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Retired environmental studies professor Vickie Watson listens to an audience member during the first Seeking Sustainability Lecture Series of the semester, Thursday evening, Jan. 16, 2020 at the Gallagher School of Business. Panelists at the lecture addressed sustainability efforts at the University and in Missoula to make it a more energy efficient city.

UM’s Seeking Sustainability Lecture Series kicked off last week, commencing a 14 week-long discussion on sustainability efforts in the Missoula community. 

Seven panelists spoke at the first event, hosted Jan. 16, in the Gallagher Business Building on campus. The speakers discussed sustainable innovations at UM, including plans to create an all-electric UDash bus fleet, according to UM Transportation. 

Other representatives discussed sustainable methods in dining, recycling and University building development at UM. Among the speakers were Director of Sustainability Eva Rocke and campus architect Jameel Chaudhry.  

Vicki Watson, professor emeritus of environmental studies at UM, organized the event. The series celebrates the 50th birthday of both Earth Day and the environmental studies program at the University. 

“We’ve come a long way in those 50 years toward increasing our understanding of what we mean by sustainability and increasing our efforts toward achieving it,” Watson told the crowd. “But we have a long way to go yet.”

All the speakers were faculty, alumni or students from the University. Half the panel consisted of environmental studies graduates. Watson said the series gives students a taste of sustainability work after college. 

“It’s a good way to expose students to what people are doing in the community,” she said. “This is what we hope you’ll be doing someday.”  

Watson, who is now retired from the environmental studies program, said the series demonstrates what environmental work is being done in Missoula for the future. 

“We’re all really worried about what’s going to happen to the world, what’s going to happen to our children and grandchildren,” she said. “When you come and see that there are people that are working hard to make a difference and that young people are interested, it gives them hope.”  

The University of Montana is a bronze-rated university in sustainability education, operation and planning, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. 

UM also has six Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings. The Payne Family Native American Center, which was the first LEED-certified building on campus, received a platinum ranking in sustainability, the highest ranking possible. The other five buildings, including the Fitness and Recreation Center, all received gold certifications.  

A variety of local experts will speak about advances in sustainability, including University and Missoula city officials from housing, transportation and dining departments in upcoming lectures. 

The series will tackle different topics every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. until the week of Earth Day, April 22.