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2021 Environmental Leadership Awards

The 2021 Environmental Leadership awards were jointly hosted by the Committee on the Campus Environment (CCE) and the Office of Sustainability via zoom, where eight awards were given out after an update on campus sustainability initiatives was provided by UT Sustainability Manager and CCE Co-Chair Jay Price.

Student Organization Environmental Leadership Award

Awarded to a student organization that demonstrates environmental stewardship through engagement, action, and leadership.

Recipient: Compost Coalition

The Compost Coalition is a newly formed student organization with a focus on 3 core aspects of composting: logistics of bin access, student engagement, and social media/education efforts. This year, they completed a composting pilot in the Student Union, created a social media platform to increase reach and provide education, administered a survey and proposed a compost support bill through the Student Government Association, and plan to hold an Earth Day compost event this month.


Student Environmental Leadership Award—Academics

Given to a student that demonstrates environmental leadership in the classroom or as a part of their education.

Recipient: Trystan Bordeau, senior in geology and environmental studies

Bordeau is truly a person who speaks for those that cannot speak—the living organisms of our beautiful world we live in. He has been a research student for the last three years, focusing on invasive species of gastropods and conservation. He has two publications to his name and has presented his research at the national convention for the Ecological Society of America. He has worked with the Plant Sciences department as an extension intern, and is working this summer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory studying environmental toxins. In 2019, he was co-director of the Environment and Sustainability Committee for SGA and helped introduce a bill to remove the use of plastic straws on campus.


Student Environmental Leadership Award—Engagement

Awarded to a student or students that demonstrate environmental sustainability or environmental justice leadership outside of the classroom, in addition, or separate from their education.

Recipient: Rachel Stewart, sophomore, environmental justice in Central Asia with a minor in nuclear decommissioning and environmental management

Stewart is an undergraduate research assistant with the research center CURENT. Her research interests focus on how radioactive waste and nuclear testing impacts the environment and people’s health in a post-Soviet context. Stewart has been an Office of Sustainability intern for two years—focusing on composting efforts on campus—and helped create the new student-led Compost Coalition in order to tackle the logistics, marketing, and student engagement of expanding compost infrastructure.

Stewart also started driving UT’s compost truck and working at the site in order to get a more in-depth picture of how waste flows through our campus. She is also the co-president of student organization SPEAK—Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville—where she has adopted an environmental justice lens in order to show members how environmentalism and social justice interact. She has helped establish a bigger campus presence for the group by taking the lead on actions like Say No to the Foam, an effort to eliminate Styrofoam, from UT’s campus.


Faculty Environmental Leadership Award

Given to a faculty member that goes above and beyond to demonstrate environmental leadership in their job responsibilities, and in their department through teaching, research, and more.

Recipient: David Keffer, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

The research of Professor of Materials Science and Engineering David Keffer in developing alternative carbon-based battery electrodes and lignin-derived CO2 sequestration membranes is promising both for the future development and growth of renewable energy, but also for mitigating our current greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to his research, he has also designed and teaches the course MSE 455—Materials for Sustainability, a student-favorite, project-based course that challenges students to consider the physical opportunities and limitations for renewable energy development, as well as motivating them to consider their own personal interactions with the world’s environment and natural resources. Keffer is an enthusiastic instructor who takes complex problems and presents them in a simple, fun, and easy to comprehend format that keeps students engaged.


Staff Environmental Leadership Award

Given to a staff member that demonstrates leadership above and beyond their job responsibilities.

Recipient: Wayne Mason, Compost Operations Specialist, Office of Sustainability

Mason’s passion for composting and the environment shines through in everything he does, which has primarily been to convert a glorified pile of dirt and mud into an intentionally designed, industrial, respectable facility that is highly organized and safe to drive into. Colleagues say he is always very helpful, humble, and ready to explain anything about the magic of composting that people have questions about. Mason has a great attitude, is very knowledgeable, and is making fantastic headway toward composting as much of the campus’s waste as possible.


Community Member Environmental Leadership Award

Given to an individual who has had an invaluable and lasting impact on the Knoxville community in numerous ways.

Recipient: David Bolt, founder, Sustainable Future Center

Bolt leads by example in eliminating waste, promoting energy efficiency, and preserving the world for future generations. He is a founder of the Sustainable Future Center in Knoxville, which serves as a permaculture demonstration site where visitors who want to learn how to integrate sustainable elements into their homes and lives can see and learn about raising chickens, gardening, rainwater harvesting soil creation, solar electricity, car charging stations, LED lighting, and many other things. In 2012, Bolt was selected as a White House Champion of Change in Corporate Environmental Sustainability.


Special Recognition Award

Given to an individual, club, department, or research group that has completed or is nearing the completion of a significant project that directly benefits the sustainability of the university.

Recipient: Eco To-Go Reusable Container program—a project led by VolDining and the Office of Sustainability

In January 2021, the Office of Sustainability purchased 2250 containers for use in a pilot program in Stokely Fresh Food Co. called the Eco To-Go Program. In the spring semester, over one third of these containers have been put into use by students. Due to the success of the project, VolDining is planning on expanding the program to all to-go meals from dining locations. This project was a successful step in reducing single use plastics on campus and is helping the university work toward its Zero Waste goal, even during the pandemic.


John Nolt Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Leadership Award

Given to a faculty or staff member who has demonstrated environmental leadership throughout their tenure and will leave a lasting impact on the university after they retire.

Recipient: David Greene, Research Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Greene has spent much of his career shaping policy in the transportation sector with regard to fuel efficiency. How technology and policy can accomplish a transition to sustainable energy for transportation is a current focus of his research and modeling.

He’s a foremost expert in the field, and the author of more than 275 publications, 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and 12 National Research Council reports. Greene has published extensively on automotive fuel economy and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and served on all four National Research Council committees that evaluated US fuel economy policy for cars and light trucks.

Other research interests of Greene’s include the costs to the US economy of petroleum dependence, the “rebound effect” of increased vehicle use due to increased fuel economy, and modeling consumers’ choices of vehicles and fuels.

Most recently he has been focused on the need to decarbonize the transportation systems to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change. He recently gave a talk through the Baker Cafe series about deep decarbonization of the transportation sector, and it’s clear he is using his expertise to help light the way forward.

He was recently named a senior engineer to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a sign that his level of influence reaches far beyond state lines and across our nation.

Greene is an emeritus member of both the Energy and Alternative Fuels Committees of the Transportation Research Board and a lifetime National Associate of the US National Academies. He received the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Barry D. McNutt Award for Excellence in Automotive Policy Analysis, the Department of Energy’s 2007 Hydrogen R&D Award, DOE 2011 Vehicle Technologies R&D Award, and DOE Distinguished Career Service Award. He was also recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for contributing to the IPCC’s receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.