By James Eflin
If colleges and universities are leaders in the
quest for knowledge, why can't they be leaders on the path to
a sustainable future? That isn't just a Quixotean puzzle, but
a question confronting over 4,000 higher education institutions
in the United States (and far more, worldwide). Academic institutions
are regarded - rightly or wrongly - as vanguards for what is possible
and enduring. They are perceived to be on the forefront of what
society can attain. As an institution, the university endures
over a long span of time - if successful, it can be imagined to
last forever. In an earlier edition of The Declaration
(June 1998, p. 11), architect William McDonough was asked how
long sustainability will take. His reply: "It will take forever.
That's the point."
Readers of The Declaration are familiar
with the Talloires Declaration,
the document that originated in Talloires, France, in 1990, and
was conceived by its authors as a manifesto for guiding each signatory
institution toward "becoming a sustainable university." But what
exactly does it mean to be a signatory to this Talloires challenge?
More importantly, how does a university move from signing the
document to implementing and living its intentions?
That is the story that Ball State University sought
to enact through its intentional move from passive signatory to
active participant on the road to sustainability. To understand
the story requires a look at the steps taken through committed
actions at several levels over the course of a decade.
The Greening of a University
Sustainable outcomes require committed acts, often
taken by individuals who see the value of healthy systems that
endure. At Ball State University, a campus of approximately 17,000
students in Muncie, Indiana, it was Provost Warren Vander Hill
who first envisioned a campus that would achieve prominence for
its environmental commitments. In 1991, he established the Green
Committee (hereafter called Green 1) to "raise environmental consciousness
in our student body, foster conviction in students regarding these
issues, and empower them with understandings of how they might
channel their awareness effectively to shape the future." The
outcome of Green 1 included a report with thirty-five recommendations,
twenty of which were implemented over the past decade. Several
concrete actions emerged, including an annual 'green for green'
competition that funded faculty initiatives to seek external grants
for environmental projects, and an annual faculty development
summer workshop to encourage inclusion of environmental literacy
within an interdepartmental mix of courses by faculty from diverse
disciplines. Over the years, these summer workshops have involved
129 faculty from thirty-five departments, representing all seven
colleges at Ball State.
Another outcome of Green 1 was a series of Greening
of the Campus conferences, held in 1996, 1997, and 1999 (with
a fourth planned for September 2001). International recognition
from these conferences, which included regular workshops by such
organizations as Campus Ecology, Second Nature, and University
Leaders for a Sustainable Future, helped promote campus 'greening'
activities at Ball State. An early meeting of the emerging Higher
Education Network for Sustainability and the Environment took
place at the 1999 conference.
Adopting Talloires and Taking It Seriously
Urged by participants in campus greening efforts,
then university president John Worthen signed the Talloires
Declaration in April 1999. After nearly a year, rather than
let it simply adorn a framed plaque somewhere on campus, a committed
group of faculty approached Provost Vander Hill with a proposal
to re-constitute the Green Committee and charge it with implementing
the commitments within the Declaration. The faculty group argued
that a university's sustainable practices and the overall goals
of promoting campus 'greening' activities needed an organizing
principle, and that such a principle is effectively contained
in the ten tenets of the Talloires
Declaration. Yet, adopting a principle alone will not ensure
that its goals are ultimately implemented. This requires teamwork,
coordination and resources. Vander Hill agreed, and charged a
small Planning Committee to develop the mission and structure
for what he dubbed 'Green 2.'
Over a long summer of planning, a mission emerged
that resulted in the appointment of the Green Committee 2, a ninety-four
member working task force. Seeking to capitalize on a change of
administration with the hiring of a new university president and
take the spirit of a sustainable community to heart, the mission
[As] Ball State University embarks on
a new era under the leadership of President Blaine Brownell, an
ambitious five-year planning effort is beginning. The principal
goal of Green Committee 2 is to implement the far-reaching objectives
of the Talloires Declaration, signed by President John Worthen
in 1999, committing Ball State University to move toward becoming
a sustainable university.
The membership of Green Committee 2 will include faculty and students
from all academic colleges, professional staff from facilities
planning, selected administrators, and members of the Muncie Community.
The committee will organize into 9 subcommittees. Each subcommittee
will take as its charge the examination and development of recommendations
for the continued management and/or implementation of one of the
Talloires tenets. A final report will be produced before the close
of the academic year.
Green Committee 2 (referred to hereafter as 'Green
2') organized itself according to the framework set forth in the
Talloires Declaration. The
first nine tenets suggest nine separate tasks, and a subcommittee
was organized around each. Using the language or intent of each
tenet, a straightforward subcommittee name was created; a tenth
subcommittee emerged as the Steering Committee with its membership
composed of the chairs of the nine subcommittees, plus the members
of the Planning Committee who created the structure of Green 2
during summer 2000.
Each subcommittee became known by its Talloires
"Use every opportunity to raise public, government, industry,
foundation, and university awareness by openly addressing the
urgent need to move toward an environmentally sustainable future."
"Encourage all universities to engage in education, research,
policy formation, and information exchange on population, environment,
and development to move toward global sustainability."
"Establish programs to produce expertise in environmental management,
sustainable economic development, population, and related fields
to ensure that all university graduates are environmentally
literate, and have the awareness and understanding to be ecologically
"Create programs to develop the capability of university faculty
to teach environmental literacy to all undergraduate, graduate
and professional students."
"Set an example of environmental responsibility by establishing
institutional ecology policies and practices of resource conservation,
recycling, waste reduction, and environmentally sound operations."
"Encourage involvement of government, foundations, and industry
in supporting interdisciplinary research, education, policy
formation, and information exchange in environmentally sustainable
development. Expand work with community and nongovernmental
organizations to assist in finding solutions to environmental
"Convene university faculty and administrators with environmental
practitioners to develop curricula, research initiatives, operations
systems, and outreach activities that support an environmentally
"Establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools to
help develop the capacity for interdisciplinary teaching about
population, environment, and sustainable development."
"Work with national and international organizations to promote
a worldwide university effort toward a sustainable future."
"Establish a Secretariat and a steering committee to continue
this momentum, and inform and support each other's efforts in
carrying out this declaration."
A university's president and its provost are positioned
to promote the agendas that steer a campus. In the case of Ball
State University, twin agendas appeared during academic year 2000-2001.
At the beginning of the academic year, the new president announced
the creation of a Strategic Planning Commission that began meeting
to develop a 5-year strategic plan. Simultaneously, the provost
announced the creation of Green 2. It met for the first time in
a gala 'kick-off' meeting on September 28, 2000. At that time,
the nine subcommittees met for the first time and began a series
of regular meetings in efforts to develop a set of objectives
and action items that would become the priorities for campus sustainability
efforts. Each month, the Steering Committee met to bring to the
table the issues that were emerging in the subcommittees, and
refine the tenet that was being addressed.
Coordinating the efforts of ninety-four people
is no small task. While some subcommittees had better cohesion
and sense of purpose than others, all engaged in highly spirited
exchanges of ideas and crafting of language for the ultimate product.
As conceived by the Planning Committee, that product was to constitute
three parts: 1) a set of clearly stated, measurable objectives
for achieving the tenets of the Talloires
Declaration; 2) a set of well-articulated action items by
which each objective could be attained; and 3) a matrix which
linked these objectives and action items with timeframes for implementation
and sets of resources either available or necessary for their
adoption. To enable the subcommittees to make quick progress,
the Planning Committee assembled a work binder for each member
of Green 2 containing a variety of reference materials including
a copy of the signed Talloires Declaration (suitable for framing)
and a suggested interpretation of each of its ten tenets.
A strict schedule was adopted, and a little over
three months after its inception, Green 2 convened a Saturday
morning workshop/retreat to review the nine working matrices that
were to become the ongoing 'living document' that is guiding sustainability
efforts today. At that January retreat, 184 separate action items
were reviewed and then grouped into eight categories of actions
or outcomes. Each of the 184 items was assessed on its potential
for implementation. After careful deliberations, these were prioritized
into ten major action items (see inset), which will begin to be
addressed in the summer months of 2001. Subcommittee members worked
together in teams of two or three persons to champion the top
ten action items by developing a 'tear sheet' for each one. The
'tear sheets' provided a rationale for the action, describing
why it is of high priority for the university; they also provided
reference information and suggested guidelines for seeking funding
to begin to implement the intended objectives.
Moving to the Mainstream and Continuing the
Since its inception, Green 2 was seen as having
the responsibility of implementing the Talloires
Declaration. Yet the real task of implementation remains a
huge endeavor. It will require creativity, persistence and dedication
of resources over time. Although the involvement of human resources
in Green 2 may be assessed in various ways, a conservative estimate
suggests the following: over 100 meetings of the various committees,
plus support staff time (for clerical, webpage development, and
other administrative supervision), probably utilized 2000 person-hours.
Knowing that the momentum of more than ninety
individuals cannot be sustained forever, Provost Vander Hill and
the Planning Committee drew Green 2 to a close with a celebration
of efforts at one final gala event on March 26, 2001. At this
event, Green 2 submitted a Final Report to Vander Hill, which
contained inputs from each of the subcommittees and included recommendations
for future actions. At that meeting, Vander Hill announced three
initiatives to continue the momentum and move the greening effort
from being merely a concept to becoming a mainstream agenda for
the university: 1- summer funding was made available to support
faculty or staff to develop proposals seeking external funding
for any of the 184 action items (with priority given to the top
ten items previously identified); 2- two staff positions were
created to provide continuity and support for the greening efforts;
one position will coordinate implementation of sustainability
efforts campus-wide while the other will provide support for external
funding proposals via the Office of Academic Research and Sponsored
Programs; and 3- a new Council on the Environment (COTE) was created,
to be a permanent university council that will serve as "a clearinghouse
for sustainability initiatives, campus-wide."
Where will the story of Green 2 end, and how long
will "becoming a sustainable university" take? We hope, in the
words of William McDonough, that "it will take forever. That's
Audits (3 of them: one of campus environment,
another of faculty expertise, and a third of needs of
K-12 schools across the state of Indiana)
Campus Bikeway System
Promoting the Clustered Minors (in
Environmentally Sustainable Practices)
Developing an Environmental Education
Resource Center (in the meantime, a separate effort
on campus has resulted in the creation of a Field Station
and Environmental Education Center, or FSEEC)
Green Issues Awareness (or, green
facts that would be distributed via various media
on and off campus)
Retrofit or Reconfiguration of the
Central (District) Heating Plant
Adopting Hybrid Electric (or other
energy-efficient) vehicles for the campus motor pool
Campus-wide Recycling Program (one
has existed, but is not effectively run nor fully integrated
with all campus operations)
Sustainability Trunk Show (to spread
the word to larger publics outside the University community)
- Incorporation of Sustainability within
the University Core Curriculum (or, general education
program that is required by all students)
For more information about Green 2, visit www.bsu.edu/g2.
James Eflin is Associate Professor in the Department
of Natural Resources and Environmental Management and the Energy
Education Scholar in the Center for Energy Research/Education/Service,
both at Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306.