Sustainability center starts up

posted in: Opinion | 0

The university started a Center for a Sustainability Society in July and I have the good fortune of directing the center. In this and in future articles, I hope to tell you why we started the center and what we hope to accomplish.

Pacific’s Board of Trustees recently adopted this Mission Statement: “A diverse and sustainable community dedicated to discovery and excellence in teaching, scholarship and practice, Pacific University inspires students to think, care, create and pursue justice in our world.” What do we mean by sustainable community? Most people use the sustainability definition articulated in the 1987 Brundtland Report (Our Common Future. Oxford Univ. Press), often paraphrased as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

When we read about melting polar ice caps, holes in the ozone layer and rapid species declines and extinctions, it’s pretty hard to claim that we live in a sustainable age.  Many of us at Pacific—students, faculty, staff and trustees—believe that universities must play a pivotal role in educating humanity about the need to reverse the tide of environmental degradation. That’s why the university started this center.

We’re not starting from scratch. We started a Sustainability Committee comprised of students, faculty and staff to help our efforts. We integrated sustainability into the curriculum and made many areas of university operations more sustainable.

For example, the undergraduate college has a very strong environmental program, including the B-Street Permaculture Project. We now have several new major emphases. Joining the sustainable design, environmental biology and environmental chemistry and toxicology majors is a new environmental studies major with emphases on economics, ethics, history and politics and government. We now need to integrate sustainability themes throughout the curriculum.

We built six LEED-certified buildings. While this shows a strong commitment to the environment, we need to make a large number of older buildings more efficient.

Staff members from a variety of offices undertook a campus-wide greening-of-the-offices initiative several years ago, resulting in double-sided printing and using recycled paper. We now need to move beyond paper, using electronic information storage.

We also have students and faculty members engaged in environmental research, some of it designed to restore habitats and to preserve species. We need more opportunities for this kind of research.

There is a lot more that we can do to promote sustainable practices, both at Pacific and beyond. We are interested in hearing Index readers’ thoughts on new initiatives. If you are interested in getting engaged, please contact me at my office just across from the entry to Scott Hall or send me an e-mail at


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