What is sustainability and what does it mean for the future? When you think about what you love most about your environment, sustainable practices ensure those things still exist in 10, 20, or even 50 years. Now, thankfully, universities across America are giving sustainability very tangible definitions with innovative sustainability efforts to protect our valuable planet.
According to a CBS News Poll, "Fifty-seven percent of Americans think the environment will be worse for the next generation."
In the same poll, answers show that "younger Americans also are more optimistic about the ability of the U.S. to transition to 100% renewable energy in the next 30 years or so. They are more likely than those who are older to think this is a realistic goal."
If you spend enough time reading environmental statistics, Earth's future might seem bleak. Universities and their student bodies have hope that with their green efforts and by spreading awareness, they can improve the environment for the next generation.
Here's what universities are doing to go green and how it's making an impact on the nation's overall sustainability.
What Is Sustainability?
If you ask the dictionary, sustainability is "the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance."
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, "Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations."
In other words, sustainability is doing your part to make the best earth-friendly choices in your life for the sake of maintaining the precious resources we have.
Universities Are Taking Environmental Action
Universities are going above and beyond to prioritize Earth-saving efforts. From creating entire colleges focused on sustainability to creating environmental research centers, the planet's future is a serious concern to educators and students across the country.
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University's campus is surrounded by California mountains, hills, and palm trees. With the environment so near and dear to SCU's heart, the college is a high-ranking university for schools in entrepreneurship and for campus-wide sustainability initiatives.
One of those environmental initiatives is their Climate Action Plan, which focuses on the university's efforts in sustainability education and in the university's carbon footprint.
According to SCU, "The Climate Action Plan has been updated into two parts, with Part 1 outlining strategies to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and educational experience for all students as well as to expand research efforts and community engagement. Part 2 outlines SCU's carbon neutrality operational strategy."
The fact that climate neutrality is part of all student curriculum and isn't just required for environment-related majors, speaks volumes on how important Earth-saving efforts are to SCU faculty, staff, and students.
While universities like SCU are making a campus-wide climate action plan, Boston College has its eyes set on global action.
According to Boston College, the school "has established the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health to track efforts to control pollution and prevent pollution-related diseases that account for an estimated 9 million deaths worldwide each year, the University has announced."
The Observatory is also planning to "explore convening a biennial global conference to bring together U.N. agencies, governments, and individuals to focus on pollution control strategies and disease prevention."
Thanks to Boston College, the Observatory will allow government agencies from around the globe to assemble and discuss pollution control and how they can work together to decrease its devastation.
The University of California at Los Angeles is a major contributor to water conservation efforts in the state, which is frequently plagued by severe droughts. The university has established a program dedicated to water conservation and reclamation.
According to UCLA, its"water reclamation program saves 28 million gallons every year by capturing stormwater, water used in laboratories, and reclaimed water from air conditioners and from sterilization and other equipment in 22 buildings across campus."
The program made such an impact that it was named Efficiency Project of the Year in 2017 by the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge at the annual Innovation Awards ceremony. This golden state school is pursuing golden initiatives in sustainability and spreading the word.
What is sustainability to you and what is your alma mater doing to make an environmental impact? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.