By Van Du, Advancing Green Building Intern, Second Nature
Second Nature’s Advancing Green Building in Higher Education team participated this month in the third and final UNCF Building Green Learning Institute. Hosted in San Antonio, Texas, from June 10-12, 2010, the institute once again brought together faculty, staff, and students from colleges and universities across the country to continue the discussion on sustainability efforts in higher education.
As with the previous institutes, this was a great forum for colleges and universities to learn from one another about the different sustainability and building green initiatives that each school is implementing. In addition to showcasing schools and their ‘greening’ efforts, conversations and remarks at the institute underscored the importance of dedicating time and effort to this journey. Many schools began by making a commitment to change. For example, Elizabeth City State University just recently became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment—the first UNCF Building Green Learning Institute participant school to do so. However, it was clear that the real challenge for many schools is the transformation from commitment to action.
After three days of presentations and panel discussions, I noticed that the conversations among panelists and attendees at the end of the events shifted from “Why we should think and build green” to “Let’s look at the different ways we can achieve sustainable development on our campuses.” The tone throughout the event also evolved from realizing the need to move forward in creating a sustainability capacity at each institution, to acknowledging the influence that education can have on the next generation: Sustainability education can be pivotal for changing habits and behaviors.
Additionally, I was delighted to see the acknowledgement of many students and the great work they’ve achieved on college campuses as well as in their local communities. During one session, a few students presented projects that they have been working on, ranging from carbon emission assessment to sustainability education and climate change advocacy. The conversations at the institute ultimately emphasized the idea that the journey to achieving a green campus requires commitment and ongoing efforts not only from the leaders of an institution but its community members as well.