Campus News

UGA honors four for creating a more sustainable community

Athens, Ga. – On April 20, four members of the University of Georgia community were recognized for their dedication to creating a more sustainable UGA.

As part of the Athens-Clarke County Greenfest, the UGA Office of Sustainability sponsored the 2012 Sustainable UGA Awards. Winners were nominated by members of the university and were recognized for demonstrating dedicated efforts to conserve natural resources, advance sustainability initiatives and improve quality of life on and off campus.

The winners were senior art history major Mary Carlson, graduate landscape architecture student Chris McDowell, associate professor of horticulture David Berle and Office of Environmental Sciences director Susan Varlamoff.

Carlson, a student in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, was honored with the outstanding undergraduate student award. In her four years at UGA, Carlson has been an active member of the Go Green Alliance and a founding member and co-president of UGArden, UGA’s campus community garden. Carlson helped start UGArden in May 2010 and since then has been involved in expanding its reach beyond vegetables to include beehives, mushroom logs, an aquaponics system and a fruit tree orchard.

“Mary Carlson is one of the most articulate, engaging and fearless people I know. Without any real gardening experience at the time, Mary willingly jumped with both feet into the creation of UGArden, becoming one of its spirited leaders and selfless supporters,” wrote Carlson’s nominator for the award.

McDowell, a master’s student in the College of Environment and Design, received the outstanding graduate student award. McDowell has been involved with several projects on campus that have created useable structures made entirely from reclaimed materials. With the help of a 2012 Sustainability Grant, he created the UGA Material Reuse Program, which converts construction waste material such as wood and scrap metal into works of art and function. McDowell created a passively heated greenhouse for UGArden, raised garden beds and compost bins for local schools, a shelter for the goats cleaning up Tanyard Creek and tables for Athens’ first Food Cart Festival, all from construction material that would otherwise have been destined for the landfill.

“With a whole lot of know-how, passion and sweat, Chris McDowell is creating a better Athens. Not only has he saved tons of construction materials from our local landfill, but he’s used them to create objects of functional beauty,” stated McDowell’s nominator for the award.

Berle was honored with an outstanding faculty/staff award. As well as being an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, he serves as faculty adviser for both the UGArden and the organic agriculture certificate program and head of the local food systems certificate program, which began in 2011 and allows undergraduate students to learn about the policies, production issues and cultural implications of producing local food.

“When I think of the tremendously positive impact of student engagement and service-learning at UGA, I immediately think of David Berle,” his nominator said. “It’s nearly impossible to pass through any neighborhood in Athens without seeing some aspect of David’s heart and handiwork. His efforts inspire countless many and often make me wonder, ‘What the heck am I doing with my own life and time?'”

Varlamoff was also honored with an outstanding faculty/staff award. She coordinates research, extension and teaching programs addressing environmental issues within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Varlamoff has promoted water conservation, local foods and renewable energy on campus and also helped create the Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society.

As stated by her nominator, “Susan Varlamoff is a pillar in the sustainability movement on campus and throughout the state of Georgia. From her efforts to promote water conservation, local foods and renewable energy to envisioning a socially responsible organic farm in the heart of Atlanta and buoying the UGA Climate and Society Initiative, Susan’s work remains characterized by an impeccable grace and style.”

To learn more about programs and initiatives sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, see