Promoting Sustainability on Campus

Last February, the CIDD presented an online workshop on ERS (ethics,
responsibility, and sustainability). ERS education can help students become more sustainability-minded professionals. ERS education is vital, but to help students think about their environmental impact, universities should also seek ways to act more sustainably. To achieve sustainability, universities can create recycling programs, utilize renewable energy, encourage cycling, build sustainable structures, engage in research on sustainability, and serve sustainable food.

There are many examples of universities throughout the world attempting to become more sustainable. According to the Times Higher Education, the most sustainable university worldwide is the University College Cork. UCC was the first university to win the green flag from the Foundation for Environmental Education. Its green initiative planted 2,500 trees, cut its carbon emissions by 36%, and increased recycling by 700%.

The University of Eastern Finland was also one of the top five universities listed. It is aiming to become a paperless campus. The University of Manchester in England is eliminating all avoidable single-use plastics on campus. The University of Cape Town in South Africa aims to become carbon-neutral by 2030. Its students participate in community projects that promote sustainability.

There are several things that universities should do to promote sustainability. First, make sustainability visible on campus. American University in Washington, DC, has one of the most extensive recycling programs in the USA. The university does not allow plastic bottles and composts all paper towels. It has recycling bins everywhere throughout the campus. It is also important to label everything carefully to make it easy for students to understand what goes in what bin.

Second, make sustainability a part of student life. Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, is implementing the United Nations’ seventeen sustainable development goals. The university purchased energy-efficient equipment and instituted a bicycle-sharing program. Universities also regularly encourage students to use public transportation by giving students subsidized regional transportation tickets.

Third, design a sustainable campus. The School of Art, Design, and Media at Nanyang Technical University in China has a green roof that slopes almost at a 45-degree angle with a vegetable garden, a rain collection system, and ample natural light inside. This year, Stanford University started producing all of its electricity from solar energy from nearby solar panels farms.

Finally, integrate sustainability into education. Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability was the first of its kind in the USA. It offers a range of undergraduate degrees, including a BSc in Sustainability, and a BSc in Sustainable Food Systems. Students study many of ASU’s sustainability programs and help develop programs that enhance sustainability on campus.

Reaching environmental sustainability is the most vital goal of the 21st century, and universities play a pivotal role in promoting sustainability.