Hello! I’m Margaret Lo, Ball State’s inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer. I joined the sustainability field over 15 years ago. When I needed to contemplate or rejuvenate, I often ended up in nature, hiking in a forest, or by a body of water. I wanted to save the environment for myself and others to enjoy. My work allows me to contribute to those efforts.

What is sustainability?

The most succinct way to describe sustainability is balancing the needs of people, the planet, and prosperity. The United Nations describes it as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What is the purpose of the work performed in your area and how does it tie into the larger work of the University?

My work is connected to many of our enduring values. The most relevant is social responsibility which states we are committed to act for the benefit of society at large. We want our students, faculty, staff, and greater community to physically, mentally, and emotionally thrive in addition to having a healthy environment. To me, this means promoting initiatives where we are good stewards, have clean air and water, improve health and well-being, affordability, enhance wealth creation, and provide better access to goods and services for everyone.

My responsibilities are focused on sustainability-related strategic planning and reporting as well as collaborating and integrating our efforts across all units and divisions to boost all of our collective efforts. It is a pretty common role in large corporations, cities, and non-profits. It can be called sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and social impact. I wouldn’t be surprised if your work intersects with one or more of the social, environmental, or financial dimensions of sustainability since we are a mission-driven institution.

What’s a fun fact about your area?

Ball State has a long legacy of sustainability leadership. Did you know that President Gora was one of the first 12 university presidents to commit to becoming climate-neutral, or that we were a charter member that helped create the STARS reporting platform now used by over 600 universities, or that we have one of the largest geothermal district heating and cooling systems in the nation? But we can still do more! For example, in 2023 Ball State spent over $15.4 million on our utilities bill. We can all save energy, water, or reduce the trash we create to help Ball State reduce our costs (so we can spend it on more mission-critical items), keep tuition low, be good stewards of our resources, and have a healthier planet for all to enjoy.

What are some new or existing initiatives in your area?

I am working on a strategic, university-wide Sustainability Action Plan with the support of students in three classes. We would like your input and perspective on what sustainability goals we should prioritize. I hope you will find time to participate in the upcoming survey or the town halls to make it a stronger and better plan for all of us. Be on the lookout for those opportunities.

Share any additional information that you feel is important to communicate.

I want to know how I can help you accomplish sustainability goals in your department.  Do you have an idea to make the campus more sustainable that you want to implement? Does your idea make the campus more environmentally friendly, improve our well-being, or save us money? If so, reach out to me via email at margaret.lo@bsu.edu.

Additionally, there are a series of sustainability related events taking place this month. Join us for Guest Lecturer Morgan Mickelson, Director of the Office of Sustainability with the City of Indianapolis, who oversees the implementation of Indianapolis’ first sustainability and resilience action plan, Thrive Indianapolis. She will be on campus on April 17th to speak about her career journey at 2pm followed by a talk about Indianapolis’ sustainability efforts at 3pm in WB144. On April 18th, Mickelson and Professor Dan Overbey will speak about the first environmental-focused policy to come out of the Office of Sustainability in a Journey Towards an Energy Benchmarking Policy at 11am in AC 110. On April 20th, join us at the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse between 10am and 3pm for our Earth Day celebration. I look forward to seeing you at one of the events.