Year in Review: 2021 for Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives

Before we dive into 2022, we are looking back at some of the highlights from this year. Many reflect years of work and preparation through collaborations with other campus departments and community groups. The paths were not straight nor easy. Other highlights are the product of adaptation or serendipitous alignment, though we cherish them as well. There is much to lament about 2021, but right now, we are taking a moment to reflect and celebrate!

  • Throughout this year, Cherry Street Energy and Emory continued the installation and energizing of solar panels on campus rooftops and parking decks.
  • In February, we partnered with The Career Center and the Emory Alumni Environmental Network to pivot our long-running (13 years!), in-person Green Networking Night into a series of virtual panels and 1-on-1 meetings between students and sustainability professionals.
  • In March, we partnered with Emory Dining, Campus Life, and Emory Transportation to safely bring back the Emory Farmers Market to campus with 10 long-time vendors. In Fall 2021, the market found a new home on McDonough Plaza and welcomed 20 returning and new small businesses, farmers, and artisans.
  • In March, we also participated in our first ever Emory Day of Giving campaign that was made possible by our amazing network of student, staff, faculty, and alumni sustainability champions. 110 gifts were given, totaling over $14,000!
  • March was a big month because we also found out that we received a Gold rating for Emory’s sustainability initiatives from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education!
  • In April, our staff and student interns hosted our first virtual Earth Day celebration at which we announced our annual Sustainability Innovator Awards and our first ever Lifetime Achievement Awards to Dr. Peggy Barlett, Dr. Eloise Carter, and Dr. Bobbi Patterson.
  • Throughout the year but in its prime during the summer months, our Educational Gardens on campus flourished thanks to Erik Edwards, the Garden Project Coordinator; the many volunteers; and our Gardens Intern, Raven Crosby.
  • By June, we were celebrating alongside the Plastic-Free Emory student group that led the call for Emory to adopt a “Break Free from Plastics Pledge,” which President Fenves signed.
  • In July, we celebrated the years of invaluable contributions that Joan Kowal, former Senior Director of Utilities & Resilience Strategies for Emory, made to the Emory Enterprise as she transitioned to her next career opportunity.
  • By August, our team, in collaboration with Campus Services and Procurement, chose a new waste management partner, Goodr, a local, Black-woman-owned, B Corp whose mission is to “feed more, waste less.”
  • In October, our team helped host an international anaerobic digestion symposium as a part of the EPA grant won by Emory to develop an “equity by design” best practice for anaerobic digester facilities in urban areas.
  • In October, we were also able to bring the 15th Sustainable Food Fair back to campus thanks to Dr. Simona Muratore, TA Christie Jones, and the 30 students of the Food Fair course!
  • October was another big month. We were able to celebrate alongside the Emory Climate Coalition who successfully made the case to President Fenves for joining the Race to Zero commitment and Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network!
  • In November, Emory started receiving the first produce from farmers who recently gained land through the Working Farms Fund program made possible through a partnership between Emory and The Conservation Fund.
  • In November, we were also able to announce this year’s small grants recipients funded through our Sustainability & Social Justice, Green Labs, and Green Offices Incentives Funds.
  • And in December, we are celebrating the chance to reflect, rest, and restore during the winter holidays.

Through it all, our small team – Ciannat Howett, Kelly Weisinger, Taylor Spicer, Akelia Hypolite, and Erik Edwards – has been bolstered and inspired by all of you but particularly by a few groups:

  • Our 20 irreplaceable, unmatched, incredible student interns – Spring 2021: Aaron Klingensmith, Kristin Kuwada, Kelly Li, Clare McCarthy, Rachel Musetti, Eden Yonas; Summer 2021: Justin Bright, Aashna Chakraborty, Nick Chang, Raven Crosby, Christie Jones, Jackson Pentz, Gabe Samuels, Kristina Trifonova; Fall 2021: Justin Bright, Nick Chang, Megan Deyhle, Kendra Ding, Jordan Hasty, Aaron Klingensmith, Caroline McCormack, Zoe Price, May Zhou
  • Our Faculty Fellows and Directors of the Resilience & Sustainability Collaboratory – Dr. Mindy Goldstein, Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, Dr. Eri Saikawa
  • The 100s of volunteer Zero Waste Ambassadors (ZWA) from Emory University, Oxford College, and Emory Healthcare who have been educating their peers on waste reduction and sorting, sharing their advice and perceptions through ZWA blogs, and answering community questions through monthly “Trash Talks
  • And so many other staff and faculty sustainability champion groups, such as the Sustainability Representatives and Healthcare Sustainability Council, and the many sustainability-related student groups who lead and engage their peers on actions to support human, ecosystems, and planetary health.

We are sure we missed some highlights and groups to thank, so do not hesitate to remind us! Our deepest and sincerest gratitude to you for your role in Emory’s sustainability initiatives and for your sustainability leadership in all aspects of your lives. Please share with us what you are celebrating from this year. We look forward to continuing the good work together in 2022.

Left to right: Taylor Spicer, Akelia Hypolite, Ciannat Howett, Kelly Weisinger

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