As a child, Debra Shepard would venture into the salt marshes of Cape Cod to learn more about the creatures that inhabited them. There, Shepard gained an appreciation for natural ecosystems. As Andover’s new Sustainability Coordinator, she will follow her passion for conservation as she helps Andover reduce the school’s immediate impact on the environment.
Appointed last month to replace Patricia Russell, previous Sustainability Coordinator and now Dean of Studies, Shepard will direct and evaluate Andover’s sustainability efforts.
Shepard has been measuring the campus’ carbon footprint, water usage and recycling rates in hopes that these numbers will serve as benchmarks establishing the school’s goals for sustainability.
These statistics will also lead into her more concrete and long term goal as Sustainability Coordinator: to integrate sustainability into both education and operations at Andover.
“[These numbers] are going to help me figure out where are we doing really well, where are the areas that we need to focus more efforts to be better and where are the biggest opportunities. So my goal is to take all that information, and take a really systematic view of the campus and figure out, ‘where do we want to go?’ And how do we measure it? How do we set goals around that?,’” said Shepard.
“I will have many day-to-day interactions with the people who run custodial and building operations, and energy management. So hopefully it will be a good place for me to set down roots and build relationships with those people, and influence what they are doing,” said Shepard.
“Some courses that are geared towards sustainability already, [and for] classes that may not be sustainability-oriented yet, but [they] could use sustainability topics for a project,” she added.
Shepard steps into her new position with experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she worked on an initiative to create an environmental health and safety regulatory system for hazardous waste.
“I felt like [MIT] was really important to get a foundation for what those regulations are, because I don’t think you can really claim to be sustainable unless you are doing at least the bare minimum to meet those regulatory commitments,” said Shepard.
Shepard also worked as an Outsource Sustainability Coordinator in Boston while serving a client of her firm, Sustainserv
She went to the school of her client every month to help organize their sustainability programs and run their sustainability committee. Shepard also wrote their climate action plan, which set a plan for the school’s greenhouse gas reduction target. This addressed issues such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and behavior change within the organization. Because she was working for her client and therefore not directly with the school, she cannot disclose the name of the school.
“There are always new challenges with sustainability,” said Shepard. “Things are always changing on the technical side, and on the qualitative side, I really enjoy meeting different people, working with different types of people with different backgrounds. Sustainability provides this nice way that I can collaborate, so I can work with a faculty member or a grounds manager; I can sort of mix and match, so sustainability creates this common thread.”
Shepard graduated from Boston University where she majored in marine biology and conservation biology. She then received her Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Environmental Management at the Harvard Extension School.