Although Sustainability Week 2012 is coming to a close, Denny Cochrane continues to push for energy efficiency and sustainability awareness.
Cochrane is the sustainability program manager in the Office of Energy and Sustability, which oversees new construction, renovation and recycling. His job was created because students pushed for the advancement of sustainability on campus.
He hopes to encourage others to step up to the plate and do their part in living more sustainably for a better future. He notes that at times, being used to attending a school with such friendly people, a beautiful campus and an overall feeling of cleanliness can make us lose sight of things. But with a little teamwork, he knows Virginia Tech students can make a major contribution to this effort.
He talked to the Collegiate Times about his ongoing efforts.
CT: Tell me about your job with Virginia Tech.
The office was created in September of 2007 and it started off as an office of one, i.e. me. This came from my boss, the vice president for administrative services, Dr. Sherwood Wilson. He said, “Listen, in response to a lot of interest by students, faculty and staff, we need to create an office of sustainability, and sustainability matters.” As we moved forward, the office has been increased to a total of three full timers. My role is primarily to serve as our point person to coordinate sustainability programs on campus as well as with the local community; so things like Sustainability Week, Gobblerfest, RecycleMania and providing support to the Environmental Coalition in planning for Earth Week in the spring.
CT: How did you become involved with this type of work?
Cochrane: Well I’ve always liked to tell people that the most important duty you have in whatever job you have, is to do what your boss asks you to do. It sounds simple and it is. The best thing about being a college graduate is that you learn to adapt and do a lot of things, be a problem solver, bridge builder and so on. When I started five years ago, I wasn’t really sure where this was going and what my duties would be. I was fortunate enough to have external things come my way that said these are the kinds of things that most colleges and universities are looking at when it comes to having their campus be much more sustainable. As I went through that first year, for me, one of the best things was to be a good listener — listening to what people felt we should be doing, looking at what other universities are doing, going to conferences on sustainability, and also responding to a lot of external surveys.
The other thing was, in April of 2007, the students had really been interested in wanting to advance sustainability on campus. I would say they were the lightning rod. The university created a university governance committee called the Energy and Sustainability Committee. They were approved by the University Council as a part of the university governed system. I could never have projected at that time that we’d be as far along as we are, and I’m really excited about that. (Later) President Steger made the decision that we were going to develop our own Climate Action Commitment unique to the university; something we could achieve, and an accompanying sustainability plan on how we were going to get there. April 22, 2009, President Steger presided over the University Council’s recommendation to approve Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment, and they accepted it.
CT: For those students who may not be as involved in the sustainability effort, why do you feel they should care about this?