Environment

Justin Mog is this year’s recipient of the Joan Riehm Memorial Environmental Leadership Award. The award is presented annually by the Partnership for a Green City to public service employees, volunteers or students who work to make the city more sustainable.

Mog is the Assistant to the Provost for Sustainability Initiatives at the University of Louisville. He’s been in the position since 2009, and during that time has led the university’s efforts to shrink its carbon footprint.

These efforts have had an impact at U of L, said Interim Provost Dale Billingsly. Besides joking that Mog can “often be seen checking dumpsters for recyclables and pulling them out to place them in the recycling stream,” he said the results of a recent analysis really quantify the effect Mog’s work has had.

“Initiatives he has promoted have resulted in an overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction of almost 46,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents, a reduction of more than 18 percent since 2008,” Billingsley said. “That is the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road or recycling almost 13,000 tons of waste.”

In his remarks, Mayor Greg Fischer said local sustainability initiatives like those championed by Mog are more important than ever. He cited President Donald Trump’s rejection last week of the Paris Climate Accord, and his decision to sign a letter with other U.S. mayors stating his support.

“When you think about pitting our economy against our environment as was portrayed, I mean, it’s just a false choice,” Fischer said. “In Louisville, we will continue to move forward to make this a healthier and more sustainable community, regardless of what happens at other levels of government. If others won’t lead on sustainability, we will.”

Fischer said these green efforts in Louisville do double duty — both helping the environment and saving taxpayer money.

Besides focusing on sustainability as part of his job, Mog works to model a sustainable lifestyle in his personal life, too. He doesn’t own a car or eat meat, and his home is powered by solar energy.

As he accepted the award, Mog said even though the challenges in addressing subjects like climate change or sustainability are large, the local solutions are many.

“We can spend our whole morning talking about all the horrors and the lack of consensus around climate change at the national level, but that’s not what we need to focus on if we want to make progress,” he said. “I honor all those who are studying the challenges before us, but I also want to emphasize that we have the solutions we need right within our grasp.”

The Partnership for a Green City is a collaborative effort of four of the city’s largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, the University of Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools and Jefferson Community & Technical College.

The award is named after Joan Riehm, who was Louisville’s first female deputy mayor in 1985. She returned to city government in 2002 to help transition after the city-counter merger, and was involved in sustainability issues until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2008.

Previous recipients include former Metro Council members Tom Owen and Tina Ward-Pugh, citizen volunteer Mike Hayman, retired JCPS teacher Darleen Horton, JCTC Business Manager Pamela Dumm, former JCPS Director of Facilities and Environmental Services Michael Mulheirn and former U of L Vice President of Business Affairs Larry Owlsley.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.