By Kristen Mitchell
George Washington University alumnus Josh Lasky, B.A. ‘07, M.P.A. ‘09, has been named the new director of the Office of Sustainability. For Lasky, returning to GW to continue progress on the university’s ambitious and comprehensive sustainability commitments is a full circle moment.
Lasky came to Washington, D.C. in 2003 when he moved into Thurston Hall, and has called the District home ever since. He found a passion for sustainability and the nature and scope of the climate crisis as an undergraduate student. He received a Presidential Fellowship to pursue his master’s degree, during which he served as one of two students on a task force focused on sustainability at the university. The task force led to the formation of the GW Office of Sustainability to bring together and support efforts in action, academics and research that promote healthy and thriving resource systems for all.
“I had a really unique opportunity as a graduate student to be part of the founding of the Office of Sustainability at GW. In many ways, my experience here at GW has made my entire career possible,” Lasky said. “Now that I’m back after more than a decade, I feel like I’m seeing the institution with fresh eyes.”
Lasky served as managing director and chief strategist for a social impact consulting firm prior to coming to GW. He has previously worked at the U.S. Green Building Council and in sustainability efforts at the University of the District of Columbia.
Lasky is focused on continuing to make progress on the university’s ambitious sustainability initiatives—including commitments to phase out single-use plastics on GW campuses, eliminate fossil fuel investments from the endowment, achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and remove all the greenhouse gas emissions the university has produced since its founding in 1821.
“I'm excited about the opportunity to implement,” Lasky said. “We've set ourselves up with a lot of commitments, and we've begun marching down the road to get the work done. The most important need right now is to demonstrate that we’re ready, willing and able to generate results.
“GW can reach its ambitious targets if the institution is adequately aligned in support of its sustainability priorities. My hope is to continue empowering each member of our university community to take meaningful action toward these goals,” Lasky said.
The Office of Sustainability is hosting listening sessions this April in celebration of Earth Month to engage with the GW community on sustainability, climate and environmental topics. Stakeholder feedback will play a key role in setting the office’s agenda moving forward, Lasky said.
Information about upcoming listening sessions and other Earth Month events can be found on the Office of Sustainability website. Staff, faculty or students interested in participating in a session or coordinating a session for a group can reach the Office of Sustainability at [email protected].
Lasky is also focused on collaborating on sustainability initiatives across the university and celebrating small victories. He recently attended an event on the Foggy Bottom campus that organizers were proud to share was zero waste. He’s excited to acknowledge these types of milestones and work together to figure out how to replicate and scale them.
An important area of interest for Lasky is the link between sustainability and equity—an area where he says the movement has historically fallen short. Through conversations about environmental justice, institutions of higher education can advocate for and provide a platform for marginalized and disadvantaged communities impacted by sustainability policy.
“GW’s sustainability initiatives have much to gain by including underrepresented voices in both strategy and implementation,” he said. “Given the scale and disproportionality of the effects of climate change, GW has a responsibility to consider its reach and its impact both here on campus and communities well beyond.”