Classroom, campus and community: an interconnected sustainable environment.
By Chancellor Don Straney
Two important developments have put sustainability at the forefront of our thinking at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.
First, the UH System has adopted an executive policy (EP 4.202) that sets expectations about incorporating sustainability into campus operations, curriculum, scholarship and community outreach.
Second, a joint collaboration of state and county government and the UH System, called the Aloha+ Challenge, was just launched to achieve six sustainability targets by 2030 in clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, solid waste reduction, smart growth and climate resilience, green jobs and education.
UH Hilo is already moving in this direction, and here are some examples:
- Our Local First program is a big success — we are the only UH campus that serves 65 percent locally produced food in our dining rooms.
- Our energy reduction program reduces plug load energy consumption, increases machine and electronic operational efficiency, and reduces peak-hour demand.
- The electrical systems of the new Student Services Building were designed to ensure energy efficient operations with the goal to achieve LEED Silver.
Here are a few things we will be doing in key areas. To implement the new UH policy and the Aloha+ Challenge, our campus Sustainability Committee will play an important role.
Operations is a big area and we will need to pull together as a campus community to effectively reduce our negative environmental impact. This includes the way we run our buildings, climate control, food systems, energy, grounds, purchasing, transportation, waste and water.
The big goal here is to minimize greenhouse emissions to the point that we become carbon neutral by 2050. This means, for example, we will be reducing our use of fossil fuel for our energy needs and adopting more energy efficient building designs.
Further, we will adopt a Green Purchasing Policy for all supplies and equipment – think computers, cleaning products, paper.
We will be working the principles of sustainability into curriculum wherever possible. In tandem, we’ll increase the number of campus and community sites for applied learning related to sustainability, including student engagement in the university’s operational improvements. The integration of sustainability practices and learning into student life and other co-curricular activities will be the norm on our campus.
Research and scholarship
Our faculty will be looking at ways to develop applied research initiatives that advance the principles of sustainability, especially those that involve cross-campus collaborations that integrate teaching and research. This includes investigations into solutions at the campus, community and global levels.
Further, professional development and collaboration opportunities for faculty and students in sustainability scholarship will be routinely offered.
Sustainability is really an island-wide goal. The classroom, campus and local community comprise an interconnected educational environment.
The university will be reaching out to engage the local community in prioritizing and implementing sustainable practices through mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations, non-profit organizations, public schools, and the private sector.
Further, in striving to reach our overarching goals in sustainability for our campus and community, we will create sustainable living-learning environments that honor our host culture, our unique island environment, and the rich cultural diversity of our communities.
We will work closely with the local community to fully understand how UH Hilo can best answer community and business needs within the context of sustainability in order to help shape a strong economy, a vibrant workforce, and a better future for our island and state.