College Planning & Management

APR 2013

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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The Green Issue Campus Sustainability An Easy Sell Solid value proposition feeds campus sustainability even in economic downturn. By Dave Newport, LEED-A P W ARNING, AS AN UNABASHED campus sustainability salesman, you should be cautious of my pitch. After all, higher education faces all sorts of challenges and this sustainability thing I want you to buy is an additional cost, right? Well, just as the quality of the food you buy has a lousy ROI except for the health and growth of your family, sustainability is feeding smart campuses even in tough economic times. Even at the height of the Great Recession, we saw studies and surveys declaring that large numbers of prospective freshman make buying decisions to attend a specific campus due, in part, to their sense of that school's sustainability acumen. Princeton Review surveyed that question for the last five years or so and found upwards of 60 percent of students and their parents included sustainability somewhere in their campus-shopping calculus. Other scholarly research and at least one major corporate study I have seen reports 40 to 60 percent of student shoppers look for green campus brands when contemplating where to invest their college funds. Despite these apparently bullish data points, even my sustainability sales-driven soul was hoping it was all really true. Then last summer we polled our incoming freshman with similar questions and found over 41 percent of them chose our campus, in part, based on their view of our sustainability shine. Affirmed. The decision to embrace sustainability front and center as a campus value — replete with a navigation button on the front page of our campus website — was rewarded. Likewise, despite a down economy, other smart campuses are 16 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / APRIL 2013 still investing in sustainability. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE, reports discretionary sustainability budgets are up over the last five years and growth in new campus sustainability staff remains strong, particularly since 2008. At the same time, sustainability functions are beginning to seep into job duties across the campus org chart — not just in the sustainability office. From executive level to front line staff, more personnel are adding sustainability outcomes to activities ranging from purchasing to grounds to teaching to residence life to facilities to dining to outreach to research and even athletics. In the corporate world, data show sustainability functions are being similarly distributed across organizational units but are trending away from discrete sustainability offices and budgets. Higher education's more silo-oriented structure still requires the coordination and leadership sustainability offices bring, so nearly 80 percent of campuses in a recent AASHE survey of sustainability staff reported they have units solely assigned to this beat. So, why have smart campuses found sustainability such an attractive value proposition? In short, because our customers are demanding sustainability, because it saves money, and because higher education's ethical license to operate is at risk if we don't respond to a society beset with myriad unsustainable ailments. As a result, there are more courses, majors, schools, colleges, and certificates in sustainability than ever. AASHE found 1,335 sustainability-focused academic programs at 450 campuses spread WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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