By Cassy Sottile
After working to make Washington College a greener campus for the last two years, former Director of the Office of Sustainability Greg Farley moved on to George Mason University (GMU) to fulfill the same goal.
Farley will serve as the Director of University Sustainability at GMU.
He first heard of the open position through the previous sustainability director, whom Farley met at conferences.
“The position offers both good career advancement and the chance to work with an award-winning sustainability team,” Farley said.
As Director of Sustainability at WC, Farley reported to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Vic Costa. However, that contact recently changed to Vice President of Finance Laura Johnson.
“The Board [of Visitors and Governors] saw the need to elevate the profile of the Sustainability position and thus requested that the position report to a senior staff member,” Johnson said. “Since Facilities reported to me, the Sustainability position was changed to report directly to me.”
President Kurt Landgraf is meeting with the Board of Visitors and Governors and internal College staff to fill Farley’s role.
They will discuss the search for a new Director of Sustainability and how to fund green initiatives, according to Landgraf.
“Just having an Office of Sustainability is not enough. We have got to have the funding to do things that are environmentally conscious and sustainable,” Landgraf said.
Farley hopes the College continues to push toward becoming one of the most sustainable small colleges in the country.
“The campus has strong ties to the local and regional environment and such amazing assets it can bring to bear, like the River and Field Campus, the Eastern Shore Food Lab, and the Center for Environment and Society,” Farley said. “Good coordination of those assets with improvements to the standing infrastructure on the main campus could mean that this campus both teaches people about sustainability, and shows people how to live what they learn.”
While serving as Director of Sustainability, Farley led numerous climate-related and fossil fuel-related initiatives. Most notable was his introduction of the campus to UCapture, a green-tech platform that funds environmental projects in a school’s name.
Impacts of climate change are visible on campus through longer drought periods, hotter summers, and higher water levels in the Chesapeake Bay and Chester River.
Farley hopes the campus will continue to push for decarbonization.
“Research shows that globally we have about a decade left to stop growth in fossil fuel emissions, and I would love to see the College lead this region in pushing for the use of renewable resources, in an effort to mitigate the worst effects of climate change,” Farley said.
To help prepare the campus for climate-related changes, the Office of Sustainability began upgrading their stormwater infrastructure under Farley; however, there is still more work to be done to prepare older and waterfront buildings for rising sea levels, changes in storm and precipitation patterns, and more, according to Farley.
Despite only being in planning stages, Farley’s upgrades and repairs to the College’s stormwater infrastructure system is a highlight of his tenure at WC.
“I developed a great partnership with ShoreRivers, a local nonprofit organization, to design and seek grant funding for improvements on the campus that will better allow us to respond to the changes in rainfall patterns [which] we are now seeing because of climate change,” Farley said.
Among Farley’s other memorable and visible projects during his time at WC are the installation of the electric vehicle charging stations, re-labeling of campus recycling bins — which were done in cooperation with Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Studies Dr. Jill Bible and her environmental communications course — and working with the Business Office to offer a recycling method for Keurig cups.
“I am most proud of the team of on- and off-campus partners that I brought together to forge a more energy-efficient campus,” Farley said.
According to Farley, almost a dozen partner companies, government agencies, and industries are now working to make the College greener in its electricity and fuel use for the steam system.
“All of them want to see the College succeed. A lot of work remains to be done, but if the College remains dedicated to this concept, it will realize a lot of savings and a much more environmentally sustainable future,” Farley said.
Despite Farley’s departure, his composting efforts will continue in the Campus Garden through the leadership of senior Samantha Huffmaster and Assistant Director of the Eastern Shore Food Lab Shane Brill, respectively.
Huffmaster, the leader of the composting team, has worked on the project for two years.
The team initially began as a partnership between Farley and a local entrepreneur, then included a couple of students.
“While students have driven the campus composting effort since 2005, Greg introduced new infrastructure and a dedicated team of student leaders to expand organic recycling at WC,” Brill said.
With Farley’s departure, the composting team is looking to gain new members and reach club status, according to Huffmaster.
“We want to transition into a club to continue our composting movement,” Huffmaster said. “Food and textile waste are the biggest contributors to the global carbon footprint, so composting is a way to give back to the environment without taking from it.”
The Eastern Shore Food Lab, a zero waste center that “explores the intersection of the human diet and ecological resilience,” is continuing support for campus composting, according to Brill.
“It is an exciting time to be a student at the College,” Brill said. “The composting team is working to raise awareness of organic recycling and opening up opportunities for more students to get involved in implementing real-world projects to support a triple bottom line for the institution.”
The composting team will be leading activities like screenings of inspirational films, educational field trips, and construction of new infrastructure to help transition WC into a regenerative force for the environment.
“Composting fosters an ethic of environmental stewardship, participatory ecology, and integrative thinking that is woven into the WC mission,” Brill said. “Our founding patron George Washington was a passionate advocate for compost, so it seems fitting that as an institution we ought to champion the effort, and celebrate our role in conserving resources and enhancing life for future generations.”
Farley and Brill encourage students, faculty, and staff to join the campus sustainability efforts.
“If WC chooses to continue its engagement with sustainability, it will do so primarily because the students demand it. I would encourage all students to speak with college administrators, and engage with faculty, to convince the institution that sustainability is not only important to academic coursework, but that it is important to the physical campus,” Farley said.
Farley is not leaving WC because he thinks sustainability was not working or that he was not getting enough traction, but rather that “the new opportunity was simply too good to pass up.”
Johnson is working with President Kurt Landgraf and the administration to examine the current needs of the campus to determine the future of the Office of Sustainability.
“We are thankful to Greg for reminding us that care of the environment is critical and a responsibility that we all share,” Johnson said.
Farley hopes that WC is successful in its sustainable journey.
“I have a long time yet to work in this career, and I feel a responsibility to make good career moves when opportunities arise. I wish nothing but the best for WC, and I will be happy to watch it succeed,” Farley said.