Sustainability Council Charge
Background, Purpose, and Membership
As a reflection of The Evergreen State College’s commitment to a sustainable future, Evergreen’s vice presidents charged the college’s Sustainability Council in 2008 to coordinate, facilitate, and provide necessary support to the Evergreen community as the college strives to:
1) Meet the goals and targets specified in Evergreen’s institutional commitments to sustainability, especially the goals of carbon neutrality and zero waste, and
2) Achieve the college’s vision for a sustainable future.
The council’s work includes fostering connections between academic programs and college operations to enhance student learning and experience through whole systems thinking and interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability principles. The council recognizes the diversity and organic nature of our interdisciplinary institution, and strives to convene and empower groups already working on sustainability, as well as to bring new collaborative efforts into focus as needed. Throughout its work, the council embraces the principles of equity and justice as a lens for decision-making and implementation.
Council membership, as appointed by the vice presidents, includes representatives from the student body, faculty, each of the four divisions of the college and the President’s Office. The 2012-13 Sustainability Council Members were:
- Scott Morgan – Chair and Director of Sustainability
- David McAvity – Academic Budget Dean
- Todd Sprague – Director of Marketing, Communications, and College Relations
- Paul Smith – Director of Facilities
- Sharon Goodman – Director of Residential and Dining Services
- Steve Trotter – Executive Director of Operational Planning and Budget
- Larry Geri – Faculty Member
- David Shaw – Faculty Member
- Wang Wenhong - Faculty Member
- Grace Bradford – Student Representative
The council also welcomes and encourages wider participation from students, faculty and staff beyond the core members.
The Sustainability Council began with the goal, in years 2008-10, of focusing on engaging the entire campus in the following areas:
- Alternative Transportation
- Clean Energy Systems
- Communications and Fundraising
- Sustainable Food Practices
- Waste Reduction
The Council charge was updated in the fall of 2011.
Context and Rationale for the Charge
The college’s goals of attaining carbon neutrality and zero waste by 2020 still loom large on the horizon, with only a few years remaining. A large amount of planning and implementation remains to be completed for both goals to be attained. Based on recent experience with the exploration of biomass energy, it appears that the most significant mitigation action in the climate action plan (replacement of fossil fuel for campus heating) remains uncertain, so we must reconsider what other effective action(s) could be taken. Also, a comprehensive zero waste plan has yet to be developed for the college.
At the same time, external economic pressures have placed great burdens on all members of our community, particularly students. Anxiety about economic uncertainties is eclipsing innovative ideas for sustainable operations with calls for extreme austerities that would negatively impact the college’s fundamental educational mission. During such uncertain times, it is critical to have leadership with the vision and confidence to acknowledge the uncertainties yet still aim for positive solutions. Student leadership in sustainability has been sporadic over the past years. Individual students have occasionally stepped up to offer leadership, yet without supportive infrastructure and financial incentives they have been unable to maintain the energy, momentum and commitment necessary to make a lasting impact.
Charge and Purpose
For the 2011-12 academic year, the Sustainability Council shall retain its focus on the planning and actions necessary to reach the college’s goals of Carbon Neutrality and Zero Waste. We also request that the Council work with Academics and Student Activities to initiate and assist in the development of a student-centered sustainability leadership structure on campus. The Council should provide the vice-Presidents with quarterly progress updates.
Functions and Tasks
1) The Council should engage the campus community in a review of progress on Evergreen’s climate action plan, re-evaluate the remaining implementation actions, and adjust the plan where necessary to fit current conditions.
- By January 2012: Prepare a progress report on implementation to date and deliver the completed Biomass feasibility study report
- By April 2012: Re-formulate a strategy to specifically mitigate and/or offset natural gas emissions
- By September 2012: Provide an updated climate action plan
2) The Council should engage the campus community to improve upon existing waste diversion activity on campus, with due consideration for social and environmental justice issues. The scope of work includes developing a definition of zero waste and drafting a strategic plan, including milestones, to reach Evergreen’s zero waste goal.
- By January 2012: Lead and support ad-hoc work to develop clear recommendations to improve waste signage, collection infrastructure, and training across campus
- By April 2012: Establish campus engagement processes to develop a definition of zero waste
- By November 2012: Provide a draft of strategic milestones to reach zero waste
3) The Council should encourage, support, and assist with the development of student-centered leadership with the capacity to enhance campus-wide communications, coordinate student engagement with campus sustainability, environmental and social justice projects and achieve a greater degree of continuity of student involvement and project momentum from year to year to complement the on-going work of staff.
- By January 2012: Engage with students, faculty and the Student Activities staff to define existing student interests and passions and best models for student leadership in sustainability
- By April 2012: Provide opportunities for campus engagement
- By October 2012: Provide a plan for future support of student leadership and engagement with sustainability
Looking Beyond 2012
The Sustainability Council was envisioned as a support structure to provide coordination and guidance on sustainability projects dispersed throughout the campus as well as those integral to institutional practices. These early years have been consumed by discrete tasks and projects critical to the college’s early goals. For the long-term, however, the Council should be focusing upon shifting their role from project-specific implementation to coordination, guidance and support. The Council’s vision for the long-term should include:
- Maintaining campus awareness and engagement with a long-term sustainability vision
- Developing change strategies to align sustainability practices with normal institutional processes, so that sustainability becomes a part of daily work rather than separate or additional work and expense
- Integrating sustainability projects and practices into standard operating procedures
- Providing guidance and assistance with process and infrastructure adaptations necessary to institutionalize long-term social, environmental and economic sustainability