GREEN and gold: Baylor’s move toward sustainability

Baylor's Director of Sustainability, Smith Getterman, Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

By Raegan Turner l Staff Writer

Baylor University’s increased focus on environmental sustainability is rooted in a deeper goal than just being considered environmentally efficient, it comes from Christian conviction. As a Baptist institution, Baylor is inclined to incorporate the Christian faith into programs and courses on campus, including those that involve ‘going green’ according to the university.

Director of Sustainability, Smith Getterman, makes it a point to encourage students to care about not only the environment, but people and God as well. Presenting information during Chapel as well as in multiple classrooms across campus is part of Getterman’s agenda each semester. The knowledge he conveys is not only meant to informative but convicting; he communicates that implementing sustainable practices is a natural response to taking care of the Earth as well as following scripture.

“When we talk about stewardship, we generally see the ‘tending the garden’— that’s the kind of thing people think of, like we’ve been told to tend the garden. While that’s correct, it doesn’t go far enough, and I think that people need to start looking at how we consume and how we use our resources as loving our neighbor.” Getterman said.

He urges Baylor students to think about their neighbors not only down the hall from them, but also across the world, that are being impacted by the destruction of the environment.

“The second greatest commandment Christ gave us is to love our neighbors as ourselves, and what better way is there to do that than be thinking about the way we consume is impacting the person across the world that we’ll never see.” Getterman said.

Tangible goals for creating a greener culture at Baylor were established in 2015 with the ‘Sustainable 2020’ plan. Baylor’s aim to use more locally sourced foods for dining services, divert waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are all outlined by the plan. Success in these areas is measured by an increase or decrease in the amounts used; the university has already met one of the four goals by decreasing water usage by 21.5 percent in 2016, a higher percentage than the planned 17 percent reduction reached by 2020.

Students at Baylor can do their part to go green by completing simple, everyday tasks such as unplugging unused electronics, refraining from vehicular idling, going paperless, turning the lights off, using plants over air fresheners, recycling ink cartridges, using reusable dining boxes, skipping meat once a week, using a refillable coffee mug or water bottle and walking instead of driving around campus. These small actions, if done on a large scale, can have significant impact both environmentally and personally.

Dr. Melinda Coogan, lecturer for Baylor’s environmental science department, supports students in an organization called Students for Environmental and Wildlife Protection (SEWP), a new organization on campus that focuses on raising awareness of environmental protection through education and action, while providing students with opportunities to become involved with the environment issues about which they feel passionate. She explains why caring about the environment is important even while in college and challenges students to find a way they can take part in cultivating and advocating for the natural world.

“As I walk around Baylor University, I see our future leaders. We are fortunate to have a beautiful campus, bright and passionate students, as well as faculty who care about encouraging students to become global leaders who truly care about protecting life. The college years can be transitional and transformative, and students need to realize that even small contributions to healthy environments can have powerful effects.” Coogan said. “It would be difficult not to find issues upon which we can make positive impacts, so I challenge Baylor students to choose one thing they can commit to that would encourage a more healthy and concerned environment either on campus, in the Waco community, or even on a global scale.”

For more information about Baylor Sustainability, visit their website. If you are interested in joining or learning more about SEWP, you can email Coogan at or attend their first meeting Wednesday, March 6 at 7:30 pm in the BSB E.125.