The Day after Earth Day: Let’s Reflect

By Heather Hassel-Finnegan, sustainability expert and Product Manager at Sightlines, a Gordian company.

Yesterday was Earth Day. If you are involved in your organization’s sustainability efforts, you probably spent the day running one your largest sustainability outreach events of the year. I bet your feet are still aching! So may I recommend, today, you rest?

Rest, reflect and celebrate – you’ve earned it.

Hans Rosling’s recent book, “Factfulness,” advocates the need to slow down and recognize the astounding progress that has been made addressing some of society’s most pressing issues. He believes it is easier to accelerate progress if we recognize how far we’ve already come.

In that spirit, we will spend the day celebrating our members’ sustainability successes. Sightlines, a Gordian company, is proud to partner with many higher education institutions recognized in this year’s AASHE Sustainable Campus Index for establishing innovative, forward-thinking initiatives to advance sustainability.

These institutions developed academic programs to prepare the next generation of sustainability leaders:

  • University of Vermont: created a program requiring all students to complete a sustainability course, project or experience during their undergraduate education.
  • Indiana University Bloomington: formalized a research program that provides funding to first and second-year students interested in refining their sustainability skills.

While some created unique opportunities for their employees to lessen their personal carbon footprint:

  • University of Utah: provided group discounts to campus stakeholders wishing to purchase solar panels for their homes and electric vehicles for private use.
  • University of Florida: created a program allowing employees to voluntarily offset the greenhouse gas emissions from their commutes to and from campus.

Others created programs to improve on-campus operations:

  • Skidmore College: installed a geothermal energy system that provides 50 percent of the heating and cooling needs for the campus.
  • University of Tennessee Knoxville: installed a rainwater harvesting system capable of collecting up to 35,000 gallons of water for washing, flushing and irrigation.

And these institutions created programs to engage their communities:

  • Arizona State University: designed sustainability activity kits that will be used to support a local science museum’s curriculum for children and adults.
  • University of Cincinnati: constructed a Groundwater Observatory that will monitor water quality for more than two million Ohio residents.
These Higher education institutions recognize the importance of an integrated sustainability model, one that will educate, empower, focus inward and finally, reach outward. Such a model can and should be applied in all industries. Because while it is important to acknowledge sustainability issues are difficult to address, it is critical we tackle the challenges through collective action. In reviewing Hans Rosling’s book, Bill Gates said, “A possibilist looks for the areas where progress is happening and finds way to duplicate it in other places…if we want to look for ways to improve something, look for ways to build better systems.” So after a day of reflection and celebration, we will reconvene with a systems mindset, ready to provide support to organizations seeking to innovate, scale up or propagate their sustainability initiatives.