Q&A with Jeff Von Munkwitz-Smith

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University Registrar, Jeff Von Munkwitz-Smith shares what inspires him to live sustainably in this Q&A as part of our What You’re Doing series focusing on the sustainable actions of faculty, staff, and students.

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Who are you and how does sustainability fit in with what you do at BU?

I’m the University Registrar. Traditionally, Registrar’s Offices have been pretty paper-intensive. I’ve tried to reduce that dependence here. We got involved with sustainability efforts as a department. At first we went through Green Office evaluations for each of our office spaces. That motivated us to seek Green Department certification. I’m proud that we were the first department on campus to achieve Platinum-level Green Department Certification because it really required that everyone get involved in the effort.

As a past president of the national association for registrars and admissions officers, AACRAO, I’ve made numerous presentations on sustainability to groups of admissions and registrar professionals. I’ll sometimes get email messages after a presentation letting me know that a department has adopted some of the suggestions. That always is very nice!

What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, sustainability is about being able to meet the needs of the present and the future. It’s about being mindful of the environmental consequences of our actions and adopting practices that are less wasteful and destructive.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?

I participated in the first Earth Day celebration when I was a college student in Minnesota in 1970. I guess it made a lasting impression!

What is one thing you do on a daily basis to help make the campus more sustainable?

Among other things, I turn off my computer at night and turn out the lights whenever I leave my office. I also try to follow the tips on the BU Sustainability web site.

What do you perceive as the biggest barrier for BU students, faculty, and staff to adopting more sustainable behaviors?

Habits are hard to break and hard to establish! If your normal impulse is to print every document you get, it’s hard to change that. It helps, though, if instead of having a printer at your desk you need to walk down the hall to pick up a printed document. Until it becomes a habit, it can be hard to remember to bring re-useable grocery bags when you go shopping.

Often people might not be aware of the little things that they can do to make a difference. The BU Sustainability web site has some good tips. The BU Carbonrally Challenges include a number of good ideas.

How would you challenge BU community members to live less wastefully?

Think before you print! Join the Carbonrally Challenge!

What would you recommend to someone on campus who is interested in sustainability but doesn’t know how to get their ideas off the ground?

There are lots of resources on the BU Sustainability web site. It’s a good place to begin. If you’re a staff member, talk with your co-workers. The Office of the University Registrar got involved in sustainability initiatives soon after I arrived on campus when one of my staff, Stephanie Henry, now with Questrom,  approached me with ideas for making the department more “green”.

What are your hopes for campus sustainability in the future at BU and how do you plan to help the community achieve these goals?

I hope BU continues to build on its already strong sustainability efforts. There’s always something more that we can do as an institution and individually.

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