DOT Frequently Asked Questions

“What is the DOT initiative?”

It’s a sustainability and community-building project that invites all members of the university community to make small, public commitments to more sustainable choices—in a manner that educates everyone about our various opportunities to live and work more sustainably. The purpose of the campaign is to engage the campus community in brainstorming about how each of us can contribute to making the university a more sustainable enterprise, and then committing to manageable long-term changes.

“What does it mean to make a DOT?”

It means committing to Do One Thing, or make one small but permanent change in your life that advances sustainability.

“What do you mean by ‘sustainability’?”

The project is about creating a more sustainable campus community, broadly defined. For many of us, sustainability resonates with the thoughtful use of scarce natural resources, such as clean air and water, energy, landfill space, and biodiversity. But sustainability also refers to public health, strong communities, and long-term economic stability, balanced with environmental protection. Part of our work in becoming a more sustainable community is to practice greater care for the long-term consequences of our decisions in all of these regards.

“Are you asking me to change everything in my life?”

No! The beauty of the DOT project is that if enough of us participate, we can make a big difference as a community even if each of us only makes a small change. If you’re unsure of your ability to follow-through, think small. Choose something you can stay with over time. If you find it becomes second-nature, then you decide to try something more ambitious.

“Are you really only asking me to change one thing?”

Yes. But there’s nothing to stop you from changing more than that if you feel ready! Many of us have chosen multiple DOTs, and if you want to, so can you. You might also think of ways that you can pledge DOTs within groups. For example, you can commit to a DOT on your own, and you can also choose one to commit to with the rest of a team, class, family, club, or fraternity or sorority. This way, you can go as deep into DOT as you want!

“So how do I choose a DOT?”

Think about a simple but meaningful change that you can make and maintain, one that can help conserve energy, water, landfill space, or other scarce resources, that can enhance personal or public health, or that can advance community or economic stability over time. It could be as small as drinking filtered tap instead of bottled water or reusing shopping bags at the store. Or, it could be as big as putting up solar panels or starting a home compost—it’s entirely up to you! If you’re interested but unsure, a good way to start is to look for ways of connecting your DOT to something you do that’s personally important to you—a hobby, an aspiration, something you really care about. These tend to be more rewarding, and are more likely to stick.

“How do I tell you about it?”

You can post your DOT to the Facebook site at, and you can also make a Paper DOT for display as part of our on-campus installation project. Paper DOTs will be available at DOT tables and events around campus this semester, and at drop boxes at the Swem Library circulation desk (and at most other campus libraries) and at the Sadler Center information desk.

“Why should I share my DOT?”

The idea here is that by sharing our DOTs, we share our ideas about how to live more sustainably. We learn from one another’s experiences, inspire one another, and become accountable to our own public record. Also, some members of the community are more likely to participate when they see how their peers are participating. Social science has shown that even small changes are easier to make with the support of a social network, so involve yours however makes the most sense to you. So, at a minimum, please post your DOT to our Facebook site and/or fill out a Paper DOT for the installation. If you feel more inspired, seek opportunities to talk about your DOT to your classes, teams, or organizations, and ask them to participate.

“Can groups pledge a DOT?”

Absolutely. Please consider getting the members of your student organization, athletics or intramural team, fraternity or sorority, class, or group of friends to choose a DOT together and commit to support one another in living up to it. And if you do so, be sure to tell us about it on Facebook, and in a Paper DOT!

“Who else has made a DOT?”

More than a thousand people have already chosen DOTs since the campaign pilot last fall at the Mason School. President Reveley has chosen two DOTs, to print double-sided and to use nondisposable coffee mugs whenever possible. So has Sam Sadler, Michael Halleran, Carl Strikwerda, Ginger Ambler, Kathy Hornsby, Dave Douglas, and many other administrative, faculty, staff, and student leaders. Some of our most prominent alumni have also chosen DOTs, including James Comey (’82), former Deputy Attorney General and now Senior Vice President of Lockeed Martin, who pledged to trade in his SUV for a hybrid in support of DOT.

“Where can I see the DOTs that other people have already chosen?”

You’ll see a few at DOT displays and events around campus, including the Swem Library installation that goes up in February, but you can also see them online on our Facebook site, at You’ll see DOTs that include pledges to bike to work instead of driving; to buy in bulk to avoid packaging material; drink filtered tap instead of bottled water; use more recycled products; print double-sided; properly inflate car tires; reuse shopping bags at the store; compost vegetable waste, etc.

“If I fill out a Paper DOT, where will it go?”

The Paper DOTs we are collecting are destined for an installation artwork that two classes in the Art Department are designing for exhibition in Swem Library. The DOTs collected at the professional schools will become part of on-site satellite installations before eventually becoming part of the overall installation.

“Can I fill out a Paper DOT even if I posted one to Facebook already?”

Absolutely, and we hope you will! Many who visits the Facebook site will never see the installation, and vice versa. There’s no reason not to lend your voice on both levels.

“What’s this about a YouTube contest?”

We are encouraging participants to post short videos (no more than 3 minutes) about their DOTs to YouTube, and to post the links in the appropriate place on our Facebook site. Facebook visitors will be able to link to the videos, and we’ll show the winners at our Earth Day celebration on April 24.

“What’s this about an Earth Day party?”

Details to come, but plan on joining us for a campus-wide celebration of the DOT initiative at our Earth Day event, April 24.

“Who is invited to participate?”

The DOT initiative is a university-wide campaign that reaches out to all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other interested members of the W&M community. We will be at every sector of the university, including the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the Business School, the Education School, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. We will also be reaching out to specialized groups within the greater campus community, including athletics, intramurals, arts, university governance, Greek life, and others. If you want to get involved, please let us know!

“Can all these individual DOTs really make a difference?”

If enough of us participate, we can make a big difference! To understand exactly what kind of difference, we are databasing each of the DOTs that we collect in order to project some quantitative data about our commitments. For example, we hope to be able to project exactly how much energy, water, and paper we are promising to save each year; how much pollution, wasted money, and toxic materials we won’t be putting out; and how much healthier we may end up as individuals and as a community as a result of our collective promises.

“But how will we know if people really stick to their promises?”

One way we hope to know is to ask. In the next stage of the project, we’ll be looking for ways to assess commitment and follow through, in order to measure not only the impact promised by our DOTs, but the impacts of our actual performance. In the meanwhile, we encourage people to report back to us about their progress over the Facebook site. What’s gone well? What’s been hard? We expect that some participants may fall off the wagon, but that others will so inspired that they add new DOTs to their list. We won’t know much for certain until we’re able to measure, But we’ve already been hearing back from some of our earliest participants who posted DOTs last fall, and we have some reason for optimism.

“How did DOT begin?”

The “Do One Thing” concept is not new, and the W&M initiative is adapted from a model developed by Saatchi & Saatchi S, an international sustainability consulting firm.  In the fall of 2009, the students of the W&M Net Impact chapter piloted DOT for the first time at the university level at the Mason School of Business.  The success of the Mason pilot, which attracted 1000 participants over Facebook in only a few weeks, inspired the Committee on Sustainability to adopt the concept campus-wide.  W&M thus became the first DOT university, with hopes that others will follow.

“Does DOT end at William & Mary?”

We hope not!  Hopefully, W&M is only the first university to go DOT, and many others will follow.  So far, we’ve received some interest from other universities interested in following the model, but please feel free to use your own contacts to export the idea to others at other schools.  The DOT idea only gets better as more and more participate! 

“Where can I learn more about sustainability at W&M?”

Learn more at the official website for Sustainability at W&M. And get involved! Email Phil Zapfel, the COS Sustainability Fellow, at [[pmzapf]] to learn more about the different ways to become involved in the university sustainability effort.