Employees create sustainability network across campus

Peggy Biga and Shantay Williams, two of more than 70 Sustainability Ambassadors, channel their passion for green practices into positive change within their units.

sustain ambassadors stream1Peggy Biga and Shantay WilliamsIn a little more than half a year, 72 employees have done their part to make the campus greener as the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Sustainability Ambassadors. The ambassadors create a network among buildings to promote sustainable ventures to their colleagues and help implement educational programming tailored to the needs of the units they serve.

Peggy Biga, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Biology, says she became a Sustainability Ambassador due to her passion for recycling. She knows it is easy to prioritize recycling at home, with access to bright blue bins and curbside pickup, and believes it is important to transfer that passion to recycling at work.

One of the ways she has encouraged her unit to recycle is through participation in Green Labs, which aims to reduce the use of energy, water, material goods and hazardous chemicals in UAB labs without compromising research integrity or safety. Biga’s lab recycles gloves — a simple choice that illustrates for other biology labs just how easy it is to make sustainable choices. Biga’s lab has earned a silver certification, meaning they have implemented 60-69 percent of suggested sustainable changes, such as unplugging lab equipment, defrosting freezers when possible, using recyclable or rechargeable batteries, and recycling pipette tip boxes.

“It’s a sticking point for me to get involved with how we at UAB can work with the community to make changes and be more involved in creating a cultural shift toward prioritizing recycling,” Biga said.

When talking with her biology colleagues about sustainability, she often opens by asking, “How much do you care about the amount of garbage humans produce?” That simple question, she says, can spin off into a discussion about employees’ positions as sustainable role models to students on campus.

“We have the opportunity to teach students about things like recycling and composting,” Biga said.

Interested in becoming a Sustainability Ambassador?

Ambassadors must

  • Be full-time, benefits-eligible faculty or staff
  • Have the support of a direct supervisor
  • Have an interest in sustainable practices
  • Be able to serve a one-year, August-to-August term
  • Attend meetings in October and April
  • Keep in regular contact with UAB Sustainability

Email sustainability@uab.edu to express interest or nominate a colleague.

Shantay Williams, program manager in the UAB School of Nursing, became interested in sustainability after following news coverage of climate change — so much so that, a year ago, she enrolled in a course on sustainability in construction at Jefferson State Community College to learn more.

“I want to do my fair share,” Williams said. “We’re trying to preserve the Earth’s resources for generations to come.”

Williams has channeled that passion into her role as a Sustainability Ambassador for the school, which began its own sustainability committee. Right now, each School of Nursing office has a recycling box, and the committee is reviewing more options for small, yet meaningful changes.

“It’s so important for UAB to be on the forefront of sustainability efforts,” Williams continued. “We are the largest employer in the state. We already have that title, so we have to be the trailblazers and the leaders. If we can do it while employing all these people, maybe it can spark interest in others.” 

Ambassadors must be full-time, benefits-eligible faculty or staff with the support of their direct supervisor and have an interest in sustainable practices and the ability to serve a one-year, August-to-August term. Attendance is required at a startup luncheon in October and a second meeting in April. Ambassadors must keep in regular contact with UAB Sustainability regarding updates from their units and events.

UAB employees can email sustainability@uab.edu to express interest in joining the ambassador program or nominate a colleague who would be a good fit.