Greener Postures


With an eye toward enhancing environmental initiatives on campus, Occidental has hired its first sustainability coordinator.

Emma Sorrell ’13 will be responsible for pursuing new sustainability projects with an initial focus on utility-use reduction. 

In keeping with the College’s 2013-14 water theme in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the California aqueduct, Sorrell will work on water-use reduction strategies across campus, including landscape irrigation, the single largest use of water at Oxy. In addition, she will coordinate and support existing sustainability initiatives.

"I will be focusing primarily on issues related to Facilities Management, including monitoring our resource consumption, improving the energy efficiency of our buildings and appliances, reducing water consumption, reducing waste, and improving our waste-management systems to increase recycling and maximize diversion (diverting waste from landfills)," she says.

Sorrell, a native of Kansas City, came to Oxy for the Urban and Environmental Policy program. Her involvement in campus sustainability began during her first year, when a professor encouraged her to undertake an action-research project. After hearing about efforts to reduce disposable container use in the Marketplace, Sorrell, working closely with Amy Munoz, associate vice president of hospitality services, implemented the Eco-Clamshell Pilot Program in fall 2010. The program has since grown to cover all residential students.

Sorrell was subsequently hired as Campus Dining's student intern for sustainability research and implementation. She maintained the Real Food Challenge database and successfully increased Real Food purchases from 8 percent to 25 percent between 2010 and 2013. ("Real" food refers to local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources.)

Sorrell was also a member of the Environmental Stewardship Task Force in summer 2011. One of the major takeaways of the task force was the need for a sustainability coordinator at Oxy.

"As the research assistant for the task force, I did a lot of research on these positions at other schools and became very familiar with their job descriptions, the projects happening, etc.," Sorrell says. From a researcher, she soon became identified as a frontrunner for the position because of her background and experience with the College.

"My position with Campus Dining ended in August, at the same time that this position was created. And voila! Here I am," she says.

In addition to her other duties, Sorrell will be working on reestablishing the Sustainability Committee, advising the ASOC Sustainability Fund, submitting annual sustainability reports, doing outreach and education to the campus community, applying for grants to fund sustainability initiatives, and providing resources to students, faculty and staff interested in sustainability.