link. To learn more about the day’s activities, be sure to check back. We also hope that you will join in the council meetings, held monthly on campus. Look for the announcement of the first meeting, coming soon.