GODFREY – It takes a community to achieve Lewis and Clark’s sustainability goals, and a strong leader to guide the way. L&C Director of Sustainability Nate Keener, 33, of Alton, has been instrumental to the effort since joining the college in 2011.
This spring, the Illinois Green Economy Network honored Keener with a 2017 Sustainability Champion Award. According to IGEN, the award recognizes individuals for their commitment and dedication to incorporating sustainability into their colleges.
“My top line job duty is to offset or eliminate campus greenhouse gas emissions by 2058, as outlined in our official Climate Action Plan,” Keener said. “To do that, we are always working on projects to cut our current electricity consumption, while generating electricity from renewable sources. We also help to coordinate and promote the recycling program; focus on cutting fleet and commuter emissions; advocate for responsible water management; and stay actively involved in campus and community outreach around sustainability and aligning campus policies with the overall goal of cutting emissions.”
Under Keener’s leadership, the college has earned a number of accolades in the field of sustainability. Most recently, the college was a recipient of the 2016 Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award and the American Association of Community College’s (AACC) Sustainability Education & Economic Development (SEED) Green Genome Overall Award winner.
“Nate’s efforts on campus and in the community help keep Lewis and Clark ahead of the pack when it comes to sustainability,” said L&C President Dale Chapman. “We take seriously our commitment to being responsible environmental stewards and moving toward our goal of carbon neutrality, and hope to serve as an example for others.”
Current projects underway at Lewis and Clark include adding water data to campus dashboards, which currently track electrical usage on campus; taking inventory of current greenhouse gas emissions; conducting a waste audit; purchasing a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle for campus use; working with the college’s Restoration Ecology program to grow, plant and promote native plants and to eradicate invasive plants like honeysuckle. In April, the Office of Sustainability wrapped a week of Earth-friendly events in honor of Earth Week, and will hold an eWaste Drive on the college’s N.O. Nelson Campus in Edwardsville from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 3.
Keener earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bradley University in 2006, and a Master of Arts in Environmental Studies from the University of Illinois Springfield in 2011. Prior to his current position, Keener spent two years as RiverWatch Coordinator at the college’s National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. He is also a former paralegal and interned with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as a Drinking Water Compliance Officer.
Outside of work, Keener is also a grassroots community activist and volunteer with the Godfrey Cool Cities Committee and Alton Main Street, to name a few.
“I love the simple beauty of complex natural systems that point to a sustainable future,” Keener said. “The best part about my work is feeling like it is making the world a better place, and finding common ground with unexpected partners.”
Learn more about L&C’s sustainability efforts at www.lc.edu/green.