Sustainability Director Q&A

Raphaella Mascia ‘21

Staff Writer

This past April, the first College of the Holy Cross Director of Sustainability, Cathy Liebowitz, assumed her position at the college. We took the opportunity to get to know more about her and her vision for sustainability at Holy Cross. *The following interview occurred over email exchange. 

Fun Facts: 

Hometown: Plainfield, New Hampshire

Favorite color: Purple

Favorite hobbies: Improvise cooking, taking strolls around my community, and leading high school immersion programs

Favorite undergraduate class: Leading Voices in Energy, Sustainability, & Security

How do you feel about being Holy Cross’s first Sustainability Director, a position that partly arose due to a sustainability petition that circulated last year?

I feel grateful to hold a position supported by students as well as a responsibility to build on their momentum. Holy Cross students have made immense strides to support campus sustainability, evident by the compost initiative at Williams and Figge Halls, the green fund, and the annual Purple Goes Green Week. I look forward to partnering with students to further student impact and advance campus sustainability. It’s an exciting time to be a part of sustainability at Holy Cross.

In your interview published on the Holy Cross website, you mention the need for community and collaboration in sustainability efforts on campus. How do you envision this collaboration playing out in the next few years at Holy Cross? How can Holy Cross students actively contribute to it?  

While working at a different university, my team would regularly use a bike wheel analogy. Each spoke represents a different stakeholder, the hub acts as the project facilitator, and the tire is the actual project. To ensure that the wheel continues to smoothly move forward, all parts need to work together. This is how I envision campus sustainability efforts at Holy Cross.

Students can actively contribute to sustainability in so many ways. For example, on an individual level, keeping windows closed while the heat or air conditioning is on allows buildings to better utilize energy. On a student group level, aiming for zero-waste events reduces trash production. On a campus level, leading a green fund project fosters a community of environmental stewards. If any student, no matter their background or academic focus, has an interest in sustainability, Holy Cross has a space for them. If a student is having trouble finding an entry point, they should contact me. I can share some opportunities that may fit their interests.

What role do you think college campuses and college students play in the creation of a more sustainable world? Should colleges become leaders in the pursuit of sustainability? 

A sustainable world takes more than environmental professionals, activists, and academics. It takes a widespread commitment and understanding that infiltrates across different aspects of life. For instance, business professionals may shorten supply chains, families may compost at home, and community centers may grow native plants.  Thus, colleges have an opportunity to equip individuals entering the workforce with tools, knowledge, and skills to incorporate sustainability into everyday decisions and practices. I believe that colleges should take this opportunity seriously and create programming and infrastructure that increases environmental literacy and exemplifies sustainability.  

Crowd-sourced question: “What do you think could be the most efficient project to start working on in order to help Holy Cross become more sustainable?”

An extensive green purchasing strategy. For instance, how can the college redistribute surplus items? Should college-related travel require a carbon offset? How should fiscal, social, and environmental goals factor into certain purchases or event planning? Purchasing connects a lot of different stakeholders and initiatives together, so it would not only advance sustainability at Holy Cross, but also increase awareness about environmental issues.

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