David Petree new head of sustainability movement on campus


(Graphic by Joy Damon)

Super-sized Post-It notes with items to be taken care of in the name of sustainability riddle the office walls of Guilford College’s new director of environmental sustainability, David Petree.

“My team and I stay pretty busy around here,” Petree said. “Making sure this campus is environmentally sustainable is a challenge that I welcome.”

Petree is no stranger to North Carolina or Guilford. A native of Rural Hall, N.C., Petree started working at the college fourteen years ago, but is new to the position of director of environmental sustainability.

When asked what being the Director of Environmental Sustainability means, Petree looked around at all of his to-do lists and smiled.

“My task is to lead the sustainability effort and I’m working with great people on the task,” said Petree. “Kent Chabotar and Jon Varnell have really made sure that we are able to make the grounds look as good as possible.”

Already, Guilford has taken significant strides to be a good steward of the resources we use as a college community. Petree proudly invited me to his laptop to see the sustainability section of the Guilford website.

“Right here, right now, we’re getting sustainability done,” reads the web page. “Our students, faculty and staff are making a real difference, with large and small sustainability projects that are showing concrete, measurable results. We’re lowering our carbon footprint, saving money, and creating lasting social change.”

Petree said that he and his team are constantly looking for new ways to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions for the college. He even works to make his home sustainable. Petree and his wife have an extensive garden and rain water collection system, along with wood-burning heat and high-efficiency window units.

“We didn’t use a drop of city water the entire summer,” said Petree. “And it was a long, dry, hot summer.”

Petree admitted that when he first came to Guilford there were limited resources for bettering the grounds and making the college sustainable.

“It really wasn’t until Kent Chabotar came as president that we were provided the resources to actually make a concerted effort on grounds and facilities with regards to sustainability,” said Petree.

Petree is excited to meet the challenge of keeping the college “green” as technologies become available and useful to the college.

“As a college we are making big strides and developing the college into an environmental friendly place to be,” said Petree.

Just how is Guilford getting sustainability done? Petree said the sustainability team has saved greenhouse gas emissions and made the college “green” in a variety of ways, including:

A production garden: Where many vegetables are grown on our own grounds. The project has been in progress for about three years and is now beginning to yield vegetables for the campus.

Re:cycles Bike Shop: Offers tune ups and general maintenance to those who have bikes. Students get a reduced price for maintenance and can rent a bike for five dollars a day.

RecycleMania: A program that has been going on for three years. The friendly competition between colleges shows how much the schools actually recycle.

Green Dining Program: A series of changes implemented to create and foster a more sustainable dining program. These include a more efficient automatic dishwasher, an organic-waste capture system, biodegradable napkins, eliminating trays, and the purchasing of more local and organic foods. Guilford also collects used cooking oil for conversion to biodiesel.

There are many more ways the college is promoting sustainability. Visit www.guilford.edu and click on “Green at Guilford” to see how the college is working for the environment.