Jessie Davie has become the University of Montana’s first ever student sustainability coordinator, joining several campus entities working to minimize the university’s impact on the environment.
“I think my job and its purpose is going really well,” Davie says. “Sustainability and addressing environmental issues is the highest priority for me.”
Davie, a full time environmental studies graduate student, logs around 15 hours a week collecting data, calculating greenhouse gas emissions and completing office work.
Working under the auspices of the Associated Students of the University of Montana and paid primarily through student fees, Davie will sift through records dating back to 1990 detailing UM’s solid waste disposal, along with agricultural and travel emissions. For example, Davie will take a specific building and total all the garbage produced by that facility for the year, creating an estimate of the total solid waste produced on campus each year.
Davie also tallies faculty trips, including automobile as well as air travel, in an effort to estimate emissions.
“The problem is not to double count data as it screws up the results,” she explains.
The project got its start last April when UM President George Dennison became one of the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. As part of the commitment, UM will spend the next two years shaping a long-term plan to reach carbon neutrality. Once Davie compiles all the data, she can start the process of setting benchmark goals toward reducing waste and emissions.
ASUM’s funding for the sustainability coordinator will run out in May, but Davie and others are pushing hard to make the post a permanent, full-time job staffed by a non-student.
“Everything Jessie has done so far demonstrates the position’s success, but her resources are incredibly limited right now,” says ASUM President Dustin Leftridge.