Campus-wide "Do One Thing" Campaign Shows Small Steps by Individuals Can Lead to Big Strides in Sustainability

  • DOT Campaign
    DOT Campaign  Dusty Parson '10, at left, and Jessie Coulter '10, are among the many members of the Law School community supporting the Do One Thing - DOT- Campaign.  Photo by Rebecca Scheetz
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Shunning bottled water and remembering to switch off the lights may not sound like great strides toward sustainability, but these are exactly the small personal changes that the College of William & Mary had in mind when it launched the campus-wide Do One Thing – or DOT – campaign.  The initiative, which began at the Mason School of Business last semester, asks all members of the College community to pick one way to promote environmental sustainability in their daily lives.
Associate Professor Erin Ryan
“At its most narrow, the project just asks people to make one change, just do one thing,” explained Associate Professor of Law Erin Ryan, who chairs both the College-wide DOT Initiative and DOT Campaign at the Law School. “But, more broadly, we’re also hoping to inspire each other with creative and different ideas that might make us consider other changes that we can make as well. So, it’s a big community-wide brainstorming process.”

W&M’s initiative was inspired by the work of sustainability consulting firm Saatchi & Saatchi S., which has helped corporate communities embrace the idea of personal sustainability. And now, as the first DOT university, students, faculty and staff at William & Mary are helping to push the College into a leadership role for all other universities in the realm of personal sustainability.

As part of the campaign, all members of the William & Mary community were invited to record their DOT pledges on slips of paper that became the building blocks of an art installation that went up in Swem Library earlier this month. The project's two Facebook sites boast over 2,500 fans, and over a thousand participants have publicly declared DOTs. This summer, the College hopes to translate these pledges into aggregate figures, such as the total amount of energy that the campaign saved and the total number of plastic bottles that it recycled.

The Law School officially launched its component of the DOT campaign on Jan. 27 when Dean Davison M. Douglas announced his own DOT pledges, which include composting at home and reducing the overhead lighting in his office. The kickoff, which occurred in conjunction with the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review’s annual symposium, featured a DOT-themed Bar Review event and tables in the lobby where members of the Law School community could make DOT pledges.

“The symposium always brings in local attorneys, members of the community, students, and the occasional law professor to hear presentations by speakers from across the country,” said Dusty Parson ’10, the Review’s Editor-in-Chief. “Many of the speakers were very interested in learning more about the DOT campaign and will hopefully be taking the message back to their communities.”

Both individuals and student organizations have made DOT commitments as part of the Law School’s campaign.  In support of the initiative, three of the Law School’s student-edited law journals - the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, and the William and Mary Women and the Law Journal - experimented with paperless versus printed citation checking. Jessie Coulter ’10, who helped coordinate the Law School’s DOT initiative, explained that her DOT pledge to buy products with less packaging material has been both successful and educational.

“I hadn’t thought about all the things I bought that had lots of wrapping and plastic and individually contained things,” Coulter explained.

The entire William & Mary community can celebrate the semester-long campaign at an Earth Day event on Saturday, April 24, on the Sadler Center’s outdoor patio. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the DOT portion of the event beginning at 1:30 p.m followed by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley's announcment of the DOT that the College itself will pledge. The program also will honor the winners of the DOTumentary YouTube DOT video contest and favorite DOTs of the semester.

While the Earth Day event will recognize the DOT campaign’s successes, it does not mark the end of the initiative. Ideally, participants will continue their pledges indefinitely, and additional individuals will choose to take the DOT plunge.

“The spirit of the campaign is so great because anyone can participate,” Coulter said. “Asking people to add just one thing to their daily routine that promotes sustainability is a refreshing reminder that change doesn't have to start big. It can start small.”