SU Continues Commitment to Sustainability

2014-04-24
By Mike Thee
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Photo Credit: Chris Kalinko

Coinciding with Earth Day, Seattle University this week released a four-year sustainability progress report. Available exclusively online (of course!), the report details the strides SU has made toward its goals under the Climate Action Plan (CAP). 

Titled "Toward a More Sustainable and Just World," the progress report is a mix of accomplishments and plans for how the university will deepen its commitment to sustainability in the years ahead. You can read the  full report here .

"From the moment that our Climate Action Plan was put into place in 2010," the report reads, "we knew that our goals were ambitious. We also knew that unlike many goals, sustainability would never have a single moment of victory-no single day when we could say, 'We did it' and walk away. It's ongoing. It's a forever mission. We are steadfast in our commitment as we strive to make progress as rapidly and profoundly as possible." 

The report comes a week after SU was recognized as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada in  The Princeton Review 's fifth annual  Guide to 332 Green Colleges . Schools were selected based on a strong commitment to sustainability in their academics offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.  

Each school receives a Green Rating score between 60 and 99. With a score of 96, SU is the highest of all independent colleges in Washington state and tied with Santa Clara for first among Jesuit institutions. Of all the schools in Washington state, SU is second only to the University of Washington. 

This recognition and the Green Washington Award the university received from  Seattle Business Magazine  last fall are not breeding complacency. It could be argued that there's as much energy as ever around sustainability issues at SU. The spirited discussion at Mission Day earlier this month on such issues as Sustainable Student Action's push to divest from fossil fuels reflects a campus community not content to stand pat. 

The CAP provides a guiding framework for the university's future aspirations relating to sustainability, and as such, the report is organized around the main goals of increasingly weaving sustainability into the university's academic and co-curricular programs, as well as its operations, and sharing the university's growing expertise more widely with partners in the community. Filled with data points, the report also features interesting vignettes that speak to SU's leadership as a responsible steward of the planet. 

For instance, the Office of the Registrar's ecological friendly practices, which have resulted in less consumption of paper and other resources-are highlighted (page 13). "It's freeing not to be tied to some of the constructs we had before," says Registrar Joyce Allen, who has led her 23-member department in some money-and planet-saving changes. "What may have seemed cumbersome in the beginning has now become embraced as the new normal. We are leaning into sustainability and change by viewing it as a positive opportunity."