In order to advance sustainability on a college campus, most, if not all, areas of the institution must begin to think about and integrate sustainability into their practices and decision-making. Hence a comprehensive strategic plan for sustainability must include participation and input from operations, academic affairs, student affairs, and more, and the plan must be framed by a working definition of sustainability. The Sustainable Skidmore office has been working to better define what it means to be sustainable as campus community, and one common definition that helps to further clarify the concept can be found via Second Nature, a non-profit that works on sustainability in higher education. Other shorter phrases that help capture the various pieces of sustainability include the “Three E’s” (equity, economy, ecology) or the “triple-bottom line” approach in business management that asks those making decisions to consider not only economics and profit, but also social justice and the environment.
Much of the fuel for the development of a strategic plan is growing support and interest for sustainability on campus. This can be demonstrated in many ways, including campus projects, the addition or revision of academic courses, the continued work of the student Environmental Action Club, our growing Environmental Studies Program, the formation of or reconstitution of groups including the Student Government Association Sustainability Committee and the Campus Sustainability Subcommittee (CSS), the addition of two employees to the Sustainable Skidmore office, and the creation of a position in 2012 in the Dean of Faculty’s office entitled the Associated Dean for Infrastructure, Civic Engagement & Sustainability, which is currently held by Karen Kellogg. The Student Government Association Sustainability Committee was an idea brought forward by Talia Arnow ’13 in 2011, in order to create a formal channel for student voices and recommendations for sustainability within student government. The committee, now known as SuCo, has been formally created and approved on the list of committees within SGA. The Campus Sustainability Subcommittee, or CSS, is a subcommittee of the Institutional Planning & Policy Committee (IPPC), the highest policy-making committee at the college. This subcommittee was formerly known as the Campus Environment Committee, but now has an expanded list of members, including faculty, staff, and students, and its primary charge is to work on sustainability strategic planning.
Our work on the strategic plan is beginning in earnest this spring, and members of the CSS, in partnership with various groups on campus, are working to design a sustainability strategic planning process, which, following approval, will enable us to move forward in developing a strategic plan to enhance sustainability at Skidmore. Our strategic plan for sustainability will ultimately guide many decisions we make as a College, reduce our impact as a campus, and enhance our sense of community.