Sustainability Plan – better ways of doing business?

Macalester Sustainability Plan Sept 2009Cross-posted from Its Getting Hot in Here

Macalester College released its Sustainability Plan on September 15th. In the midst of a flurry of action on the national policy level, internationally around Copenhagen, and in the local fights against mountain-top removal and other dirty energy, one more college sustainability plan seems almost insignificant. What’s important about this plan, however, is not what its goals are (though they include carbon neutrality by 2025, zero waste by 2020, and more) but how it plans to achieve them. I hope this focus on the method as well as the goals can inform and inspire the rising movement for a sustainable future. Here’s a brief synopsis of the key features of the how, which I’ll explore in more detail below the fold.

1. Going carbon neutral will be revenue positive, meaning a carbon-free future is as much commonsense smart decision-making as it is a moral imperative.
2. Designing the vision was participatory – 400 students, faculty, and staff contributed at a college with a student body of 1900 – and implementation will continue to be. The plan clearly states that it is a baseline platform, not a ceiling.
3. The changes really matter – with a few exceptions, the plan identifies strategies to that make actual change, rather than check the boxes of conventional practice.
4. The college plans to create ripples of change that extend far beyond campus – emphasizing pathways to broader change through the supply-chains, education process, and community relationships it engages.
5. Sustainability is defined holistically as the ongoing process of nurturing a healthy environment, social justice, and a strong economy. It is a guiding quality of all the institution’s core values, not an addition to them.

This plan is a bold step forward for Macalester, and one in which we all have a stake. I’m hoping that in whatever field of work we’re engaged in, this plan and the process that it grew out of as both a model for how to dig deeper into the how, and to inspire new and renewed innovation and action. The process of getting to this point through the past several years of work has been particularly illuminating – stay tuned for more stories.

In the meantime, check out more details on what’s important about how Macalester seeks to achieve sustainability below.

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