Sustainability in Action

Becky Bell, Director of Residence Life, Division of Student Affairs

Becky Bell says she has the desire to guide the next generation to live a more sustainable life. “For me, it’s a practice thing,” she said. “Once you get into the habit of recycling or taking reusable bags to the grocery store, there’s no going back. I can’t just throw my can or plastic bottle into the garbage can anymore.”

Becky is the Director of Residence Life in the Division of Student Affairs. For the fourth year in a row, the Residence Life community at Auburn is partnering with the Office of Sustainability to host Sustain-A-Bowl, a competition that challenges nearly 4000 student residents to reduce water, energy, and waste. Becky’s commitment to sustainability comes from a long history of initiatives, both in her personal life and in the Residence Life community.

It was a longtime interest in social development, non-profit organizations, and giving back to others, that led Becky to earn a degree in sociology. She previously worked as a youth counselor and for many years was involved with Habitat for Humanity in Auburn, including serving as the campus chapter adviser. Becky incorporates her passion to make a difference in the world into her work. In addition to Habitat for Humanity and Sustain-A-Bowl, she has been able to include other sustainability initiatives in her work with Residence Life such as Recyclemania, a national recycling competition. In addition, Becky has initiated the move to make the office of Residence Life as paperless as possible. She said moving paperwork online has made their work much more efficient and effective. In addition to saving paper, Becky and her staff save time not having to file and hand carry papers across campus and can more efficiently keep up with the many activities going on in the Residential Life community.

Becky’s interest in sustainability goes beyond the limits of Auburn, all the way to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where she first visited nearly 15 years ago on a Global Village trip through Habitat for Humanity. She has continued to be involved in sustainability initiatives in the Lake Atitlan area by connecting Residence Life’s partnership with the Committee of 19 to focus on raising money for water filters, sponsoring the yearly educational costs for a child, and even returning to the area with donations for a local school. These programs work to promote a sustainable future – one that is fair, equitable, and maintains healthy ecosystems in a manner that allows both current and future generations to meet their needs

For the future, Becky likes the idea of theme housing, where perhaps a particular residence hall could bring together students who are interested in sustainability. Future housing structures themselves could incorporate sustainable design features as well as monitoring equipment that lets residents know how much energy and water they are actually using. Becky said she would like to see sustainability become a more student-led initiative.

Student-led initiatives and student engagement in sustainability have been supported by Residence Life in various ways over the years. The Resident Assistants have brought up ideas such as using reusable totes instead of plastic grocery bags when they shop for hall events and not buying sodas or water in plastic bottles. They recognized that with 100 staff members in Residence Life doing programming in their halls, buying plastic bottles, even if they recycle them, is still contributing to the waste stream. The staff members strive to be role models for sustainable behavior and are now doing things like providing beverages in large containers and having participants bring their own cups.

Becky said she recognizes the positive effect of peer role modeling and she encourages her staff to put sustainability in action, recognizing that the more practice you get, the more it becomes a way of life.

To read more about Becky Bell, please visit Take 5 with Becky Bell.