Years–and years–of sustainability

A new article in Inside Higher Ed profiles a growing trend: hosting a themed "year of sustainability" on campus. The story notes, "with multiple campuses, including Davidson College, New Mexico State,
Villanova University and University of Denver having just finished up
their years, the results have been varied, and some question whether
the concept is more than a gimmick."

The schools featured took different approaches, including everything from reducing food waste and increasing recycling to creating new graduate programs or minors that focus on sustainability.

The story goes on to quote NWF's director of campus and community leadership, Julian Keniry, who says, "Sustainability is something that needs to be the purpose of education
across operations and disciplines and sustained over time. The idea of focusing on a one year theme doesn't lend itself to
a [sustainable approach]. But it might be a way to catalyze thinking
that could lead to long term work."

The point almost seems too obvious to make. A "year of sustainability" shouldn't be a discrete event, but rather a kick-off to bolder steps. By definition, sustainability is about the long-term, about making communities and campuses more flexible, more resilient and more useful over time. If treated as a fad, it will fail.

So it's encouraging to see that none of the faculty or staff interviewed for the story thought of their efforts as a one-off. Says Kealy Devoy, Davidson's sustainability fellow, "We haven't achieved 100 percent on most of the goals, but I don't
consider that an issue because we're not going to just stop."