Students, faculty and community members introduced a sustainability policy to the Board of Regents on Oct. 18 to promote sustainable practices in different university functions.
“If the university is not sustainable, the system may not be sustained long enough for future generations to come here and learn,” said Gabriel Sachter-Smith, a graduate student studying Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences.
The proposed policy included an added statement within the mission section of Chapter 4 (Planning) of the BOR Policy, which will be followed by seven goals to ensure the university’s commitment to sustainability.
“The university acts as a leader and role model in the state in many different fields, so it is up to us to showcase new technologies and ideas for others in the state to adopt as well,” Sachter-Smith said.
A SUSTAINABLE UNIVERSITY
The proposed policy calls for the recognition that the knowledge base in sustainable island systems resides in the indigenous people and residents of Hawaiʻi, and to commit to consult with local cultural practitioners and sustainability experts on best practices in sustainable resource allocation and use.
“From the specific and unique issues and opportunities we have in Hawaii to the national and international trends in higher education and societies in general,” said Daita Serghi, a biology lecturer at UH Mānoa. “Being sustainable is not a question of should we or should we not do it, but a question of when and how will we start implementing these system-wide strategies.”
The proposed BOR policy is part of a UH system policy, which will define sustainability, establish key indicators for which performance measures will be set, identify strategic goals, and support campus level implementation.
“By having these policies adopted, students will benefit from a university who will serve as a leader in how it stewards the finite resources of the islands and the world for the benefit of all,” Serghi said.
The system policy also includes Campus Plans, which will assess current progress and identify campus-specific goals and implementation strategies.
The BOR policy includes a Presidential Policy.
“The BOR policy, which will set a value framework and directs the Office of the President to to create a more detailed policy that defines principles, establishes performance measures, and identifies strategic goals,” Serghi said.
Jeffrey Acido, chairman of the BOR Committee on Student Affairs, put the policy on the committee’s agenda.
“I like the fact that its more than just about saving money,” Acido said. “That really moves me that policies are not always just about save money; even though it really saves a lot of money.”
Acido said Regent Randolph Moore recommended making the language of the policy bolder and stronger.
The policy will now have to be vetted again by the committee before going on to the entire Board of Regents.
“The proposal (or what we call the recommended/proposed Board of Regents Sustainability Policy) is the result of extensive collaborative work by the UH System Sustainability Task Force,” Serghi said.
The policy language is the result of the Policy Development Sessions from the 1st Annual Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit that took place in April 2013. Its purpose was to “establish a statewide and UH system sustainability agenda that would provide individual campuses with a framework for commitments and support for campus efforts to move from vision to action,” according to its website.
The strategy for a sustainable UH originally started with a group that was formed by Aurora Winslade, director of Sustainability UHCC; Cam Muir, Faculty and Sustainability coordinator at UH Hilo; and Graceson Ghen, former Sustainability coordinator at the Hawaiʻi Community College, who had already started work on the policy and sustainability strategy, according to Serghi. Their first meeting was in fall 2012.
Students formed their own coalition, called the Statewide Students in Sustainability Coalition led by UH Mānoa junior Doorae Shin. The coalition includes students from all 10 UH campuses along with students from Chaminade, HPU and BYUH. Serghi said the coalition was formed during the two student forums at the April summit where approximately 40 students were in attendance.
STUDENTS SUPPORT A SUSTAINABLE UNIVERSITY
Testimonies from more than 30 students and community members along with an open survey from more than 50 participants during the summit were collected to support the proposed policy.
Sachter-Smith, who is also a member of the student organization Student Organic Farm Training, said he wants to see the university sustained in the simplest manner.
“I see that there’s so many resources that the university are underutilized or unutilized completely so by adopting a policy of sustainability by the board of regents, I think that really sends a statement of commitment that we’re serious about utilizing this not just because it’s fun, but because it really does produce a lot of valuable outcomes and benefit for the students, staff, faculty and the community,” Sachter-Smith said.
Kanaloa Schrader, a senior majoring in ethnic studies and ethnobotany, said sustainability has always been a part of his upbringing as he grew up on Kauaʻi and is of Native Hawaiian ancestry.
“My kupuna and parents made sure that my siblings and I knew how important our limited resources are and what we need to do to ensure that they are available for future generations,” Schrader said. “I believe that our university and our state can become world leaders in sustainability and move us towards becoming as self-sustaining and prosperous as the Kingdom of Hawaii once was.”
MANOA’S SUSTAINABILITY POLICY
UH Mānoa’s Sustainability Policy includes a 2003 UHM Sustainability Charter and an Energy Policy, which was the result of the UHM Chancellor’s Energy Summit in 2006.
According to the policy, Hawaiʻi is the most fossil fuel-dependent state in the country, which has produced high electricity rates.
According to Shin, the campus has a $35 million electricity bill, costing students $2,500 of their tuition.
The campus’ Energy Policy includes goals such as a 30 percent reduction in campus-wide energy use by 2012, a 50 percent reduction in campus-wide energy use by 2015, that 25 percent of campus-wide energy use be supplied by renewable sources by 2020, and that by 2050, the campus will achieve self-sufficiency in energy and water, and will treat and transform its wastes into useable resources.