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."
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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 statement read:
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
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.
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.
subcommittee became known by its Talloires Declaration tenet:
"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."
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.
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
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.
to the Mainstream and Continuing the Momentum
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.
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,
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 the
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.
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