A statement on sustainability is now included in the Board of Regent’s policy as the board gave its approval at its Jan. 23 meeting.
“A policy statement, such as the BOR adopted (last) Thursday, is not magic,” said John Morton, Vice President for Community Colleges. “But the policy statement does make it clear that the commitment to sustainability is a high priority and is fully supported by the governing board. The statement creates a framework but relies on the university to build on that framework to make the commitment real.”
According to Daita Serghi, a biology lecturer at UH Mānoa, the sustainability statement was added to the Mission and Purpose of the university (Section 4-1c) “which commits the university to sustainably allocate and use resources for the well-being of our communities and state.”
Seven goals following the statement specify the university’s commitment to social, cultural, environmental and economic sustainability in operations; education, research and service; planning, administration and engagement; and cultural and community connections.
A statement of sustainability
As part of a UH executive leadership retreat, it was decided to strengthen UH’s commitment to sustainability, Morton said. He was tasked with guiding the effort.
The First Annual Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education, a system-wide conference that was held at UH West O‘ahu last spring, was held to improve coordinating and planning.
“One of the ideas coming from that conference was that UH needed to make a formal declaration, at the policy level, of its commitment to sustainability,” Morton said. “Draft policy statements were developed and refined over the next several months.”
According to Serghi, the sustainability statement was presented to the Regent Committee on Student Affairs during the Oct. 18 meeting.
“The SA committee was very positive and only recommended a minor change, which strengthened the university’s commitment to sustainability,” Serghi said.
The committee reviewed the final language of the policy on Jan. 9 and recommended it for adoption to the full board, which unanimously approved it on Jan. 23.
“A section on sustainability in the board’s policy ensures that these broad and ambitious sustainability goals are embedded in the university’s bylaws from now on,” Serghi said. “These bylaws are rarely changed.”
According to Serghi, next is to develop the Presidential Sustainability Policy, which will define principles, establish key indicators (subject areas) for which performance measures will be set, identify strategic goals and support campus level implementations.
According to Morton, another benefit of the conference last spring was the emergence of a group of students who shared the commitment to sustainability and the desire to have UH do more in that area.
“That group of students emphasized the importance of this issue and the policy with the BOR Student Committee and that committee is the one that then presented the matter to the full BOR,” Morton said. “Several of the students did testify, and several others submitted written support. This student interest and involvement was a powerful positive message to the BOR.”
Senior political science major Cali Reed, who testified in support of the sustainability statement, said she is thrilled to know the regents are as adamant about sustainability as she and other people who testified are.
“Now that we will be able to have a written policy regarding sustainability on campus, our efforts to improve the UH system will hopefully have less hurdles to pass over as we look for ways to make UH more ‘green’ and eventually move towards zero waste/zero emissions,” Reed said.
According to her testimony, Reed, who is also studying Environmental Studies and Peace & Conflict Education, represented the Student Sustainability Coalition, the Young Democrats at UH Mānoa and the UH Mānoa Ecology Club.
Matthias Keller, who also submitted testimony to the Board and is president of the Surfrider Foundation Club at UH, said the approval of the statement is a big step for the future of sustainability at the university.
“Being a leading educational system in the Pacific, I believe UH has a responsibility to promote and adopt sustainable practices on campus, acting as a role model for other island nations,” Keller said. “This also coincides with various student run organizations mission statements, like the Surfrider Foundation Club at UH. Living on an island, everything one does mauka side can have effects makai side.”