10 Questions With Melanie Knowles, Manager of Sustainability

Melanie Knowles is the manager of sustainability at Kent State University. In this role, she works with people all over campus to make cost-effective, better practices for the environment.

Learn more about Knowles as she answers these 10 questions.

Q: What do you want the people of Kent State to know about you and your position as the manager of sustainability?

A: As the sustainability manager, I collaborate with people across campus to make Kent State’s practices better for people and the environment, cost effectively. It takes a team to look at our practices and systems through the lens of sustainability. The knowledge and creativity of our staff and faculty are invaluable.

Q: What are your favorite accomplishments or projects you have worked on so far? 

A: A favorite project is waste diversion. Everyone is probably familiar with our single-stream recycling; however, we work to divert other materials from the landfill as well, including construction waste, electronics, fabric scraps from the fashion school and clothing through donations. The new Design Innovation Hub will also have a program to divert food waste to anaerobic digestion. I’m eager to see the impact that will have on reducing material sent to the landfill.

Q: Do you have any tips on how everyone can reduce waste in their daily lives?

A: There are a lot of opportunities to reduce waste through our choices, like choosing reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, and opting for less packaging when possible. The first step is to be aware of what you are throwing away and then think about what can be reduced or reused. If you’re looking for a reusable product or would like changes to a product or its packaging, it’s worth asking for it. When businesses hear the request a few times, they will respond.

If you’re following the trend of decluttering or just have items to donate, you can find resources at www.kent.edu/sustainability/wasterecycling to help you find new homes for usable items.

Q: What is your favorite part of your position?

A: My favorite part of my position is connecting with people. I get to interact with fascinating people who have a lot of expertise to share. There is always something to learn. 

Q: How did you get into sustainability, and what were your motivators?

A: I was working in the stock brokerage industry when I heard a speaker talk about sustainable development and how the environment and the economy don’t have to be in conflict. The idea that solutions can be good for people and the environment and still be financially responsible excited me, and I knew that was where I wanted to focus.

Q: How can students and faculty get involved with sustainability efforts on campus?

A: There is a link at www.kent.edu/sustainability to sign up for the Office of Sustainability newsletter, which includes information about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Some of our big events each year are during Campus Sustainability Month (October), Earth Month (April) and the RecycleMania competition (February and March). There are many student organizations on campus that either focus on sustainability or incorporate sustainability into their work. We’re also happy to connect with faculty about experiential learning opportunities or incorporating sustainability into their curriculum. 

Q: What is something that sets Kent State apart from other campuses when it comes to sustainability?

A: Kent State is an amazing community. Our achievements in sustainability are as unique as our academic programs and researchers. Sustainability is incorporated in the School of Fashion curriculum, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals are incorporated in the College of Business Administration curriculum. Kent State has researchers in fuel cells, climate change and sustainable development, to name a few. Kent State’s airport was recognized at the Airports Going Green Awards for its airport sustainability master plan. And we continue to incorporate sustainability throughout our operations through energy efficiency, renewable energy, green buildings and more.

Q: What is your favorite building on campus and why?

A: I love the Center for Architecture and Environmental Design. It is a LEED Platinum building – the highest rating for a green building by the U.S. Green Building Council. And it is a home and learning tool for students in architecture, interior design and construction management. It is a prime example of how our sustainability practices on campus can impact our community, provide experiential learning and help our graduates advance sustainability in their lives and careers all over the world.

Q: How has your work changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Everyone’s health and safety are of prime importance at this time. This still fits with the model of sustainability. We continue to focus on human health, a healthy environment and a resilient economy. Although our in-person Earth Month activities couldn’t happen as planned, we continue to engage via social media and virtual events. We will continue to share opportunities as they arise and look forward to future face-to-face events.

Q: Where do you hope to see Kent State in the next 10 years?

A: In 10 years, I see our campus as a role model for sustainability, our researchers recognized for their valuable contributions and our alumni making positive changes around the globe.

POSTED: Tuesday, August 4, 2020 03:17 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 12:18 PM
Jada Miles