Jim Simon lives the mantra of using resources in a sustainable way.
Gonzaga’s first Sustainability Director maximizes the resources allocated to him as he manages and expands the university’s wide-ranging programs. He also walks the talk in his personal life, finding alternative modes of transportation to work on a daily basis.
In the four years Simon’s been on the job, he’s expanded his one-man shop in scrappy ways: employing students, AmeriCorps workers, and partnering across campus to build momentum.
“It’s been a great year,” said Simon, mentioning two new programs that were kicked off by AmeriCorps staffers, who nurtured staff and student sustainability ambassador programs. “The idea behind those two programs is to increase and expand the capacity of the Office of Sustainability (of which he’s the only full-time employee).”
Yet he’s quick to acknowledge that creating a culture of sustainability at Gonzaga isn’t about him and his office trying to do it all. “It’s about me trying to empower the students, staff, faculty and community to create that culture,” he said.
Simon points out caring for creation is a core mission of a Catholic, Jesuit, Humanistic university – as reflected by a litany of church doctrine, including the Laudati si (On Care for our Common Home) encyclical of Pope Francis. It’s happening in myriad ways at GU: recycling, ride sharing, alternative commuting and energy conservation.
The office also moved into new quarters at 521 E. Sharp, which hosted more than 200 meetings and events in its first year. The house will be fitted with a solar panel array this summer (the first on campus), thanks to a successful donor challenge from Zags Give Day. Overall, he feels the cultural awareness about sustainability is shifting at Gonzaga.
“I think what also helps is the students that are coming through Gonzaga now are exposed to more than just the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra that I was exposed to when I was in elementary school,” said Simon. “So, you have students who are coming onto campus who are really wanting to engage in complex environmental issues beyond just, ‘Let’s recycle!’ ”
He says it also matters that the work is a priority at Gonzaga and in the Spokane community.
“We have great partners, both on campus and in the community, and good leadership that is supportive of the work that we’re trying to do,” said Simon, who currently serves on the Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC) Technical Advisory committee.
“Great universities can’t exist without great cities, and likewise,” said Simon. His role in local and regional organizations isn’t to raise his personal profile, but instead to promote Gonzaga. His work with the city, in particular, continues to expand and will provide new opportunities, including a scheduled trip to Scandinavia this fall with a regional delegation.
– Jeff Bunch