Dr. Michael Lizotte - Sustainability Officer at UNC Charlotte

Dr. Michael Lizotte - Sustainability Officer at UNC Charlotte

Dr. Michael Lizotte is Sustainability Officer at UNC Charlotte since 2013.  He previously filled that role at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where he was professor of ecology and helped start an environmental studies program and an online MS in Sustainable Management.  Dr. Lizotte has research administration experience with an oceanography institute and NASA. To study the ecology of algae, he made 12 trips to Antarctica and 1 to the Arctic.  Lizotte Creek in Antarctica is named in his honor.

Mike Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Incorporating light rail on campus and impacts on sustainability goals and performance

  • How sustainability affects the products of higher education

  • Raising sustainability issues that may not be popular with all stakeholders

  • Using AASHE STARS to guide sustainability improvement

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Mike's Final Five Question Responses:

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

I think the best advice I can give people is that they have to learn that they can't do all of this on their own, but that almost everything you do is going to happen via some kind of partnership with other people. I don't know of any good examples where someone is really given the reigns of the organization or enough resources to actually be able to do that. It's kind of expected right now that we're going to conduct our work through persuasion and various other sort of leadership skills.

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

Well, there is a tendency to get attracted by the piece that's sort of right in front of you, but I'm spending an awful lot of time looking at transportation. I think even in the decade or so that I have left before I might retire, I think things are going to change radically. They may just change because experimental systems need a place to be tested and the universities may be the places that are going to try this. So we may be the first ones that see some smaller scale autonomous vehicle use and test out what does it look like when you really do these radical changes to a community.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

That was an easy question. So the one that I'm always recommending to folks is Bob Willard's Sustainability Champion's Guidebook. It's just the nicest little book and I'm always going back and flipping through it and getting ideas. It is a series of models, so I'll admit I'm kind of drawn to it from that aspect, but I think he does a great job with summarizing a lot of ideas and creating a way that someone who is supposed to lead can configure out, "how am I going to get all these other people involved or how am I going to make these persuasive arguments."

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

One that's been wonderful for me is just the networks that were formed. Before I arrived here in North Carolina, in Charlotte, I belonged to one network of sustainability officers at universities across the southeast. Just having that monthly call is wonderful. An entirely separate network is one here in the city of Charlotte where some fairly large corporate headquarter sustainability officers are available along with other large organizations. So, I get to see things and solutions that aren't necessarily being talked about at the university. There's even a smaller effort here, which is sustainability leaders having to do with the hospitality industry.  So, wherever you are, I would just say try to find those networks. For the most part they're not Internet based, but they are primarily networks of people who are still doing things face to face or via the telephone.

And finally where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading at UNC Charlotte.

We hope to be getting a lot more attention through the UNC a main page, that's you www.uncc.edu. We have a new plan coming out and we're hoping that the initiatives get more attention from the university, but they're already fairly good at covering regular events and things like that that we do on campus.