Letter to the Editor: App State must find balance between growth and sustainability


The Appalachian Online


University Sustainability at App State places emphasis on finding the balance between sustained institutional growth and sustainable environmental practices.

When balancing seemingly competing interests, such as steady institutional and population growth versus the sustainability mission to preserve and protect the fragile mountain ecosystem we are located in, strategic partnerships must be made between entities on campus to preserve sustainability principles to the furthest extent possible while serving the ultimate interests of the university.

As Chief Sustainability Officer Lee Ball has said, “Sustainability is reached through the creation of mutualistic win/win relationships that benefit all involved.” This perspective of sustainability is exactly what University Sustainability must and has historically emphasized in order to work from an administrative capacity.

Balancing the interests and commitments of our university to enhance sustainability efforts is tough work. We can look at the partnership between the Office of Sustainability, the Physical Plant, and App State Athletics to create a zero-waste stadium initiative which is focused on diverting waste from the landfill to enhance recycling and compost efforts for home football games. This effort is a wonderful opportunity to engage people by the thousands in learning about sustainability and basic differences between landfill, recycling, and compost efforts. However, a particularly challenging part of the zero-waste stadium initiate is post-game stadium cleanup.

To ensure maximum landfill diversion the entire stadium must be “swept” in three waves.  Once for all recyclable items, a second time for all compostable items, and a third time for the remaining waste which is sent to the landfill.  This takes hours upon hours to complete, and the Office of Sustainability (who endures this entire portion of the burden) does not have the manpower or resources to consistently maintain this effort.  Student volunteers for post-game stadium cleanups serve a critical role in allowing this initiative to work…while also providing more opportunities for students to enhance their knowledge of the behind-the-scenes efforts necessary to give App State football enthusiasts their “sustainability bragging rights” regarding this initiative.  

When observing a case study like the current state of zero-waste stadium cleanups it is important to critically observe whether partnerships for some initiatives are truly mutualistic. To ensure balance and sustainability, all university entities must constantly be negotiating and renegotiating responsibilities in these initiatives to improve all stakeholder commitments across campus to reach our university mission of creating a “just and sustainable future”.

Written by: Anisha Sharma, junior sustainable development major