People, planet and profit guide mission of university’s sustainability manager

Nicole Stempak

For Melanie Knowles, going green is more than a catchphrase. It’s a career.

Knowles is the new sustainability manager for Kent State, a position President Lester Lefton created in his 2008 State of the University address. He also created the Sustainability Task Force Initiative, whose seven subcommittees are charged with trying to make different aspects of the university more sustainable.

The Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 251 last year that requires public campuses to adopt energy conservation measures that reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2014.

Knowles explained the three aspects to sustainability: people, planet and profit. For something to be considered sustainable, it must benefit the organization, the natural environment and individuals.

“The principle is you don’t have to trade money for environment,” Knowles said. “Implementing sustainable practices will make a better environment for them (students) to learn in and do so in a cost-effective way.”

Because sustainable practices can have wide-reaching effects, she said sustainability benefits multiple aspects of everyone’s everyday lives.

“It’s something that’s only going to become more and more relevant in our daily life,” she said. “We want Kent State to be ahead of the curve.”

Kent State is the seventh university in Ohio to create a sustainability manager position, said Corey Hawkey, sustainability coordinator for the Ohio Board of Regents, the governing body that oversees higher education. He said other schools may also be considering creating the position on their campus.

The Sustainability Task Force is still looking for members on these subcommittees. Interested students, faculty and staff can contact her at [email protected].

&bull Academic Programs

&bull Building Grounds and Construction

&bull Community Issues

&bull Energy and Energy Conservation

&bull Food Services

&bull Procurement

&bull Recycling and refuse

&bull Residence Halls and commute students

&bull Transportation

Knowles added she wants students to have an understanding of sustainability and have the ability to take the lead in the job market, which could make them more desirable to employers.

Knowles comes to the university from the Cleveland Green Building Coalition, where she worked for six years. She served as director of education, where she taught professionals in building-related businesses, such as architecture firms, real estate and engineers, how to be more environmentally conscious. The coalition is a local nonprofit to advance green building in Northeast Ohio.

“Melanie’s wonderful,” said Cathy DuBois, who serves as chair to the residence halls and commuter students and academic programs. “She’s very open in thinking and a great resource for us all.”

DuBois, associate professor of human resource management in the College of Business, said she is working with Knowles to create training initiatives for employees, programs in the residence halls such as the current energy competition and developing classes about sustainability.

Although she’s only been here a short time, Knowles said she sees a lot of people taking initiative.

“What I’m finding is that there’s a lot that’s happening on campus, people who really care about sustainability who have implemented policies within the office,” she said, adding there are still many more opportunities the university can take advantage of.

Sustainability awareness

Sustainability manager Melanie Knowles said one of her goals is to raise awareness about sustainability, a theory some students may not have heard of before.

“My short-term goal is to make people aware of sustainability and to increase participation and implementation,” she said.

A look at a few measures already in use on campus:

&bull Energy-efficient and automatic lighting

&bull On-campus power plant that makes energy

more affordable

&bull University Esplanade to make walking or bicycling across

campus easier

&bull Recycling cans to keep recyclables out of the landfills

reduces the cost of keeping things out of the landfills

&bull Electric small fleet vehicles

Contact enterprise reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected]