What constitutes a sustainable campus? Is it a university’s operating emissions, the curriculum or students? At App State, students, faculty and staff consider our operating emissions as the sole determinant for what constitutes sustainability.
For example, the Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution Oct. 31 aiming for App State to adopt climate neutral practices by 2035. The faculty’s resolution followed the Student Government Association’s resolution in 2018, which aimed to reduce emissions down to net zero by 2025. The faculty resolution gives the university 10 additional years to reach net zero emissions.
These measures were proposed after the 2018 United Nations meeting, during which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero in 2050. The resolutions passed by the faculty and the students recommend that the university cut CO2 emissions and find other methods to offset remaining emissions.
Clearly, App State has an ethical obligation to actively participate in the global struggle against climate change should it wish to consider itself a sustainable campus. Yet, oncampus activists assert that the institution does not do enough in this battle. There is evidence to support this argument as, App State has a low score in proportion to other institutions regarding its operating emissions in the April Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating Statement.
However, the STARS report neglects to include within this calculation the positive effects of App State controlling a significant majority of Appalcart, Office of Sustainability Director Lee Ball said. Appalcart was designed to reduce transportation emissions from individuals by providing students and residents “free” transportation across town. Ball also stated that App State’s involvement with Appalcart has reduced emissions.
The Office of Sustainability states that 40% of App State’s operating emissions are due to students commuting between classes and other destinations. Thus, App State’s failure to reach an elite level for operating emissions is not exclusively the fault of the university, but students; as well.
There are four other categories within the STARS report that deals with the overall level of institutional sustainability, academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration. According to the STARS report, App State is at a gold standard within the rest of the categories, boosting its overall sustainability score. The fallacy of looking at operation emissions as a university’s sustainability is to find fault with a part of the institution which does not constitute the whole body of App’s sustainability. That would be akin to claiming that the whole human body is diseased, when it is a singular organ causing bodily harm. To blame the body for the organs failure is folly, since the organ is responsible for bodily harm; the body is not. Would it not be better to cure the organ instead of the whole body?
To assert that App State is not a sustainable campus based on one category is to invalidate the work that faculty, staff and students do toward creating a better and more sustainable future. App State is not a sustainable campus because of its emissions, but because its curriculum is built on sustainability and its students, faculty and staff are aligned with sustainable values and are actively engaged in the community.
While there are areas within App State’s operations that the university should improve upon, calling the institution hypocritical for not being “sustainable” is incorrect. Yes, parts of the institution must change, but so should we students. We are obliged as parts of the institution to examine our individual carbon footprint that we contribute to App State’s operating emission. What does that say about ourselves if we are unable to do that which we expect from others?