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Lisa Bauer honored as UC's 2009 'sustainability champion'

| 27 July 2009

Lisa Bauer displays her 2009 UC Sustainability Champion award in its (recyclable) box and wrapping.

— Lisa Bauer has cast a long shadow as manager of Campus Recycling and Refuse Services at Berkeley for more than a decade. When she landed in Bear territory in 1997, Bauer brought a ton of energy, not an iota of timidity, and an ambitious vision for raising funds, building a campus constituency, maybe even launching an environmental center for teaching and student activities.

Through the work of many, not the least of them Bauer herself, many of her early imaginings have come to pass — among them a flourishing, student-run campus committee that regularly doles out grants and awards; two comprehensive campus sustainability assessments; Berkeley's guiding statement of commitment to the environment; and an Office of Sustainability with its own director.

For her early vision — and for rolling up her sleeves for years to make it manifest — Bauer was recently named the University of California's 2009 Sustainability Champion. She accepted the award (her trophy being a recycled-glass dinner plate) at the 8th Annual UC, CSU, CCC Sustainability Conference, held in Santa Barbara June 21-24. Bauer was honored "for the education, mentoring, and friendship she has given to countless current and future sustainability leaders, and the resulting sustainability footprint that keeps growing on her campus" and beyond, as UC Sustainability Manager Matt St. Clair said in his nomination letter.

"Several thousand students have taken the two classes she has co-taught, using the campus as her living laboratory," he wrote, and "tens of thousands" have been exposed to sustainable-living practices in the residential halls — through their contact with student-sustainability residential coordinators, one of Bauer's award-winning pet projects.

A lifelong recycler

Bauer proudly announces her commitment to cutting out waste in her personal e-mail handle, which includes the appellation "recycqueen." But her passion on the issue began long before "green" was trendy or e-mail even existed. Bauer recently unearthed, back in New Jersey, a contest speech that she wrote, at 12 or 13, on the assigned theme "I'm Just One." Her award-winning address, in a statewide competition, was on how, regardless of being "just one," you can set a standard for others. Examples cited: recycling and turning off the lights.

"Where did this come from?" Bauer wonders. "My mother nagging me! That channeled through me — really conservative European parents who didn't waste anything."

Later, as a young adult working at a Northern California youth hostel, she recalls a "lightbulb moment" when she saw that kids who came for nature courses insisted on bringing their food in non-recyclable containers, so they wouldn't have to do the dishes. "How," she asks, "can you teach kids about nature and feed them on single-serving Styrofoam? Wrong!"

Bauer channeled her outrage into volunteerism, helping to bring recycling to the Golden Gate National Seashore, and then concocted a plan to buy a truck for picking up recyclables from restaurants.

Looking forward

Fast-forward to July 2009, as Bauer, not resting on her laurels, is jazzed about still-evolving projects — one being a new green-certification program for campus departments. "It gives people something they can touch and engage in," Bauer says. "It’s not a policy; it's an action!"

Over the summer, she's been working furiously to give away or sell "as much as humanly possible" from the Marchant Building — a vast storage and office facility on San Pablo Avenue that UC recently sold. And she's helping to concoct an innovative program to turn revenue from the recycling of campus toner cartridges into environmentally friendly printers for campus departments. The details aren't yet ready for prime time — but "I love the concept," Bauer says.