Around North Lake College, Brandon Morton is known for his relentless energy and determination, all directed towards a cleaner environment and a more sustainable campus. As the college’s sustainability coordinator, Morton devises and implements strategies to shrink North Lake’s carbon footprint and make the college a model green citizen of the local community.
His efforts have been noticed elsewhere, too. This spring, Morton was elected president of the Sustainability Management Association. The SMA is a global trade association; their mission, Morton says, “is to train professionals in the field of sustainability.” He adds, “Our primary members are from industry, government, and higher education,” and members include experts in air quality, waste management, and renewable energy.
Morton joined the SMA only a year ago, and was quickly invited to serve on the board of directors. He ran for the presidency unopposed. The agenda for his term, he says, is mostly about “growing our membership” worldwide and “providing a network for education” so that members can continue learning new skills.
Fire ants and frontier attitudes
A passion for the environment has driven Morton since an early age. “My parents were a very big influence,” he explains. He was born in the Netherlands, his mother’s home country, and says “the Dutch are a very modern, sustainable culture.” (On a recent trip to Amsterdam, he “geeked out” and took photos of interesting recycle bins.)
Morton inherited his love of the outdoors and “frontier attitude” from his American father, who resettled the family in Tucson, Arizona, where young Brandon grew up hiking in the mountains.
Morton always wanted to study science, but he wasn’t sure what direction to take his career until an epiphany in a lab at UNT Denton. The lab studied benthic ecology, or the ecosystems of riverbeds and creekbeds. Morton explains, “We were testing the effects of fire ant killer.” During the test, he realized that, more than identifying “a new species of bug” or looking at the structure of plants, “studying environmental science can improve public health.”
That was the turning point in a path which led Morton to his current role at NLC, and he is not about to stop building his credentials. He recently became a Sustainability Management Certified Professional. This fall, he starts graduate school, pursuing a sustainability graduate certificate and master’s degree at Stephen F. Austin State University.
A constant focus
As Morton’s day-to-day attention leaps from one project to another—promoting biking on campus, getting recyclable plates at catered college events, planning for carbon neutrality—his primary goal never wavers. At North Lake, he works for a healthier and more sustainable community, and as president of the SMA, he leads an education network to help other leaders do the same. As Morton sums up his calling: “It comes down to neighborhoods and community, and how we can change our impact on the environment.”