Holy Cross to Hire Director of Sustainability

Jackie Cannon ’20


The College of the Holy Cross will be hiring a Director of Sustainability in the coming months in an effort to further improve sustainability on campus and continue to work towards the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2040. 

John Cannon, Director of Facilities Operations and head of the hiring committee for the Director of Sustainability, shared that the Director’s main responsibility “will be to foster a culture of sustainability among students, faculty and staff” through the creation of a Sustainability Office and working with different groups to implement sustainability initiatives. The Director is anticipated to begin before the start of the Spring semester. 

Renee LeBlanc ’21, who is a co-Chair of Eco-Action and the Eco-Action representative on the hiring committee for the Director of Sustainability, expressed her view that having a full-time employee at the College dedicated to environmental sustainability will allow for “high-level structural change.” 

“We need to have someone that can build relations across campus and connect invigilates in order to generate change on a wide scale,” shared LeBlanc. “ I will be on this committee to advocate for the students’ voice and I know that the faculty and staff in the committee are very supportive of students requests. This position is a result of the hard work of students and we look forward to working with them.”

A significant portion of the Sustainability Director’s role will involve working directly with students through overseeing student sustainability internships and collaborating with student groups by providing expertise, said Cannon. The Sustainability Director will also chair the Presidential Task-Force on the Environment, which was established in 2007 by former president Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., and which established the College’s carbon-neutral plan in 2009, according to the Holy Cross sustainability website. 

LeBlanc elaborated on the type of work that she envisions the Director of Sustainability doing with students: “We are looking to learn and be mentored by the Sustainability Director. They will help lead Green Fund projects and will help sustain the success of Green Fund projects on campus. The Director will have a much needed influence on how students, staff and faculty are educated about the environment and teach people how they can lessen their environmental impact.”

Holy Cross is also a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), which can provide tools like the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which is “a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance,” according to the AASHE website. Such tools would allow the Sustainability Director to “assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current sustainability program [at Holy Cross] and then develop a focused plan to advance and meet our goals in a cost effective and efficient method,” said Cannon.

By making the move to hire a Sustainability Director, Holy Cross is following in the steps of many other higher education institutions, such as Williams College, Wellesley College, and Bentley University, which are just a few of the private colleges and universities in Massachusetts that have hired staff dedicated to sustainability and created Offices of Sustainability. 

When asked why the College has chosen this year to hire a Sustainability Director, Cannon shared, “there is a lot of momentum for sustainability worldwide through a large movement calling for climate justice, but also among our faculty, staff and students, so it is time to take this next step.” Cannon also emphasized that the record-high number of students involved with sustainability through Eco-Action, the SGA, Montserrat, and other groups. “We want to capture all this momentum to bring the college to the next level,” concluded Cannon.

Alongside the active search for a Sustainability Director, several other sustainability initiatives are underway at the College. Cannon shared that facilities and the SGA have collaborated to implement composting in Figge and Williams, which will be finalized in the next few weeks, with some of the food waste students produce in their kitchens. 

Eco-Action is likewise working on several initiatives for the Spring semester, such as a Sustainable Business Conference, a residence hall competition to reduce the use of heat and water, and Purple Goes Green Week, which is held in April. Additionally, on Friday, Nov. 22, Jose Martinez Diaz, the Engagement Director for Greenpeace USA, will be speaking, and Eco-Action will provide lunch to attendees.  

As highlighted recently on the Holy Cross website, the College was featured for the tenth consecutive year by the Princeton Reviews “Guide to Green Colleges,” with a score of 89 out of 99. Holy Cross has also reduced its carbon emissions by nearly 50% since 2007, and is on-track to reach the goal of being carbon-neutral by 2040. 

In a comment to the Spire, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs S.J., president, reflected on the College’s decision to hire a Sustainability Director: “Care for our common home is a priority for Holy Cross, the Catholic Church, the Jesuits, and all who work together to support our shared mission. Hiring a Sustainability Director will help the College advance and expand the work we’re already doing here on campus, to ensure we’re doing our part to safeguard the earth and ensure its health for future generations.”

Photo by John Cannon

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