Higher Education Webinars

Getting to Green

An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

October 24, 2008 - 11:24pm
I just received my electronic copy of the Rocky Mountain Institute's Solutions newsletter. It contains an article by Cameron Burns about a study of successful campus greening strategies, the results of which will be published next spring (don't you just love the lag time involved in publishing academic studies -- by the time the data gets into print, it's nearly obsolete).
October 22, 2008 - 5:38am
So, when all is said and done, what matters is getting Greenback to a position of sustainability. We need to get out of the habit of taking more (of anything) than we put back. We need to learn how to stop creating wastes we don't resorb. We need to get out of what the cyberneticians call "positive feedback loops" because, after a while, the feedback doesn't seem all that positive. We need to find, and model, and pass on to our students a sense of balance, of equilibrium, of stability.
October 17, 2008 - 6:32pm
First, a word of clarification about the title. "Plotting the course" was a phrase that first popped into my alleged mind in reference to preparing a campus carbon neutrality plan. But then, I realized that such would only lead to confusion. I might think of a carbon neutrality plan as a "course of action", but (somehow) the term "course" brings other images to most minds on campus. So, bowing to the inevitable, lets think of "course" as a unit of curriculum.
October 14, 2008 - 7:39pm
I don't want to say that I have as much contact with students as a typical faculty member, but I suspect that I work with more students over the course of a semester than some faculty members do. And I don't just mean the emeriti who teach one seminar section each summer -- I probably work, in one capacity or another, to educate and enable and coach and facilitate the efforts of something like forty or fifty students each semester.
October 10, 2008 - 4:41pm
Maybe I'm a heretic, but I think a sustainable society/economy/environment can be nicer than the one we've got now. (And I even thought that 2+ weeks ago!) So when I use the word "gospel", I'm not being sardonic. Which is a good thing, because sardonicism doesn't win you a lot of converts, and winning converts is a big part of my job.
October 8, 2008 - 9:31pm
Probably the most commonly recognized task that campus sustainability staff perform is the undertaking of a Greenhouse Gas Inventory. (BTW, when I say "commonly," figure maybe 35-40% recognition.) The term "inventory" is something of a misnomer. If any store inventoried its retail stock as haphazardly as Greenback U inventoried its greenhouse gas emissions, it would likely go out of business. And we did a more complete job than many, many other campuses.
October 6, 2008 - 6:14pm
Sustainability work is a continuum. Some efforts are very physical, others are hands-on in an entirely different way.
October 3, 2008 - 3:07pm
Thanks to Stephen for offering The Natural Step's definition of sustainability. It's a good tool for focusing your (my) thinking, if a bit complex for the classic 10-second constraint. (You know -- someone asks you in an elevator or a check-out line what sustainability is, and you've got 10 seconds before losing their attention.)
October 1, 2008 - 5:49am
One of the joys of doing sustainability work on campus is interacting with students. Now, I've been teaching part-time for a number of years, and I'll be the first to admit that this particular joy enlights my classrooms on only a sporadic basis. In the classroom, the student seems often to be there to get a grade, fulfill a requirement, all the while trying not to actually learn anything. But, in sustainability work, the only students I interact with are the ones who want to be there -- who want to get involved, and learn something, and do something, and change something.
September 28, 2008 - 5:45pm
It you live in the USA or Canada, there's an election going on in your life.I'm not going to tell you what color (oops, I mean "party") to vote for, but I do have an opportunity for you to knock some of the rust off your perhaps disused voting skills before the big day arrives. Also a chance to watch some pretty good environmental videos -- no extra charge.

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