Sustainability Q&A with Madison Dougherty


January 21, 2021

What is your position or department at Gonzaga?

 I am an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Office of Sustainability. My official title is Sustainability Leadership Programs Coordinator.

What does sustainability mean to you?

 For me, sustainability is all about taking what you need and nothing more. In our modern society, we are taught to always take and want more than what we need. Sustainability teaches us that we can live fulfilling and satisfying lives with the essentials and nothing more. Sustainability limits our consumption and waste to ensure that future generations of humans and other living beings will have access to essential resources. I think sustainability also emphasizes a need to reconnect with nature and that our current reckless consumption stems from our neglect and disconnect from the natural world.

How have you been involved in promoting sustainability on campus?

 I coordinate Gonzaga’s three sustainability leadership programs: one for Gonzaga students, one for Gonzaga employees, and one for Spokane community members. The purpose of these programs is to educate the members on sustainability, climate change, and environmental justice issues that plague our society. The programs train the members on how to be successful sustainability ambassadors so that they can one day inspire change in their communities.

What are some things you do in your personal life to live sustainably?

 I actually recently adopted two environmental philosophies that have forced me to make necessary changes in my life. Minimalism and voluntary simplicity are two very similar philosophies, and when combined, they require you to reject materialism and instead embrace the more wonderful things in life – spending more time outdoors, expressing gratitude for the land and nature, being with friends and family, exploring new places, etc. It will take me a couple of years to get to a place where I am fully comfortable in minimalism and simplicity – when you are raised in a consumerist society, it is difficult to let go of things and find new ways to meet your needs without buying and acquiring more. But I have already learned that I am far happier with less material possessions and I have more time to focus on being ecological in my practices and passions.

How could Gonzaga continue to improve its sustainability efforts?

 Gonzaga University needs to divest from fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry is outdated and is incredibly harmful to the land and environment. Divesting from fossil fuels would send a message to everyone that Gonzaga is serious about climate change and is willing to make major changes to reduce our carbon footprint. Divesting would also lead to investment in cleaner, more ethical industries that would better support our university.

How will you continue to promote sustainability at Gonzaga?

 I will continue to support the members in the sustainability programs with adequate resources so that they can feel confident in their abilities as sustainability ambassadors. I will also continue to be vocal on environmental issues occurring in our region. And of course, I will always be ready to step up and fight for what is right for our university!