English Professor Kuebrich Recognized as 2008 Sustainability Hero

Posted: December 5, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicole Snyder

David Kuebrich, associate professor of English, was awarded the 2008 Sustainability Hero Award for his determination to make Mason a sustainable university.

The annual award, which was presented as part of the university recognition ceremony in October, is given to a faculty or staff member or a group of faculty and/or staff members who have furthered university sustainability efforts through their creativity and dedication.

Lenna Storm, sustainability coordinator, created the award. With the help of the Provost’s Office and Human Resources and Payroll, Storm was able to acknowledge the hardworking individuals who make a great impact on the Mason environment.

“The conception of this award occurred to me in a flash of understanding one morning after some strong home-roasted coffee: I could never truly reward people the way they deserved to be rewarded for the time, heart and soul they put into the Mason environmental movement,” says Storm.

“That understanding in place, I decided to try to do whatever I could to publicly recognize and reward those people.”

Kuebrich’s sustainability venture began in fall 2004 when he, along with Susie Crate, a faculty member in the Department of Environmental and Science Policy, began to organize a campus event for Earth Day 2005. Crate and Kuebrich were soon joined by other faculty members to start this effort.

Their first Earth Week program featured noted environmentalist and green-builder David Orr.

“He was a superb motivational speaker, attendance was great, and we left the week energized to green Mason,” says Kuebrich.

In the summer of 2005, Crate and Kuebrich attended a training workshop for faculty who wished to introduce environmental sustainability into their courses.

During 2006 and 2007, Kuebrich and others created a campus environmental task force that met to plan annual Earth Weeks and other extracurricular programs.

Greening the curriculum, hiring Storm as campus sustainability coordinator, lobbying for green buildings, and calculating Mason’s carbon footprint were the initial steps to making Mason a greener environment, according to Kuebrich.

“Some of our activity — maybe too much of it — was more of a hopeful chinfest than actually getting a lot done,” says Kuebrich. “However, we continued to keep organizing events and making plans.”

Within the next couple of years the dedicated efforts of this group led to a proposed minor in sustainability studies, which is expected to be approved soon, and a working group that examines campus energy use and materials flow.

“One of the more enjoyable aspects of this work was the great guest lecturers. I’ve mentioned Orr, but also others such as Bill McKibben, Janisse Ray, Jim Merkel, Lester Brown and Mike Tidwell. Best of all, some of us also developed warm friendships, cemented over occasional martinis — of the purest organic gin,” says Kuebrich.

Storm believes the new award helps Kuebrich and others beyond just recognizing their efforts.

“It shows that President [Alan] Merten and others in the administration recognize and appreciate the efforts of extraordinary Mason citizens with regard to their commitment to sustainability and climate issues. And it shows that anyone can do it if they have the commitment,” she says.

“This also provides a much-needed boost to the exposure of these issues to the general campus community.”

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