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'Do One Thing' campaign marks another first at W&M

  • Sustainable
    Sustainable  Business professor Christopher Adkins helps to lead W&M toward a more sustainable future, one DOT at a time.  
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The Do One Thing, or DOT campaign, is all about the little steps toward personal sustainability. Started as an idea by the advertising and public relations firm Saatchi & Saatchi S., the DOT campaign was originally a way for corporations to get their employees to jump on board the idea of personal sustainability. And now, as the first DOT university, the students, faculty and staff at William and Mary are implementing these ideas, and helping to push the College into a leadership role for all other universities in the realm of personal sustainability.

Essentially, a DOT boils down to one simple action, which is selected both because you enjoy doing it, and because there is a side benefit to the environment or sustainability. This could be as simple as turning off the lights in your work area when at lunch or making time to play outside with your children or friends.

Chris Adkins ’95, Ph.D. ’09, director of the undergraduate business program at the Mason School of Business, helped to orchestrate this program, with some help from Saatchi & Saatchi S., and the student group Net Impact. What started as a simple Facebook page with a few dozen students posting their DOTs has exploded into over 1,000 people pledging in one way or another.

“When we first heard about the DOT idea, it was a part of the first Sustainability in Business symposium in the Spring 2009,” says Adkins. “We had a speaker from Saachi and Saachi come and share with us how they make their companies more sustainable, both top-down and bottom up. We thought that students could lead a campaign like this, and they could get other students excited and then the faculty and then maybe even find a way to get alumni connected.

“Then I started to get all of these ideas about how it might emerge and I shared it with our student leaders at Net Impact and they really liked the idea. And it also wasn’t going to cost us any money to start this campaign. And so I approached Saatchi about it and they thought it was a great idea and they were very supportive — so much so that they were willing to send (a top Saatchi & Saatchi S. environmental executive) Adam Werbach to help us with our DOT launch.”

Adkins stresses that the real key to the success of DOT is that the campaign is geared toward actions that make people happy, turning the action into something that is done with ease, rather than attempting to save the environment by yourself.

“Trying to connect sustainable action to the one thing that would make you happy each day,” says Adkins. “So if it makes you happy, then not only will it be something that you’re going to keep doing, but as other people see you do those things, they might also get excited and get inspired to choose a DOT as well.
 “You can think about it as also helping people as well,” says Adkins. “DOT has an environmental side to it, but it also has a social side to it. From a business perspective, a long-term sustainability and economic sustainability is critical as well. They think about sustainability as having four different aspects: social, cultural as well as environmental and economic.”

As the community at William and Mary signs up for individual DOTs, the next logical step to grow the movement is to turn to alumni. When an alumnus chooses a DOT and posts it on Facebook or posts the idea up a refrigerator or bulletin board, says Adkins, it’s a way for them to both feel connected and be connected through their daily lives with the College.

“William and Mary has this great history of changing the world, and what better way to do that by the little things in your daily life, which in turn trickles into their families,” says Adkins. “And that’s what we’ve seen. Students are taking this home and talking about it with their families, so are faculty and staff. We have faculty and staff spouses, even their kids are on the DOT page. Families are choosing DOTs. If you think about William and Mary as one big family, this is one way that we can collectively act together.”