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KU announces 2013 Sustainability Leadership Award recipients

Friday, May 10, 2013

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Center for Sustainability recognized individuals and organizations with the 2013 Sustainability Leadership Awards last month as part of Earth Day festivities. The awards recognize outstanding leadership and creativity in addressing issues of environmental, economic and social responsibility on the KU campus and in the broader community. 

“Throughout our campus, students, faculty and staff are making great strides toward integrating sustainability into operations, education, research and service,” said Center for Sustainability director Jeff Severin. “This year’s award recipients are true leaders in sustainability who are not only helping create important change at KU, but inspiring others to do the same.”

2013 Sustainability Leadership Award recipients include:

Gabrielle Murnan, an environmental studies major, was recognized with the undergraduate student award. Murnan has carried her passion for the environment into the Dennis E. Rieger Scholarship Hall where she is an advocate for environmental and social issues. It is here that she proposed the idea of a sustainable garden and has been working with housing staff to carry out this project.

Rachel Myslivy, a graduate student in the religious studies program, has been a catalyst for sustainability for the KU and Lawrence communities. She is working toward a Masters in Religious Studies, completing a dissertation about ecologically aware and active nuns in Kansas. She has also founded and coordinated numerous environmental projects in the community and volunteers for multiple area organizations.

Derek Reed, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied & Behavioral Sciences, was recognized with the faculty award. Reed has incorporated material on behavioral approaches to facilitating sustainability into introductory courses and is the principal investigator for a number of sustainability-focused studies. Outside of KU, Reed has played an active role in Cans for the Community, a nonprofit group that uses can recycling to provide financial support to other nonprofits in Douglas County and the surrounding communities.

Mindie Paget, communications director for the KU School of Law, has served as Sustainability Ambassador since the program was established. She played a key role in developing the KU Green Office Program, which recognizes campus departments and offices that are making an effort to reduce environmental impacts and create a more sustainable workplace. Paget is a champion for sustainability in her department and played an integral part in the 2012 Lights Out energy competition. 

KU Alternative Breaks received the Project Award. For nearly 20 years, KU Alternative Breaks has been facilitating local and national volunteer experiences that give students the opportunity to gain extensive knowledge of environmental issues while working with professionals in the classroom and in the field. Nearly 100 students have participated in the 13 sustainability focused trips, helping to cultivate students’ perception of environmental and social issues while making an impact on the communities they serve.

The KU Environmental Law Society, recipient of the Student Organization Award, gathers law students interested in environmental issues to learn about environmental law, network with practicing environmental attorneys and other professionals, and contribute to the community through service projects that benefit the environment. KU Environmental Law Society has hosted career panels and lectures, visited Lawrence High School to speak with environmental classes, and played an integral role in Replant Mount Oread and KU’s recognition as a Tree Campus USA.

United Students Against Sweatshops is this year’s recipient of the Social Justice Award. United Students Against Sweatshops is a student organization focusing on human rights and economic justice, both on college campuses and globally. They are being recognized for raising awareness of the ethical issues behind the production of licensed collegiate apparel and for working to bring apparel from Alta Gracia, a factory that respects workers’ rights, into the KU community. 

Sigma Phi Epsilon received the inaugural Greek Life Award. In the past year Sigma Phi Epsilon has instituted a house-wide recycling program and have stopped purchasing Styrofoam products, now using BPA-free, reusable plastic containers. They have also implemented a “Lights Off!” campaign, encouraging members to turn off all lights and appliances when they leave a room. In addition, Sigma Phi Epsilon has taken environmental consideration in facility upgrades, installing “EcoPower” showerheads, energy-efficient windows and lighting, and a water bottle refilling station.

In addition to these award recipients, departments designated as Green Offices were recognized at the ceremony. Participants in the program complete an application that identifies specific actions their offices are taking. The list includes strategies for cutting energy consumption, reducing waste and making environmentally preferable purchases. 2013 recipients of the Green Office designation include KU Alternative Breaks, the Department of Urban Planning in the School of Architecture, Design & Planning and Facilities Services Zone 1 Maintenance. 

Since the Green Office program started in 2011, the Center for Sustainability has recognized 35 departments for their efforts to create a more sustainable work environment. 

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