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>  News Releases >   2005 >   April

Dartmouth College appoints first Sustainability Director

Global Living Project founder Jim Merkel to join college June 1

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 04/26/05 • Contact Genevieve Haas (603) 646-3661

In 1989, Jim Merkel, a military and industrial designer and salesman for TRW, Inc., was stunned by news of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill. Almost immediately, he left TRW to campaign for peace, environmental conservation and global equity. He transformed his life into a model of economic sustainability, creating a personal economy that allowed him to live on just $5,000 per year (much closer to the global average income.) A competitive cyclist, he relied on his bicycle for transportation and focused on ways of bringing his own consumption to a sustainable level. He also worked to promote sustainable policies through local organizing. Along the way he founded the Global Living Project and authored the book Radical Simplicity.

Jim Merkel
Jim Merkel (Photo courtesy of New Society Publishers)

Now Merkel is preparing to enter another phase of his career, as Dartmouth College's first Sustainability Director. He will assume his new position on June 1, and will lead Dartmouth's ongoing efforts to integrate environmentally and socially sustainable practices into the College's strategic planning.

"Jim Merkel's enthusiasm and dedication will help the College expand its commitment to sustainable and responsible practices," said Provost Barry Scherr.  "His role will be not just to identify and implement ways in which Dartmouth can further environmentally sound practices, but also to work closely with students, faculty, staff and administrators to further an awareness of sustainability issues throughout the campus."

As Sustainability Director, Merkel will be responsible for working with administrators, faculty, and students to provide the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make Dartmouth a model of sustainability through the management of its resources and operations; facilities planning and design; research activities; the curriculum; and the extra-curricular life of the College. Merkel will develop a strategy to embed principles of sustainable prosperity in all of Dartmouth's roles-as a place of learning and research, a business enterprise, and a member of the local community.

Dartmouth already supports a host of initiatives based on sustainability. The institution maintains an organic farm, composting and recycling programs and integrated pest management, and uses green cleaning products. The College fleet includes gas-electric hybrids and several buildings currently in design and construction will be LEED-certified. Dartmouth supports local growers through the Vital Communities program and uses ground-water cooling in its dormitories. The College also manages a sustainable forest and produces furniture from the forest timber.

Merkel earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Stony Brook University in 1984 and has 12 years of experience in industry. His projects at TRW included energy demand management systems, design of industrial equipment, military cryptographic communication systems, and foreign military sales. 

In his work to develop and promote sustainable practices, Merkel founded the Alternative Transportation Task Force in San Luis Obispo, Calif., that helped create an interconnected bike lane system throughout the city and county. He was elected to the board of the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County and served on the Sierra Club's Executive Committee. As a lobbyist in Washington D.C., he has worked to promote wilderness legislation, peace and Native American rights. In 1994 Merkel received an Earthwatch Gaia Fellowship to research efficient resource use in Kerala, India, and visited communities in the Himalayas. The following year he founded the Global Living Project (GLP) in British Columbia and initiated the GLP Summer Institute for the measurement and reduction of biospheric impact.

He also helped found the "Cycling for a Sustainable Future" speaking tour that has logged over 17,000 miles delivering programs at colleges and universities. And in the month prior to joining Dartmouth, Merkel is taking a bicycle tour of Spanish universities promoting the Spanish edition of Radical Simplicity. He is a member of the New Road Map Foundation Speakers Bureau, the Simplicity Forum Steering Committee, and the Global Footprint Network, and has led hundreds of workshops on "Your Money or Your Life" and sustainable lifestyles. He is also the author of The Global Living Handbook  (2000) and Radical Simplicity (2003), now translated into Spanish and Korean.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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