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Student vision: sustainability in higher ed

Last week, students came together at the Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference (OHESC) Student Summit. As part of an interactive session led by representatives from the Cascade Climate Network, participants discussed key issues around sustainability in higher education from students' perspectives. A panel of students presented the following vision during the closing session of OHESC, leaving conference attendees with a bold vision for the future of our Oregon colleges and universities.

OHESC Student Summit Vision
February 1, 2013

This document was developed by students from across higher education institutions in the Northwest at the 2013 Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. The majority of institutions represented at this conference are signatories to the President’s Climate Commitment, which require, for example: “Establish a policy of offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions generated by air travel paid for by our institution.”

Vision
The vision of the students in Oregon is to empower and develop leaders through a culture of sustainability that fosters relationships between all campus constituents and the broader communities of which they are a part. A culture of sustainability includes:

  • Expectations of inclusive and collaborative decision making processes, which include students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and the surrounding communities;
  • Embedded sustainability throughout curriculum in all departments;
  • An emphasis on active transportation, and a minimization of privately owned vehicles; and
  • Physical spaces that reflect innovative understanding of systems and place-based, culturally responsible, identity;
  • The establishment of structures to ensure the longevity of such practices.

Action Plan
From this date until OHESC 2019, we will partner with and expect our institution’s leadership to take action on the following tangible steps towards a true culture of sustainability.

Together, we will:

  • Finalize a plan for a Zero Waste campuses that will be accomplished by 2025, which equates to 90% diversion from the waste stream;
  • Formalize a commitment to transparent endowments, socially responsible investments, and a complete divestment from fossil fuels;
  • Establish a Green Revolving Fund on each campus;
  • Develop a requirement in each major that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the field of study;
  • Halve the percentage of single-occupancy vehicles used to commute (students, staff, faculty);
  • Create a system for access to affordable, healthy, and just food, which could include establishing a food pantry and/or garden plots for the campus community’s use; and
  • Mandate programs that provide a holistic introduction to sustainability for first year students, new staff, faculty and administrators, which address oppression of both people and the planet.

Through this vision and the previous steps, the Oregon higher education students, will work with our campuses to build off of the work done at the 2013 Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference and bring innovative changes to our communities.

The Students of Oregon