When Joan Pauly became attuned to the science of climate change, she came to realize that she would not be able to look at herself in the mirror if she didn’t do anything about it. As a University of Georgia graduate with a degree in public relations, Pauly has used her experience in corporate communications and advertising to raise awareness of this issue.
“What I saw when I first became aware of climate change was that I needed to see what my value was going to be,” she explained. “I’m not a scientist, not an architect, engineer or inventor, and my value was in learning how to communicate some complicated information in a way that’s digestible for people.”
Throughout the journey that eventually brought Pauly to Berea as the sustainability coordinator, she has worked with multiple sustainable businesses and then became Kentucky’s executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council, the non-profit behind the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system through which nine campus buildings—including Deep Green residence hall—have been certified. Having worked in both the non-profit and corporate worlds, Pauly was pleased to see her communications skillset was useful in the sustainability world, primarily in the building sector.
“We can solve a lot of problems if we do our land-planning sustainably, our buildings sustainably, transportation systems—you’re talking about major segments of the world,” Pauly said. “So, we know how to do it. It’s just convincing people to have the will, to be willing to change and invest.”
When asked what brought her to Berea, Pauly, not surprisingly, credited its commitment to sustainability.
“My thoughts aligned with [the College’s] commitment,” she said. “Doing sustainability work is hard and is almost impossible if you don’t have a coalition of the willing, and I knew at Berea there was the coalition of the willing ready to do great things.”
After living in Kentucky for more than 30 years and having Berea on her radar, she saw there was an opening.
“I applied and was fortunate enough to be chosen as the sustainability coordinator,” Pauly explained. “My goal through the Office of Sustainability has always been to provide solutions that are part of improving life. That is the whole reason for the bike program.”
The Berea College Bike Club is an initiative the Office of Sustainability launched in partnership with Public Safety to increase student access to affordable alternative transportation. Students can rent bicycles for $10 a semester and have responsibility for securing and maintaining their bicycle. Four bike- repair work stations on campus, and a fifth at the Pinnacles, provide quick access to air to fill flat tires and tools for making repairs.
In addition to the bike program, Pauly is excited to have and promote other sustainability initiatives, including the Clothes Swap; the Dandelion Festival, which educates the public on the benefits of native weeds to an ecosystem; and Recyclemania, an eight-week competition focused on increasing recycling rates per person in residence halls as part of the Race to Zero Waste initiative.
Pauly prides herself in making conscious, sustainable decisions and encouraging students to do the same.
“I don’t like just talking about stuff, I like doing stuff,” she said. “The No. 1 thing is to be mindful of your decision- and choice-making. We all have our own individual carbon footprint. Be mindful of what yours is and, within the parameters of living your wonderful life, think how you can be mindful with where you put your money and where you make your choices.”