Lamar University has created a new office of sustainability with the goal of making the university as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Steve Doblin, provost and vice president of academic affairs, named Jim Armacost, assistant professor of biology, the university’s first director of sustainability.
The creation of the new office and position is part of Lamar’s strategic plan to promote sustainability in all aspects of university life, following Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles in renovation and construction projects whenever feasible, and establishing a recharging station on campus.
Armacost describes sustainability as wise use of energy and natural resources with the goal of conserving resources so they will be available for future generations.
“Lamar is making efforts to become as sustainable as possible in all of its activities,” he said. “This means conserving energy, minimizing the amount of waste we produce and minimizing our environmental impact while still accomplishing the educational goals of the institution.”
With these goals in mind, Armacost has set his sights on expanding awareness on campus regarding sustainability issues and ways the university is participating in becoming more sustainable. He said some of his plans include creating a website and other outreach within the university, as well as organizing a unified recycling effort on campus.
“There are a number of different recycling efforts around campus, many of which target specific buildings or facilities,” Armacost said. “We don’t currently have a campus-wide recycling effort. I am hoping to coordinate all of these various efforts so they can begin to communicate with one another. Hopefully we can expand on their efforts.”
Another goal of the office of sustainability is to develop a curriculum for an interdisciplinary sustainability minor program of study at the university. The basic concepts in sustainability are based in the sciences and engineering, while the solutions to living sustainably are based in the social sciences, economics and politics.
“To grasp sustainability in its whole breadth, you really have to take an interdisciplinary approach,” Armacost said. “What we are thinking about is having a minor that would begin with an introductory course in environmental science and sustainability, and then a curriculum built of different courses from existing disciplines on campus.”
Armacost said he hopes to bring more awareness about efforts already taking place on campus and get students involved. One such effort is a campus-community garden spearheaded by Tom Matthews, director of assessment at the university. Armacost said he hopes the garden will be able to provide fresh herbs and vegetables to the Dining Hall.
“When that comes about we will have some interpretive materials so that students will know where their food is coming from and how they can participate in raising their own food,” he said. “The garden is in its modest beginnings, but with the help of some student and faculty volunteers, they will be planting as spring approaches and asking for volunteers to participate.”
Armacost received his Ph.D. from Illinois State and Master of Science from Mississippi State, both in biology, and his Bachelor of Science in zoology from Louisiana State University. He has been at Lamar University since 2007 teaching courses in ornithology, conservation biology, tropical forest ecology, avian ecology, bird conservation, and invasion ecology, and has served as a member of the Faculty Learning Committee on Sustainability.