August 22, 2022
Over the last year, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has been developing a Sustainability Plan to articulate the university’s vision for a healthy, equitable and sustainable future. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, has been partnering in this effort and also prioritizing further development of its own practices.
On June 6, Elizabeth Egan — formerly the Lab’s environmental manager — was named the first full-time sustainability manager in the Lab’s Business, Construction and Facilities Department. She will play a critical role in refining and implementing the JHU Sustainability Plan at APL, and contributing to various working groups and committees as the Lab’s representative.
Egan will also lead APL’s strategy to establish an official sustainability program, developing the network for APL staff member engagement and identifying metrics for measuring the effectiveness of the program. She is the first such manager to be named among the 10 JHU divisions, aside from the Homewood campus.
Set for release in spring 2023, the Sustainability Plan will leverage the knowledge and ambition of the Johns Hopkins community to respond to the global climate crisis and address the need to develop goals and actions that will advance sustainability in the university’s teaching, research and operations. It is being designed with all of JHU’s academic and research divisions in mind. A draft of the plan will be shared widely in the fall as part of an open comment period.
“I will be there to advocate for programs within the plan that will have a direct impact on waste reduction, emissions reductions and other environmental sustainability efforts at the Lab,” Egan said. “The new role will have a direct link to implementing the plan on the APL campus.”
As APL’s environmental manager, Egan ensured that the Laboratory complied with state, federal and local environmental laws. In her new role, she is involved in setting a strategy to ensure not only compliance, but also that the Lab continues to move toward an exciting future in sustainability.
“Environmental sustainability is defined as meeting current needs without compromising the needs of future generations through the management and conservation of natural resources,” Egan said. “I’m excited to lead APL on a strategic path toward this vision and collaborating with the JHU community to bring it to life.”
Egan’s dedication to sustainability — environmental, societal and economic — has been lifelong. Her mother spearheaded the recycling program in Anne Arundel County in the 1990s, and Egan fondly recalls school trips where she traveled to the Chesapeake Bay and learned the importance of protecting it for a healthy ecosystem.
She has since earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Bucknell University, a master’s in environmental policy and science from Johns Hopkins, and a master’s in business from Villanova University.
Prior to her work at APL, Egan worked for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where she first learned how sustainability programs can be successfully implemented across a multinational company operating in 150 different countries. While working at GSK, she created a risk assessment tool for the global water stewardship standard that provided a framework for climate adaptation for all GSK facilities.
Egan said she has found success in driving large-scale programs and delivering results by meeting people where they are and building relationships. “It’s critical to physically visit and spend time with people,” she said. “It allows me to build relationships, understand their jobs and speak their language. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything.”
That ability to communicate was integral in her selection as APL’s first sustainability manager.
“This is a unique role in that it has many touch points. Liz will interact with sectors and departments across APL, broadly influencing the Lab’s progress toward becoming more environmentally sustainable,” said Tony Breeze, who oversees facilities maintenance and operations at the Lab. “I’m confident Liz will serve APL well because of her specialized experience, natural leadership and ability to communicate and collaborate with wide audiences.”
Egan is excited for APL’s future and looks forward to collaborating with staff members who work across APL’s facilities, support groups and research departments. Various APL staff members sit on individual working groups that have helped, alongside Egan, to develop the Sustainability Plan.
She said she is most looking forward to making environmental sustainability data accessible to everyone at the Lab. Her hope is that by clearly communicating the data, as well as the hurdles that extend beyond the Lab’s purview — including disruptions in recycling supply chains — the Lab can set correct expectations for its sustainability goals.
“I’m excited to harness the collective energy of the many APLers who are passionate about making the Lab more sustainable,” Egan said. “I think once correct expectations are set, we can really push APL forward in the right directions and deliver on our goals.”
Media contact: Amanda Zrebiec, 240-592-2794, Amanda.Zrebiec@jhuapl.edu
The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.