Sustainability is a word administrators and the environmentally-conscious love, but what it means for Knox and how to implement sustainable ideas is more complex than a catchphrase.
On Oct. 16, Knox hosted Sustainable Leadership speaker Kristin Skarie, president of TeamWorks, whose organization centers on helping college and business groups make an impact sustainably. She is also the author of a newly released book titled “A Year of Nothing New: Tools for Living Lean and Green,” wherein she discusses her year without buying anything new.
Skarie’s lecture emphasized her “Lead Green” program, telling students and faculty to “increase your influence and decrease your footprint.” Skarie spent a majority of her lecture discussing the six points of “Lead Green”: stay aware of personal strengths and weaknesses, be deliberate and mindful of what you give your time to, remain grounded and true to personal values, be collaborative and share vision, credit and results, stay organized and systems-oriented.
She aided these points by engaging with the audience, urging them to recognize their strengths and weaknesses within leadership positions and to create positive habits in their everyday lives. Students from multiple sororities, fraternities, service organizations and clubs were present and had a positive reaction to Skarie’s lecture.
“I liked her personality,” sophomore Theresa Birzer said. “She was focused on something that we could do, not just on what she had done.”
Others were impressed with Skarie’s understanding of the responsibility on campus.
“I think she is very in-touch with a lot of the issues emerging student leaders face, one of those things being prioritizing,” said junior Katie Mansfield, “Hopefully, her talk will have helped us realize on an individual basis where to invest our energy to bring out the best in both ourselves and Knox itself.”
When asked her thoughts of Knox’s progress in sustainability, Skarie said she was impressed with the high tunnels.
“I can only imagine the time and energy and love that went into getting the high tunnels in place,” said Skarie. “I think that’s really significant. You’re growing food on your campus and eating it in your dining halls. It’s sort of simple and profound.”
Skarie’s campus appearance was not a coincidence.
“It was a very deliberate choice to bring a sustainable leadership speaker to campus,” said Froggi VanRiper, director of Campus Sustainability Initiatives. “Sustainability is not something that applies to a narrow group of people. It’s a principle that underlies our lives as a whole.”
VanRiper was pleased with the diversity of individuals and groups attending the speech, but hoped there would have been more bodies present as only about 60 students and faculty members attended. When asked what topic resonated most with her personally, VanRiper agreed with a point previously made by Skarie, that credit is often nonexistent in a position such as sustainability but credit is not the reason individuals are involved.
Looking forward, Skarie hopes Knox students will take initiative in creating new groups, organizations and clubs, and more importantly, keeping the already existing ones thriving. Skarie suggested students create “fewer things that last longer” in regards to sustainability. VanRiper also has high hopes for Skarie’s influence on members of existing groups and looks forward to how those influences will be seen around campus.
Skarie concluded her lecture comparing sustainable leadership with the match that lights a birthday cake. Without the match there would be no lit candles, but no credit is ever given to a match.
“So, my wish for you is that you are able to be the match and that you continue to find ways to build this campus,” Skarie said.