Recommendations - Making "Sustainability" Sustainable

The Committee recommends that Missouri State University should:

Adopt a University Sustainability Statement

The following is a proposed Sustainability Statement for adoption by the University. This statement would serve to provide guiding principles and a policy framework for our approach to environmental sustainability, and to inform the campus and external communities of Missouri State University’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Missouri State University is committed to environmental sustainability and stewardship. By working to create a cleaner environment through community service efforts, the application of earth-friendly technology and practices, research projects, and responsible development planning, we will strive to work for a better tomorrow. Through education and community outreach, we will provide students with the knowledge and skills to be environmentally responsible citizens and consider the global ramifications of their actions and the actions of others around them. To that end, Missouri State University is committed to continuous improvement in:

  • Incorporation of environmentally responsible concerns in University decision making.
  • Demonstration of institutional practices that promote sustainability, including energy savings measures, increasing the use of renewable resources, and decreasing production of waste materials.
  • Providing educational programs and encouraging environmental inquiry for students and the community concerning positive environmental practices.
  • Establishment of sustainability indicators to enable monitoring, reporting and improvement measures.
  • Enhancing the health of campus ecosystems and increasing the diversity of native species whenever possible.
  • Promotion of health, productivity and safety practices on campus through education, maintenance and design of campus buildings.

Our decisions and actions will be guided by the University's Public Affairs Mission, will be reflective of the University's resources, and informed by the University's Strategic Plan.  As a learning institution, we recognize that planning for sustainability will be an evolving and iterative practice.

The subcommittee does not intend that this be a statement that is dictated to the campus, but that it would be supported and embraced by the campus community. To that effect, the subcommittee recommends that an open forum be held to allow feedback and input by campus stakeholders such as the Student Government Association, Staff/Faculty Senate, Administrative Council, and others. This should be easily completed by the May 2008 Board of Governor’s meeting.

Create a Recycling/Sustainability Coordinator position

The position's responsibility will be the coordination and promotion of effective sustainability efforts on campus, to highlight Missouri State University as a community leader in environmental sustainability. Basic duties would include energizing and coordinating the currently fragmented campus recycling efforts, promotion of sustainability knowledge and consciousness on campus, liaising with faculty to encourage curricular and co-curricular infusion of sustainability, etc. Duties of this position would also include practicality determination and potential implementation of the recommendations of the 2005 Solid Waste Audit. The Coordinator position would serve to harness and focus student enthusiasm and energy towards sustainability.

Funding for this position may not be readily available within the University administrative budget, and additional sources may need to be considered. One option that may be explored is the utilization of an existing position to perform this function. Strategies utilized by our benchmark (as well as other) institutions may provide some insight into alternate funding options.

Continue to support the current energy management and conservation initiative

Missouri State University is a major user of energy. Most energy is obtained from the combustion of fossil fuels, which directly affects air quality and indirectly affects the sites from which the fuels are extracted. Furthermore, energy is a significant cost item in the University budget, amounting to about $6 million in expenditures each year. Because energy use is a major budget item, efficiency improvements can not only reduce the University’s environmental impact, but can provide significant cost savings as well. Missouri State University’s Director of Facilities Management is fully aware of both the environmental and the economic implications of an effective energy management and conservation program, and has already developed the foundation of a sound energy program that is postured for involvement of the University community and exploitation of new technologies. This will require administrative support to reinvest energy savings by funding additional energy initiatives which will make for a greener campus. We recommend that the University administration support continued efficiency improvements.

Increase Communication Efforts - Develop a Sustainability Website

One hurdle associated with encouraging sustainable practices is a lack of knowledge on the part of the general public. Advancements in green technology and practices, increases in the types of materials that can be recycled, and opportunities for communities and individuals to help the environment aren’t always clearly understood and may not even be common knowledge. It is also important for students and the surrounding community to understand what Missouri State University is doing to promote environmental sustainability.

As a first step in increasing awareness, a dedicated ‘Sustainability’ webpage on the University website can provide an excellent opportunity to provide information to the campus and surrounding community, such as recycling programs and locations, information on energy conservation, and opportunities for ‘green’ alternatives to traditional products. Through this medium, we as a University can help the community become better environmental stewards.

The website can also serve to display the University’s dedication to sustainability practices by showcasing our efforts to become more environmentally friendly, provide information on current and future sustainability programs, and listing ways that others may help or even copy programs we have in place. Such displays will show Missouri State University in a positive light and may not only encourage some prospective students to choose our University, but may also encourage other universities or public entities and companies to contact us with new program ideas or assistance.

Make a public commitment to environmental sustainability

A number of higher education institutions have recently adopted the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) as a way to show their commitment to the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions in particular, and sustainability in general. Springfield’s Drury University is one of the signatories to this document. At least five of Missouri State University’s eleven benchmark institutions have already signed the ACUPCC. Student organizations at Missouri State University, including the Sierra Club, Students for a Sustainable Future, and 2020 Vision, have put forth an initiative encouraging Missouri State University to become a signatory to the ACUPCC.

By signing the ACUPCC, an institution commits to develop plans and take actions that will result in measurable reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions within a specified time period, and to publicly report these plans and progress made. The goal of the Commitment is to achieve "climate neutrality" as soon as possible, accounting for all greenhouse gas emissions including those from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel. A copy of the Commitment document, including the list of specific commitments associated with it, is included in Appendix C (The Commitment, 2007).

While over 400 institutions across the country have signed the ACUPCC to date, there are many universities that, while having made public commitments to environmental sustainability, are not actively planning to become signatories. Yale University, which is seen as a leader in environmental sustainability, is one of those institutions that are not planning to sign the ACUPCC (Inside Higher Education News: Signing (or Not) a Green Pledge, 2007).

A preferred alternative to a generalized national commitment would perhaps be for the University to commit to working with the Partnership for Sustainability, an organization representing local and regional stakeholders, to develop goals and plans toward a sustainable community. The Partnership for Sustainability is made up of governmental (City of Springfield, Greene County), educational institution (Drury, Springfield Public Schools, Ozarks Technical Community College), health system (St. Johns, Cox Health), and business representatives, with a mission to facilitate the achievement of "excellence in sustainability" for Springfield and the surrounding region. This approach would allow the University to publicly participate in and provide leadership for the establishment of a local sustainability culture, and it embodies the commonly quoted ‘think globally, act locally’ philosophy that encourages local action to implement environmental sustainability on a global scale.

Promote the infusion of Sustainability principles

The University should promote the infusion of Sustainability principles into appropriate areas of the curriculum while encouraging and coordinating co-curricular activity in the area of Sustainability. Policy and information support for faculty will be needed for this to occur.

The Sustainability Subcommittee believes that these six recommendations, implemented individually or collectively, will be important initial steps toward sensitizing faculty, staff, and students to the issue of environmental sustainability and to encouraging a lifelong commitment to this important issue. These basic initiatives are in line with actions taken by many of our benchmark institutions, and will provide the framework from which to move Missouri State University toward becoming a fully sustainable campus.