Sustainability News

Ashley Thorne

NAS has tracked and unpacked the sustainability movement for several years now; we take an interest in it as a rising campus ideology. We’ve found that sustainability sells eco-responsibility but delivers big government, economic redistribution, and loss of individual freedoms. Its advocates seek to use higher education as the main conduit for instilling the “sustainable” mindset, and to weave sustainability into every course. We at NAS honor the importance of protecting the natural environment, but we see causes for concern with the sustainability movement, not least of which is that it aims to appropriate the mission of higher education.  

Part of our attention to the manifestations of the sustainability movement on campus is devoted to daily news stories that help illustrate the scope and influence of this growing ideology. This edition of sustainability news includes articles on campus culture, curriculum, sustainability pledges, and funding, and it concludes with several critical perspectives.

Some themes here are an effort to change students’ everyday habits bit by bit, and an amazing availability of funds—at a time when most universities are tightening their belts—for sustainability projects.

Campus Culture

  1. WVU Promotes Sustainability, West Virginia Media
    The hosts of Sustainable Awareness Week hope to “make an effect in [students’] day, change their habits, just one simple thing one at a time.”
  2. Campus Sustainability: A Call to Action, Canada Views
    “It is important for all of us who have the privilege of coming to campus every day to take ownership of sustainability; to make it a personal responsibility and a part of our collective philosophy,” said John Sinclair, chair of the U of M’s Sustainability Committee.
  3. Campus Kicks Off Sustainability Competition, The Suffolk Journal
    630 colleges are competing in this year’s Recycle Mania. [It would be interesting to know whether students consume more plastic-packaged products than they otherwise would in order to recycle more for this competition.]
  4. Advice for Banning Bottled Water on Campus? AASHE Student Diary Series
    A student at St. Lawrence University who is president of the university's Environmental Action Organization writes about her frustration at being unable to successfully ban bottled water on her campus.
  5. Students Discuss Sustainability Practices at Summit, The Independent Florida Alligator
    Students from seven universities gathered for the first Florida Student Sustainability Summit  



  1. General Education Requirements Go Green, SF State News
    San Francisco State University has added a sustainability requirement to undergraduate general education requirements. “SF State is among the first in the country to include a sustainability requirement in its general education requirements.” “The new requirement mirrors the University's commitment to social justice.”
  2. OU Establishing Institute to Study Water, Sustainability, Norman Transcript
    “The Corix Institute seeks to bring together experts from many disciplines to understand the complexity of this precious natural resource and to provide research and data for leaders to make informed decisions regarding its conservation and use.” This looks like a wholesome approach to studying sustainability.
  3. Antioch University New England Launches Online MBA in Sustainability Degree, Benzinga
    This distance learning program has “sustainability woven throughout the curriculum.” 

Sustainability Pledges

  1. University Introduces New Effort to Help Students Go Green, Student Life
    Washington University offers a sustainability pledge students and faculty can take to commit to take shorter showers and use the power save mode on their computers. [What about a safe sex pledge? How would that go over at Washington U?]
  2. University Should Take Its Own Sustainability Pledge, Student Life
    After a new campus sustainability pledge is released, students editorialize that Washington University should cut its ties to coal companies in order to avoid hypocrisy. 


Follow the Money

  1. IU Office of Sustainability Announces Two Grant Opportunities, IU News Room
    Indiana University offers two programs for faculty who focus on sustainability – one for research development and one for course development.
  2. Student Sustainability Grants Awarded, Harvard Crimson
    This year Harvard gave students 14 grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 for projects such as building a model of a sustainable dorm room.
  3. Sustainable Projects Receive Funding, The Dartmouth
    Two students receive $2,000 dollars to build a root cellar and reduce food waste on campus.
  4. Support Federal Funding for Higher Ed Sustainability Programs, Second Nature
    Jim Elder, director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, calls on individuals to send support letters to Congress on behalf of their states, so that the University Sustainability Program can be funded. 


Critiques and Questions

  1. There’s More Than One Way to Go Green, Utah Statesmen
    A Utah State University student makes arguments for why his peers should vote no on a proposed student sustainability fee.
  2. Sustainability Means Different Things to Different People, AgWired
    A poll of agriculturalists revealed that the word “sustainability” is understood to mean a number of different things, depending on whom you ask. “I think it’s safe to say that sustainability is not understood to mean any one thing and probably within the ag community as well as the general public. For this reason I don’t see how we can expect people to agree on a definition much less use this word to create meaningful legislation.”
  3. Nature-Deficit Disorder, NAS
    A winter course, "Sustainability and Social Justice," at the University of Chicago, will explore "biophilia" and "ecopedagogy."
  4. Teaching Sustainability: Moral Imperatives and Psychotherapy, NAS
    A webinar on sustainability education counsels participants to use manipulative psychotherapeutic techniques to influence people to act sustainably.
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