Advocates for the Environment

October 1, 2005

 

 

Advocates for the Environment

"The Green Team," Duke Magazine, May-June 2003

In spring 2003, Justin Segall and Anthony Vitarelli, then sophomores, spoke with Duke Magazine about the early successes of their environmental advocacy group, the Duke University Greening Initiative (DUGI).

Starting with a plan to promote green building, the two had quickly enlisted the support of the administration, donors, graduate students, and an advisory board featuring the former dean and two members of the board of visitors of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.

Their youthful enthusiasm was inspiring, but the article noted that "student ownership is probably also DUGI's greatest vulnerability. In two years, when its organizers graduate, the greening initiative will experience a 100 percent turnover in leadership."

Those two years are up--Segall and Vitarelli both graduated in May--but the environmental movement on campus has not stopped, well, moving. That's thanks in large part to another recent graduate, Sam Hummel '03, who in April 2004 was hired as the university's first environmental sustainability coordinator. Hummel has quickly embraced the changes promoted by DUGI, and inspired others of his own.

Besides continuing the push for LEED-certified buildings--a new center at the Duke Marine Lab will likely achieve a gold certification--Hummel successfully lobbied for the hiring of green dining and procurement coordinators and helped win administrative support for a green purchasing policy that has already increased campus use of recycled office products from 11 to 25 percent.

In March, administrators signed an environmental policy calling for Duke to become a leader in environmental research and practices. A committee that includes representatives from facilities management, transportation, and DUGI inventoried Duke's greenhouse gas emissions and came up with a top-ten list of policy alternatives--including buying longer buses and retrofitting buildings--that would actually save money while reducing CO2 emissions by 7 percent.

Segall and Vitarelli made fun of the sort of wide-eyed environmentalism that inspires a lot of eye-rolling--"We have to show them that we know what we're talking about," Vitarelli said, "that we're not just some idealistic kids," and that reliance on realism and hard facts continues to permeate Duke's efforts. Hummel responded to calls for solar panels in the Bryan Center roof by assigning an intern to study the possibility. "It would have cost $1.6 million, and powered only 15 percent of the BC's energy needs. What else could we do with that $1.6 million?"