Shifting Mindsets at Emory University

If we don’t first shift our thinking and reshape our old perspectives, we can’t change behaviors, foster innovation or create new solutions.  We must disrupt the very mindsets and behaviors that have lead to current successes in order to continue to be successful. 

While some experience “epiphany moments,” most often changes in our day-to-day experiences gradually shape our deep-seated beliefs.  I recently interviewed Ciannat Howett, Director of Sustainability Initiatives for Emory University and Emory University Hospital for my forthcoming book to find out how Emory shift mindsets and behaviors to operate more sustainably. One of Emory’s goals was to lower energy use across the huge campus. For many years Emory would receive one large utility bill from Georgia Power for the $39 million of energy they used each year. Emory asked for the bill to be divided by facility.  The Deans were shocked by the costs and wanted to know what they could do.  In one pilot program of 7 buildings, the temperature was turned down for 6 months during evenings and weekends.  Most people didn’t notice, and they saved a half-million dollars in a half-year. When she asked administrators “Who wants to save a half-million dollars,” she had their attention. “It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished,” says Ciannat.  Emory set an ambitious goal to cut their energy use by 20% by 2020.  By the end of 2012 they had already reached 22 ½% without any major capital outlays.  Ciannat said that 67% of the savings was attributed to behavior change. 

Ciannat spends much of her time finding ways to set expectations and change mindsets and behaviors.  “Visitors and new students and faculty know from the start that sustainability is part of our DNA and there’s an expectation for behavior.”  Emory gives out a sustainability map showing all of the green buildings, sustainable food, organic gardens, bike racks, transportation systems and more.  They’ve created an immersion experience.  Just as you would learn to speak French better and faster from living in France rather than learning in a classroom, at Emory you learn to live a more sustainable life.  Emory refers to this as “co-curriculum” education.  Not only have they integrated sustainability throughout every academic discipline, Emory’s students live, work and play in a sustainable community. 

Learn more at:  http://sustainability.emory.edu/ 

Home Page Teaser: 
If we don’t first shift our thinking and reshape our old perspectives, we can’t change behaviors, foster innovation or create new solutions. We must disrupt the very mindsets and behaviors that have lead to current successes in order to continue to be successful.

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