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Chauncey’s Champion Someone making a difference.

I Spy: Sellers leaves a green legacy at CCU

by Lindsey Hanks Bookmark and Share
The TD Campus and Community offers free teal recycling bins to students, staff and faculty to encourage recycling habits.
The TD Campus and Community offers free teal recycling bins to students, staff and faculty to encourage recycling habits.

It’s fair to say that Jennifer Sellers has made a profound impact on Coastal Carolina University’s community sustainability initiative, Sustain Coastal, during her five years as sustainability coordinator. As she leaves CCU to begin a new job in North Carolina, Sellers says the feeling is bittersweet.

“I think making lasting impressions are so important, especially at places like Coastal. I really am going to miss it a lot,” says Sellers, with tears in her eyes. “The things students learn through us about recycling and conservation they can take with them. That’s really what I always aimed for with Sustain Coastal.”

After graduating from CCU in 2000 with a degree in English, Sellers began a career in journalism and public relations, first writing obituaries for The Sun News, with a maiden name of Coffin, then moving to the Brandon Agency for three years. With journalistic experience under her belt, Sellers then moved to the Horry County Solid Waste Authority as recycling coordinator.

In 2011, Sellers took over for the former sustainability coordinator and her fellow CCU alum, Marissa Mitzner, who, along with Professor of Marine Science Dan Abel, began the sustainability program at Coastal. Since then, Sellers and her colleagues have transformed CCU into a sustainable university through innovative projects and events like the Campus Salvage Sale, the Pop Up Thrift Shop, the farmers market, Zero Waste football games and the creation of the water refill stations now located all around CCU’s campus. Under her leadership, interested students may now study for a Certificate of Sustainability.

“Events that promote sustainability like the farmers market are so popular and commonplace at CCU that it’s become part of the culture. That’s our intention,” says Sellers. “We want do sustainability to be a part of the fabric and the culture of CCU.”

Sustain Coastal is more than just about going green, says Sellers; the team also wants to continue to encourage environmentally sustainable behavior in the form of recycling, conserving water and electricity, and food waste composting, to name a few.

“It’s encompassing everything on campus,” says Sellers. “Whether you’re purchasing something, walking somewhere, driving somewhere or just staying inside, it’s about making a conscious choice to be sustainable.”

Sustain Coastal has been recognized by a number of sustainability organizations in the Horry County area and nationally. The organization has been recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Carolina Recycling Association and Keep Horry County Beautiful. Sustain Coastal received a silver Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) from AASHE, as well as an “Outstanding Recycling University” award from the Carolina Recycling Association.

“I had the strongest experience in recycling when I started here, and we got to build on that foundation,” says Sellers. “We don’t just recycle bottles and cans anymore, but we also do food composts, and we help people find ways to reuse items instead of just disposing of them.”

This is Sellers’ first nomination for I Spy, the employee recognition program whereby CCU employees can nominate staff and faculty members for outstanding performance. Jeremy Monday, a waste reduction coordinator who has worked with Sellers for two years, nominated her.

“Jennifer is leaving sustainability at CCU in a wonderful place,” said Monday. “She developed a plan, executed it and trained others along the way. Even after she leaves, sustainability will continue to move forward but we will always remember that it was her vision and hard work that got us to the top of the mountain.”

Sellers says she really just wants Sustain Coastal to make an impact in students’ lives.

“I’m not the type of person who likes to plaster my name on everything I do,” she says. “I want the students like the Eco-Reps and the Green Team to be the face of Sustain Coastal because they are the ones who are going to take something away from it and apply it in the future.”

Sellers, her husband Philip, her two children Peyton, 9, and Jake, 3, and their three-legged cat, Cali, will be moving to Charlotte, N.C. at the beginning of this month where she will work as a sustainability coordinator for North Carolina's largest healthcare system. The system includes 12 medical centers or hospitals and more than 900 care locations, a new challenge in a field unlike anything she has ever done.

“I’ll be able to apply my sustainability background in a completely different way, which will be a challenge,” says Sellers. “But I’m excited about it because I feel that Coastal has given me the opportunity to build on those skills and move forward in a new career.”

According to Monday, it was Sellers’ passion and drive for sustainability efforts on CCU’s campus and the surrounding community that made Sustain Coastal what it is today.

“She has touched my life and the lives of dozens of students over the years,” he said. “Jennifer is ‘Sustain Coastal,’ and she always will be.”

Temperance Russell contributed to this article.

Related Photos

Jennifer Sellers promotes alternative transportation with the Zipcar vehicle during the community fair event on Prince Lawn. Jennifer Sellers helps harvest and store squash at Earthaven, a sustainable community in Black Mountain, N.C., as a part of an Eco-Rep field trip. Jennifer Sellers poses with squash at Earthaven, a sustainable community iNorth Carolina, as a part of an Eco-Rep field trip. The TD Campus and Community offers free teal recycling bins to students, staff and faculty to encourage recycling habits. Jennifer Sellers and Chauncey pose during the Farmers Market and Earth Fair event on Prince Lawn.
 Jennifer Sellers at the TD Campus and Community’s first Pop-Up Thrift Shop in the Student Union, an event that sets up once a month with clothing for sale.
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