Profiles in Sustainability – Kristen Hitchcock

 

     Kristen Hitchcock is the Sustainability Coordinator for Georgia College’s Office of Sustainability and has been since August 1, 2016. Hailing from Tennille, Georgia, Ms. Hitchcock was raised on her grandfather’s farm. She spent her childhood exploring the woodlands near her house, which helped to inspire within her a love of nature. Ms. Hitchcock would go on to earn an undergraduate degree in Applied Biology from Georgia Tech and eventually a Masters in Environmental Management from Duke University. Afterwards, Ms. Hitchcock moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work as an environmental consultant for eight years. However, she would ultimately desire to move back closer to home and pursue a sustainability-related job, which was when her current position opened up at Georgia College. She feels very fortunate to be working so close to home, and many of her relatives, in her desired field. In her free time, Ms. Hitchcock enjoys outdoor-related activities, such as hiking and camping, as well as reading, music, and singing.

     Upon beginning her work with the Office of Sustainability, Ms. Hitchcock details how “one of the first things that I did was to increase our social media and educational outreach on campus, and I plan to continue and improve upon these efforts.” Ms. Hitchcock believes that continual sustainability education is paramount to build a “culture of sustainability” here on campus. She describes how “the job of a sustainability coordinator is to eventually put yourself out of a job because you are working towards making sustainability an effortless, normal part of your organization’s operations.” She strives to integrate sustainability into the campus in order to facilitate a more accessible, sustainable lifestyle. Furthermore, Ms. Hitchcock endeavours to improve data analysis on campus; she feels that a more accurate/efficient database of resource use is essential to improving our performance in regards to resource usage.

     Additionally, Ms. Hitchcock describes how she hopes to help “embed sustainability further into the culture of [the] campus, such that it becomes second nature for out students, staff and faculty to do things like reduce their waste, recycle, turn off lights, use bikes on campus, walk around town, and any number of easy, sustainable living practices.” She hopes to increase the visibility and influence of the Office of Sustainability so that sustainability culture may continue to develop. Ms. Hitchcock has already seen large growth in the Office of Sustainability during her time here; she states, “When I first started, students saw our table and didn’t know that we have an Office of Sustainability. Now, when I set up our table at events, I have students seek it out and start asking about internship opportunities or ideas they have for our campus. It has been really rewarding to know that I have been a part of this tremendous growth in such a short time.”

     Currently, there are a few major sustainability initiatives on campus. Ms. Hitchcock explains how the recycling program is “[o]ur biggest and most forward facing sustainability effort on campus.” Other efforts include the West Campus Garden, maintaining Georgia College’s Tree Campus USA certification, and the composting initiative. The compost initiative, especially, has flourished throughout this semester, and in a rather short amount of time, as Ms. Hitchcock states, “we have increased the amount of food waste that we collect, as well as general awareness about our compost project.” The campus recently received a grant to go towards the implementation of a Campus Kitchens program at Georgia College. Ms. Hitchcock hopes to use the Campus Kitchens program in congruence with the composting initiative in order to aid those who are food insecure in the community. She believes that the composting project and Campus Kitchens program “can be used to not only alleviate these problems [food insecurity and food waste] in our community but also teach our staff and students more about these two very important issues.”

     When asked what the term “sustainability” means to her, Ms. Hitchcock responded, “I use the definition of sustainability that has been adapted from the Brundtland report, which is ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’ However, my personal caveat to this definition is that we really need to question what our needs truly are…at our current rate of consumption, we risk exceeding the carrying capacity of Earth.” Naturally, Ms. Hitchcock is extremely passionate about sustainability, but as she states, “not only am I passionate; I am also determined. Determined to ensure that Georgia College implements sound sustainability practices.” Ms. Hitchcock enjoys the dynamic nature of her job, as each new project requires a unique approach maintained with constant attention and analysis, and how ”[t]here is always something new to learn about sustainability.” Her goals for sustainability on campus are partially hampered by the limited space and resources in the Office of Sustainability, but with a dedicated, passionate staff and a boundless tenacity, Ms. Hitchcock is committed to the growth of sustainability on campus for the betterment of our world.

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