Universities as Models for Sustainability: Georgia Campus Sustainability Network’s Annual Conference

On Friday, September 14, 2012, 108 members of Georgia higher education institutions (faculty, staff, administrators, and students), as well as interested organizations, came together for the “Universities as Models for Sustainability: Georgia Campus Sustainability Network’s Annual Conference.” The conference was held at Georgia State University in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Quint Newcomer talks to participants about University of Georgia’s Costa Rica projects
Started in June of 2010, GCSN is a catalyst for sharing best practices amongst Georgia’s leaders in Campus Sustainability. The network consists of a host of people: from students, to faculty, sustainability coordinators to facilities directors, and even some government agencies and outside businesses. Networking amongst these organizations makes for a growing culture of Campus Sustainabilityin the capital city and in the state as a whole.

The Conference was geared towards kicking off GCSN’s new year and new momentum. The session topics included energy usage amongst campus facilities, curriculum, funding and green fees, and student engagement. In each of these sessions, presentations were made by participants with significant success and experience in these areas. They were able to highlight how they went about executing their projects and how others could do the same. Additionally, there was a presentation from executive board members of the student network, Georgia Youth for Environmental Solutions (GA YES!)

Dennis Kreech, Co-Founder of Southface gives the keynote address at this year’s GCSN conference
Among the attendees, there were 53 students and 14 faculty members, and 29 other administrators and staff members.Additionally, we had a host of people from other organizations wanting to work with schools in order to help them attain their campus sustainability goals. Each of the participants has a passion for improving the environmental efforts on their campuses; whether that is through the physical infrastructure of their buildings, curriculum and education, or student organizing. Additionally, there is obvious interest in finding diverse ways to fund these projects such as small “green fees” implanted in the activity fees paid by each student.

Everyone left the conference with new ideas and contacts on how to drive their sustainable agenda on campus such as GA Yes’s invite to students to be part of their action teams promoting sustainable change across GA’s public institutions and resources to do internal campus energy assessments. The steering committee was especially pleased with the great turn-out of students that attended. That has been a struggle of GCSN; to engage students to the point they are not only inspired to change the carbon footprint of their campus, but also impact public campaigns regarding environmental matters state and nationwide.