Lori Strawder has worked as the Chief Sustainability Officer since 2012. Prior to her current role, she was the Facilities Operations Office Manager, and she has been employed at Georgia College for eighteen years. She arrived at her current position, as she states, “as part of a reorganization within the Office of Facilities Operations,” during which the position itself was created. In addition to Chief Sustainability Officer, Mrs. Strawder teaches part-time for the College of Business, Department of Information Systems and Computer Science.
Mrs. Strawder was born in Valdosta, Georgia, and graduated from Ware County Senior High School. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of General Studies, as well as a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Management Information System. While employed at Valdosta State University, she was introduced to her future husband and, after marrying him, moved to Gordon, Georgia, where she pursued employment in public higher education here at GCSU. Mrs. Strawder boasts a “willingness to learn,” and receives inspiration from those who are able to “think outside the box.” Additionally, Mrs. Strawder enjoys the occasional trip to McDonald’s, as well as “anything home-cooked,” including, as she states, “[m]y granny’s red velvet cake or my grandma’s oatmeal no-bakes, green bean casserole or chicken casserole.” Her fondest memory at the Office of Sustainability is of a former employee who mentored and inspired her, encouraging her to keep things “simple and straight to the point.” In her free time, Mrs. Strawder enjoys sleeping, camping, hiking, reading, and the company of cats.
Throughout her experiences in the Office of Sustainability, Mrs. Strawder recounts that the most successful project she has seen was the Irwin St Parking Lot LED Lighting Conversion Project. This initiative replaced 21 metal halide lights of 1052 watts to 11 LED lights of 285 watts. The return on investment of the project was expected to save $7,583 in 26 months, however, the project paid itself off in 3 months. This has not only reduced the energy expenditure of the parking lot but has also made the area much more well-lit and safe for students. This project has also served as the basis for other similar projects throughout the campus. Meanwhile, Mrs. Strawder’s personal favorite project has been the West Campus Garden, a community garden for Georgia College. The garden, now primarily under daily management of the Gardening Club, “is not just a place for growing food; it is also an educational tool. Many organizations and classes have been out to the garden to learn about the food being grown, the process for the garden and how to get involved.” Mrs. Strawder hopes to spend more time out in the garden in the future.
Inside the Office of Sustainability, Mrs. Strawder groups her work into two main categories: energy management and waste management. Under energy management, she is responsible for “monitoring and analyzing the data for energy consumption and costs to the university.” This involves tracking the usage of resources, such as electricity, water, natural gas, propane, and fuel oil, on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis depending on how much of each resource is used. In addition, Mrs. Strawder manages energy efficiency efforts, which, as she describes, “[include] advising on energy efficiency efforts for new buildings/renovations. Energy efficiency is a means of incorporating ideas/conceptions that reduce consumption and costs to the university.” On the other hand, waste management, the more forward-facing of sustainability efforts, involves recycling, composting, and gardening. Recycling has been a campus-wide program since 2013 and continues to partner with off-campus entities, such as Advanced Disposal Services and Attaway Recycling. Meanwhile, the compost initiative, while still in its early stages as a three-year research project, takes post-consumer waste from the MSU Dining Hall and converts it into usable compost. For the West Campus Garden, which began in 2014, plans are to incorporate the usable compost from the Compost project into the garden.
While Mrs. Strawder works with all aspects and issues of sustainability, waste management is always at the forefront of her work. “Waste is a huge issue, and a global one at that, where many people do not realize the impact of their actions,” she states. “Waste management should not be designed on the basis of how to get rid of unwanted items. This should be designed giving consideration on how to repurpose, reuse and, last, recycle items.” Mrs. Strawder feels that waste management is imperative to our continued existence on this planet, and encourages us all to be more mindful of the waste we produce.