The big green bus has arrived (there really is a big green bus, but I’m speaking metaphorically). If you haven’t gotten on that bus, you may find yourself left behind by the rest of your organization.
The development of sustainable initiatives and programs in business are not only driving that big green bus, they are becoming a driver of business decisions on all levels. Sustainability is becoming a key indicator in business. Maybe I should restate that thought, sustainability isn’t becoming a key indicator it has become a key indicator.
Although this applies to all business in both the private and public sector, it is in the public sector where the development of sustainability programs is really taking a priority. I would venture that the higher-education sector is rising above all others in sustainable development; in fact, higher-education is leading the sustainability transformation, advancing sustainability development in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research.
In a Fall 2010 report, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) noted that more than 113 new academic degree programs in sustainability (not counting new certificate programs) have been established; 905 campus buildings are LEED-certified; 547 campuses have reported their greenhouse gas emissions inventories; 330 have submitted climate action plans to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC); and 240 institutions are participating in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
In April, just before Earth Day (and right in the middle of the ACUP conference), The Princeton Review, in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), released the second annual edition of its unique guidebook saluting the nation’s most environmentally responsible "green colleges."
The Princeton Review’s Green Rating evaluates colleges and universities on their environmentally related policies, practices and academic offerings. The result is a numerical score on a scale of 60-99. 703 higher-education institutions were tallied last year. Of those, 308 scored more than 80 points and are featured in the 2011 edition of the guidebook. Special recognition went to 18 schools for their commitment to sustainability. These schools received the highest Green Rating of 99 and a place on The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll.
College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues. In a 2011 Princeton Review survey of 8,200 college applicants, nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) said that having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.
It should come as no surprise that the University of North Texas is one of the 308 highest rated institutions in the 2011 guide. UNT has made a very strong commitment to sustainability in its academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. I have some personal knowledge of just how strong that commitment is, having worked with Jimmy Friend, director of UNT’s Printing and Distribution Solutions department, during his IPSG certification audit.
UNT’s Printing and Distribution Solutions team has been a major partner with UNT’s Office of Sustainability, contributing to the overall campus sustainable goals. They were named UNT’s "Mean Green Department" for the 2011 Earth Week and received an award at the "UNT International Education, Sustainability and Diversity Awards Banquet" in April.
I would have to say that Jimmy and his team are on that big green bus, along with the rest of the UNT campus. And that’s the point here, isn’t it? To survive, an in-plant needs to provide much more than printing. After all, how long have we been saying “We’re not just printers anymore?” The added value that an in-plant can bring to its parent organization can include so much more than what we used to think we had to offer, and being a key partner in the development of sustainable practices and policies is one more benefit we can bring to the table.
I have to ask a couple of questions of the higher-education in-plants out there. Besides UNT there are 307 other institutions listed in the Princeton Review’s “Green Colleges” guidebook. Is your campus one of them? If so how did you contribute to its sustainability program, and were you recognized for your efforts?
So what can you, the in-plant, do to establish yourself as a sustainability partner of your organization? You don’t have to be certified through a sustainability program to bring value (though it would certainly put frosting on the cake). What you should do is create a sustainability practices plan and have a commitment to developing your own sustainable initiatives and goals.
Once you have established those goals, generate tracking reports on your progress and share them with your organization. Get involved with the sustainability department in your organization. I’m willing to bet whether you’re in the higher education, government or corporate segment, your parent organization has a sustainability manager/director or guru of some sort.
The bottom line is, you need to get on that big green bus. It’s good for the institution, and it’s good for your continued success. It demonstrates your value and contribution to the sustainable mission and goals of your institution.
Sustainability is a win/win all around—for the environment, for the community and for the in-plant.