Many schools across the nation are diving head first to tackle sustainability issues to reduce their impact on and off campus. We at the Office of Sustainability focus on ways to spread awareness and gain involvement from students, faculty, staff and administration hoping in return that the UIC community will jump on board the sustainability train and incorporate in their lives on and off campus.
Lauren, a graduate assistant here at OS, is creating a Sustainability Pledge as a part of our up coming "Green Office Challenge," which will made available to students too. Universities such as Harvard, University of Washington, Emory and Temple, provide their communities with the opportunity to take pledges they have created to initiate awareness and change.
Even Wal-Mart has taken on a form of Sustainability Pledge with its Associates. Researching employee engagement in respect to sustainability, I have found that companies must treat their employees as UIC treats it's community. Providing the opportunities for their people to commit and participate, but strictly on a voluntary basis. Whether looking at this from a social or a "if you tell your kid no, they are more likely to do it" standpoint, gaining participation through voluntary willingness is the strongest participation one can possibly have.
Wal-Mart has a program called the Personal Sustainability Project. The PSP guides associated as they integrate sustainability practices into their own lives. Its goal lies in its design- bringing small changes into associates' lives to improve their own well-being as well as their community and environment. Change in one's life not only affects the way they live at home, but they way they live at work, or school.
As I ponder the idea of how successful our Sustainability Pledge will prove, I, again can relate it to a corporate environment. Employees may be green fanatics or not interested at all, but the environment of the workplace has much influence on a person's decisions. Whether it peer pressure, frequent reminders, boredom or the availability of the information, new concepts that catch on spread quickly throughout a company. Especially one with a culture ingrained in these new concepts.
Getting back to Sustainability Pledges, examples I have seen usually have their options listed in categories such as: energy, recycle-reuse-reduce, transportation, resources, food, water, and participation. Along with your option, one choice per category, some Pledges ask for your ideas and what you are already doing in relation to being more sustainable. These questions are more important than people think, because they will provide us feedback to know what issues we need to press on to satisfy our majority or spark increased interest.
Picturing myself filling out Harvard's Sustainability Pledge, the first category is Energy. I would check the "turn lights off when watching TV"; I do not have a TV but I can use this in relation to my laptop. I chose this because I always plug my electronics in when I use them (I don't use enough for a powerstrip), I already wash clothes in cold water, and love taking the stairs!
Food: I would chose take only what I'll eat. Although I do usually eat everything I take, I could cut down on my portions, like many of us I assume. The other options of eating one more vegetarian meal and cutting out red meat wouldn't be fair because I eat mostly vegan!
Water: I would chose to not to leave the tap running. I tend to do that while brushing my teeth, however my New Years Resolution was to stop that and I have been catching myself! I already take short showers, drink tap water, and would definitely report a leaky faucet!
Waste: I already do most of these things. The one I am trying to get better at is buying reused items. I get sudden urges to shop and think it through, realizing I do not need to purchase any new things and if I need something to try to find it used first!
Participate: the options are endless in reality. But out of their options I'd pick: Implement recycling/reusing in my student group, green my events!
After entering your contact info, they ask your ideas. I don't know where to begin! I would chose composting at school facilities because I really want to see that happen!