Caroline Savage - Campus as Lab Manager at Princeton University

Caroline Savage - Campus as Lab Manager at Princeton University

As Campus as Lab Manager, Caroline works at the campus-based intersection of operational, educational and research activities that result in the advancement of sustainability problem-solving. She designs and implements the Campus as Lab program to encourage and support the Princeton campus community in testing sustainable solutions, engaging all disciplines. Caroline previously served as the Director of the Institute for Community Sustainability at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN, where she laid the groundwork for an ecovillage in the community adjacent to the university that is currently in development; hosted regional symposia on infill development and urban food issues in the Midwest; and developed several sustainability and social justice programs.

Caroline Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Using the university as a lab for sustainability

  • Benefits of formalizing the Campus as Lab program in the university

  • Engaging students in sustainability programs and research

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability professionals

Caroline's Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

Get outside of your bubble. I think it's really tempting to want to surround ourselves with people who think like us and sometimes that space is totally appropriate, but try to put yourself in uncomfortable spaces or in front of people who don't think like you do whatever that happens to look like for your individual situation. I think that's the only way we grow.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

Some of the gaps and the end of the Obama era has left, both nationally and internationally, present some really interesting opportunities. So internationally we're seeing leadership from countries that maybe hadn't been on the global stage so much for sustainability. Now they are having the opportunity to step in and fill that gap. And nationally I think we kind of have the imperative to stop using the same language around sustainability that we have, to stop assuming that sustainability is just a good thing and everybody's going to like it to engage. As well as the increased energy and call to action that so many people are hearing to act on these issues.

What is the one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

I would recommend, and this is getting a little bit outside of the realm of sustainability, but there's a great book called Doing Good Better by William Macaskill. He talks about this concept of effective altruism and the idea that just because we want to do something, or you want to do some good, we might not automatically come up with the most effective way to do that. So he takes a really hard look at how to do good in an effective way.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

I totally rely on AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. They're kind of where I got my start in the academic world. I found a job through one of their newsletters. They're an incredibly supportive community, that I found as a great resource all throughout my career and I've been in sustainability in higher ed for about 10 years now. Even if you're not in higher ed, I really recommend following them for some of the best practices and job opportunities and other events that come out of that community. In a closely related is green schools listserv, that's run through Brown University. I also recommend finding good project management systems in general and being well organized in general. I can't recommend one specific one. I've kind of learned a lot from different styles, but especially for this very project based work, I'm finding something like that that works for you, whether it's lists, post-its check in meetings or taking a course. Having strong systems in place to track progress makes all the difference. And then of course, this podcast as well.

And finally where our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you are leading at Princeton.

Sure, they can go to That will take them to the Campus as a Lab page. If they're interested in that community of practice I mentioned earlier you can go to That is a great compilation of best practices going on all across North America. And then finally, you're always welcome to email me I'm always happy to spread the word about Campus as Lab.