Even with the pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of campus life, BSU has still managed to move ahead with sustainability-focused projects.
Making sustainability an integral part of learning and working at Bridgewater State University has long been an institutional goal. Developments over the years have included the founding of the Center for Sustainability (now known as the Sustainability Program), and the adoption of environmentally friendly practices campus wide, including the construction of new buildings and renovations conforming to green standards and best practices.
The university has also over the years hosted scores of events and speakers, and initiated classes and programs, focused to one degree or another on topics such as climate change and environmental justice. Courses focused on the environment and related topics have long been offered at BSU, but today, students can select either the Sustainability Innovation and Outreach minor or the Environmental Sustainability and Climate Resilience concentration.
Even with the pandemic impacting nearly every aspect of campus life, BSU has still managed to move ahead with sustainability-focused projects. New solar canopies at Tower Lot are now operational and projected to save the university $2.2 million in electricity costs over the next 20 years. The project is part of a larger endeavor to shift to renewable energy sources and reduce BSU’s carbon footprint. As of this writing, university officials are evaluating eight additional solar installations, which would generate sufficient energy to cover about 23 percent of the campus’ primary electric usage, potentially saving BSU more than $6.8 million over the next 20 to 25 years and reducing the institution’s carbon dioxide emissions by almost 78,000 tons.
Over the past 15 years, BSU has sought to bring sustainability concerns to the fore by ensuring new buildings are LEED certified, replacing older infrastructure with more energy-efficient alternatives, offering a bike-share program on campus, planting permaculture gardens and much more.
The features that follow highlight the many ways that sustainability has become a key element in nearly all things BSU, from student and faculty research, to alumni careers, to the many initiatives that have put the focus squarely on the environment and climate change.
We hope these stories not only inform you but also inspire your own thinking and actions on these matters.
Seeking to build upon the university’s longstanding efforts in sustainability, in 2018, Professors Ed Brush, Inkyoung Kim, Heather Pacheco-Guffrey and John Kucich applied for and were awarded a three-year Academic Innovation Grant from the Office of the Provost to explore how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals might positively impact BSU practices and pedagogy.
In an open letter to the university community, the quartet proposed using the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to develop a broad approach for transdisciplinary collaboration that may very well represent a paradigm shift and new mindset in BSU’s approach to teaching, learning, research and scholarship, with broader impacts on operations and strategic goals.
The innovation grant included several areas of focus: fostering an ongoing conversation about the SDGs and sustainability across campus; gathering together the many faculty, students and staff interested in the SDGs and sustainability issues more broadly; and developing new models for undergraduate research and interdisciplinary teaching.
Adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the sustainability goals encompass more than the environment, and provide an agenda for all countries to address world-wide challenges of ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity.
Countries and institutions around the globe have adopted the goals, including schools such as Yale University and California’s state institutions of higher education.
Almost immediately, the BSU grant funded more events and speakers, and a survey of faculty, staff and students about their levels of knowledge and interest in the SDGs. Also, four faculty grants allowed the piloting of a new model of interdisciplinary teaching, with the result being a cluster of courses centered on sustainability in a variety of contexts.
With so much groundwork laid down, thanks to the university’s embrace of the U.N. goals, the focus going forward is to further spread the word on campus and beyond.
For more information about the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, log on to https://sdgs.un.org/goals.