Kimberly Reeves, Anne Hayes, Elizabeth Rowe, Elizabeth Waugh, Fayola Waithe

The primary objectives of Second Nature’s Buddy Program are to champion interpersonal relationship building among peer higher educational institutions in the Southeast and to share scalable sustainability best practices that fit the culture and capacity of each institution. Second Nature and Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA) are both invested in building a long-standing active relationship with Bennett College (Greensboro, NC) to discover new and innovative ways to partner and support each other’s legacy and continued institutional growth in a variety of ways that move the needle on climate action.

Second Nature partnered with Agnes Scott College’s Center for Sustainability team and Bennett College’s “Green Team” affiliated faculty and administration contacts to launch this program. Second Nature provided funding to host a campus visit and tour at Agnes Scott College with Bennett College’s CFO, Elizabeth Waugh, and faculty contact Anne Hayes. Anne is currently the Executive Director of Global & Interdisciplinary Programs at Bennett College. She is a long-time supporter of their climate action work and a champion of their student Green Team

Agnes Scott College introduced Elizabeth and Anne to their colleagues at the Center for Sustainability and the facilities and development staff, along with campus and community partners on the Climate Resilience Plan Task Force. These conversations focused on sharing the implementation and potential replication of their financial model and climate action tool, Agnes Scott’s 100% donor-funded Green Revolving Fund. The campus visit was the result of many months of planning discussions between Blythe Coleman-Mumford, Climate Programs Regional Manager at Second Nature, Kimberly Reeves, Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability at Agnes Scott College, Elizabeth Rowe, Environmental Management Consultant, former interim director of the Center for Sustainability at Agnes Scott College. 

Before the meeting, Bennett’s CFO, Elizabeth Waugh, said her ideal visit and anticipated actionable outcomes were “Thoughtful, creative ideas to implement at Bennett College in a financially sustainable way. We have limited funding, so partnering with other institutions and agencies to improve our program is a top priority.” Anne Hayes said, “I’d love to bring back ideas for specific projects that we could integrate, some lower cost, high impact sustainability practices…and to learn about [Agnes Scott’s] Green Revolving Fund and discuss with our CFO if that is something that could be replicated on campus.”

Anne Hayes has been a true advocate for Bennett and their sustainability efforts. Anne notes, “Bennett College is a very special place, and as a small college, we do so much for and with our students. I think Bennett’s history is remarkable–from Belles’ involvement with the Civil Rights Movement, the spark of Woolworth’s Sit-Ins in 1960, and all of Bennett’s work in civil and women’s rights. It blows me away! I love that current students are drawing from that legacy to do their own social justice and environmental justice work.”

The rich history of Bennett College, especially as one of the only HBCUs for women still in existence, ensures they have much to offer the Climate Leadership Network. Second Nature believes it’s important to champion and amplify Bennett’s impressive climate action progress with others in our network with this historical legacy in mind.

Anne Hayes, Elizabeth Waugh, Kimberly Reeves, and Elizabeth Rowe felt they had a productive day and appreciated the unique chance to connect personally and professionally.

Bennett’s CFO, Elizabeth Waugh, said, “Thank you all for the connections and amazing hospitality! We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Agnes Scott, and we look forward to setting up a meeting and further discussing the partnership with Second Nature.” 

Kimberly Reeves, Executive Director of Agnes Scott’s Center for Sustainability, noted in a debrief discussion the importance of “peer-to-peer discussions” as a pathway to “recognize similarities and identify tools that could be scaled, replicated, and translated to fit each campus culture and identity.” She affirmed that there is no one size fits all approach to tackling climate action planning and that creative funding models and knowing how to communicate best and partner with each of your audiences are vital themes at every campus and organization. Elizabeth Rowe agreed and also quoted noted climate leader and former Sustainability Center Executive Director for Agnes Scott, Susan Kidd, “You can’t reduce what you can’t measure” as a foundational rule for the importance of leveraging metrics within climate action planning. 

“My biggest takeaway from our two days with the Agnes Scott team was that all departments on campus are involved and integral to their sustainability work. From Facilities to faculty, the CFO to the advancement team, the students to the President—everyone understands sustainability to be key to the mission of the college, and they’re excited to contribute!”

Anne Hayes, Ph.D.

“I also took away the importance of having a top-notch sustainability consultant who can weave together complex information—how to calculate energy savings and data, how to maximize rebates and savings from energy providers, how to prioritize and balance campus and deferred maintenance needs, and how to project a clear cost-benefit analysis of green projects—all to make a compelling argument for sustainable renovation. The model has to work. If done right, colleges will not only choose green renovation because it’s the right thing to do; they’ll choose sustainable options because they will ultimately save us operational dollars, help us creatively address deferred maintenance, and be the platform for creating a healthy, beautiful and safe learning environment for our students. That’s the potential.”

Anne Hayes, Ph.D.

What’s Next?

Anne Hayes has been collaborating with President Suzanne Walsh of Bennett to prioritize sustainability on campus. Both see environmental justice and sustainability as integral to Bennett’s mission. President Walsh recently created an RFP to complete renovations and increase energy efficiency in their gymnasium, using language that draws from lessons learned through the Buddy Program discussions with Agnes Scott and maximizing the benefits of IRA funding

Anne added, “We’re asking that the building contractor calculate how many years it will take for the more energy-efficient products to pay for themselves, as well as the annual energy savings and the potential cost savings of the various energy products they’re using. Collecting these data and calculations for energy and cost savings will be impactful for telling our story and raising money!” With some best practices from the Agnes Scott Team, Anne will also work with Brian Auriti, Bennett’s Director of Institutional Planning, Effectiveness, and Research, to collect and analyze campus energy and water use data.

Kimberly Reeves was grateful for the opportunity to showcase projects, programs, and partnerships that have been the foundation for Agnes Scott’s climate action work. The Buddy Program has fostered an intentional collaboration with thoughtful questions and feedback from our colleagues that will positively impact Agnes Scott’s next decade of climate action and justice. In the short term, conversations from this program have helped shape the college’s 2023 Climate Action Plan update. Kimberly is excited about all future opportunities that will flourish through this program.

Moving forward, Bennett, Agnes Scott, and Second Nature will continue to meet to discuss best practices in campus sustainability initiatives that can support both institutions. Second Nature will continue to help steward relationships with both institutions and their administrative and facilities staff.

Second Nature looks forward to expanding this program to other institutions in the Climate Leadership Network. To learn more, contact Blythe Coleman-Mumford, Regional Climate Programs Manager, Southeast.


Pictured: Agnes Scott’s Climate Resilience Task Force, jointly adopted in 2020 by the City of Decatur and local organizations.