University of Arkansas Launches Campuswide Sustainability Initiative

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Type: Policy

Status: Initiated in January 2008

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The University of Arkansas' first long-range, comprehensive and coordinated sustainability effort is under way and will pick up speed early in the spring 2008 semester. The university is in the early stages of developing a 12-part Environmental Stewardship Mission and is establishing a University of Arkansas Sustainability Council to oversee and implement that mission.

"Leadership on sustainability issues is an integral part of the university's role," said Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for facilities and co-author of the draft mission statement. "This initiative is essential if we are to prepare our students, our community, our region and our state to be mindful stewards of the environment. A comprehensive approach like this is also needed if the University of Arkansas expects to compete successfully in any number of areas on a national basis, today and in the future."

The Environmental Stewardship Mission initially identifies a dozen broad sustainability categories that cover issues ranging from the university's use of energy and water, to the food served on campus, to ways academic and research resources can be used to promote and develop sustainable practices. Sustainability is also envisioned to become an element of most course curricula over the next few years and potentially a new evaluation factor in our future investment strategies. The mission will serve as a blueprint to coordinate efforts by all the groups on campus that are working to address an already wide but still growing spectrum of sustainability issues.

The UA Sustainability Council will be formed early in the spring, drawing members from student, staff and faculty organizations. The associate vice chancellor for facilities, the executive director of the Applied Sustainability Center and the president of the Associated Student Government are proposed to serve as co-chairs of the council. Twelve working groups will be set up to oversee each of the categories currently identified in the Environmental Stewardship Mission. The newly appointed executive assistant for sustainability will serve as the executive secretary and coordinate the day-to-day work of the council.

The Environmental Stewardship Mission and Sustainability Council will address both short- and long-term goals and will be instrumental in the university's work to fulfill the Presidents Climate Commitment, which Chancellor John White signed last February. That commitment calls for the University of Arkansas to have a greenhouse gas baseline inventory competed later this year and a comprehensive action plan in place by 2009 to make the campus "climate neutral" by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus.