Yellow and blue goes green with sustainability

Matthew James

Matthew James

What does it mean to be “green?” The most widely accepted definition emerged in 1987, when The World Commission on Environment and Development stated that sustainability means, “?to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So what does it all mean for higher education and life here on campus in Brookings? The writing “Implementing Sustainable Development at University Level: A Manual of Good Practice” contends that post-secondary institutions are well suited to take on leadership responsibilities for society’s environmental protection. Higher education has the unique academic freedom and the sheer exposure to critical thinking to comment on society and its challenges as well as to engage in bold experimentation in environmental sustainability. In addition, the “National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Environment 2008: A National Report Card on Sustainability in Higher Education” states, “Few, if any, sectors of American society are better positioned than U.S. higher education – and perhaps none face the moral imperative – to lead on issues of environmental performance and sustainability.”

With that said, SDSU is engaged in such environmental leadership. Did you know that we have our own straw bale building with a green roof at McCrory Gardens? Did you know that since this fall, Jacks’ Dining is styrofoam free and also hosted its first ever zero waste event? Did you know the SDSU bookstore no longer uses disposable graduation gowns? Did you know that this fall, students joined a dorm-wide competition to see who could save the most energy during Efficiency Week? Did you know that this spring, SDSU, for the third time, will co-host PlainGreen 2010, a conference dedicated to education and advocacy for sustainability in all its forms throughout the upper Midwest?

Did you know that SDSU, in a joint effort by President Chicoine and the faculty senate, has organized the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Committee (ESSC)? This administrative/senatorial committee has appointed faculty, staff and students as members and will provide leadership on sustainability issues here on campus. This is the charter year for the ESSC, and the committee is developing an action plan and establishing initiatives in its first year to lay the foundation for years to come. One of the committee’s initiatives is to address and improve communication throughout campus regarding sustainability goals and progress. We hope that this recurring editorial does just that. In summation, Project Sustainability is the movement here on campus, the ESSC will provide leadership and the entire campus community will work to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future Jackrabbits to meet their own needs. Our committee looks forward to communicating the collective effort.

Matthew James is assistant professor of landscape architecture at SDSU and chair of the Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Committee.