How to Develop Strategies to Create College Campus Sustainability

Renewable electricity. Fair trade. Racism. Gender discrimination. Composting.

As more colleges and universities are increasing their commitment to sustainability, higher industry professionals are looking to develop and implement innovative practices on campus.

In June, UVM will offer the Campus Sustainability Leadership Professional Certificate, a five-day program where participants can find strategies for achieving sustainability goals on campus.

Campus Sustainability at UVM

UVM, which ranked number three in the 2018 Top 50 Green School survey by the Princeton Review, is a national leader in campus sustainability.

After expanding its recycling efforts in the early 2000s, UVM introduced composting to the campus in 2009 and banned the sale of plastic water bottles in 2013. Two years later, the University introduced a sustainability course requirement for all undergraduates.

The University has also taken steps in recent years to address social issues. UVM created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the University offers gender inclusive restrooms and housing. UVM gives students the opportunity to select their own identity and choose a pronoun for themselves.

Tatiana Abatemarco, PhD, teaches in the UVM Environmental Studies program and is a lead faculty member in the Campus Sustainability certificate program. She says this year’s program will go beyond the environmental focus of sustainability to also highlight social sustainability.

“Sustainability encompasses economic, environmental, and social issues,” Abatemarco says.“But the social piece has been downplayed in the sustainable community, and the University is trying to tackle that. Racism, classicism, gender discrimination are topics we’re going to build on this year.”

Creating College Campus Sustainability

Participants in the program will spend time on the UVM campus and also explore other locations during field trips to Champlain College, a small private college, as well as Shelburne Farms, a working farm and leader in sustainable education.

“Our program offers a compact experience and brings participants to a campus that has been working on these issues for decades,” Abatemarco says. “The program creates a lot of networking opportunities. Students network with each other and have exposure to people in the physical plant, as well as to educators and people from outside UVM. At the end of the week, people leave with big tool box, including many connections.”

Thomas Kovacs, a professor of meteorology at Eastern Michigan University, attended the Campus Sustainability Leadership Professional Certificate in 2018. He found the networking aspect to be one of the most rewarding parts of the program.

“Networking with other students and getting exposure to others to learn how they got started and how they received funding was very valuable,” says Kovacs, chair of the President’s Commission on Sustainability at Eastern Michigan University.

In the UVM program, participants will:

  • Develop a plan to address a specific sustainability issue on campus using Design Thinking principles
  • Explore funding options for clean energy projects on campus and socially responsible investing in higher education
  • Learn about specific design and planning issues for sustainable building practices
  • Exchange ideas with other sustainability professionals from across the country
  • Discuss partnership opportunities and leveraging community organizations
  • Develop skills as a systems thinker and learn new approaches for applying systems thinking to problems
  • Participate in site visits, lectures and panel discussions

Abatemarco says UVM is an ideal place to offer such a program as the University has set a positive example using sustainable practices. For example, 100 percent of undergraduates are required to take courses in sustainability, 100 percent certified renewable electricity is purchased for campus, and 13 campus buildings have attained LEED certification.

“My hope is that participants in the program will hone in on a specific goal to take back to their individual campus,” she says. “Most of all, I want them to answer the question, ‘What fits in with my line of work and what am I excited about?’”

Register today for the Campus Sustainability Leadership Professional Certificate