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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ILLUSTRATION © BRIAN ISHAM across 62 states and provinces. Sustainability education search-term queries on Google are growing rapidly. AASHE reports sustainability education resources on its giant website are the hottest draw. Students are shopping for sustainability content. On the operations side, green buildings are popping up all over campuses — because they draw students, save operating costs, and are the right thing to do. Zero-waste efforts are on the rise for similar reasons. Local food programs/campus gardens are taking root because students want guilt-free, good food. Renewable energy arrays are going up like billboards advertising sustainability — and because they have solid ROIs. We are also getting better at assessing all these impacts with scorecards like the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). Only three years old, STARS already counts among its many users the best and most prestigious campuses alongside those aspiring to excellence. With an enhanced version of STARS due out this year (v2.0), expect this platform to become the gold standard of campus sustainability assessment. Likewise, many education-related magazines and organizations are using STARS to compile their own rankings of green campuses and touting them in special issues and reports. Going forward, the perceived sustainability performance of a given campus may count more heavily even in comprehensive ranking systems such as US News & World Report — just as it already counts with prospective students. All this is not to ignore sustainability's challenges. As an organizational paradigm, sustainability espouses the interdependency of environmental health, fiscal prudence, and social justice. Yet sustainability has fallen short as an effective social justice tool and has yet to prove its potential as a means to enhance campus diversity performance and community relations. Both these spheres present profound challenges to many campuses and a well-defi ned sustainability program could greatly assist with this work. Yet in just the 20 years or so campus sustainability has been around, it has moved quickly through a maturation process. At first, calls for sustainability were heard from campus grassroots stakeholders such as students, faculty, and some staff. Quickly, campus leaders saw the business case for sustainability-inspired resource conservation activities and started effective energy and water efficiency that saved money. Recently, in response to economic pressures and informed by visionary leadership, sustainability has begun to morph into the campus-wide presence discussed above. As this integration puts down roots, sustainability will become more efficient and its performance as a diversity and community relations tool will evolve. Coordination will improve. Campus staff will become more proficient at embedding sustainability outcomes. New emphasis on sustainability elements such as adaptation to climate change and resilience in a strained environment will emerge. And graduates from many majors will enter the workforce competent in their professions and conversant in sustainability's principles and practices. Corporations are snapping them up already. Happily, this also means you will suffer fewer pitches from sustainability salesmen like me — and I can retire hopeful of sustainability and society's future. CPM Dave Newport, LEED-AP, is director of the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, a member of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and one of three original co-creators of STARS. He may be reached at APRIL 2013 / COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT 17

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