Science and Technology

How an engaged university approaches environmental stewardship


by Eric Gorton

 

During the past five years, JMU staff, faculty and students have started a robust composting program, ramped up environmental stewardship education and implemented a bicycle-pedestrian master plan.

Those are just some of the accomplishments Dr. C. J. Hartman will be including in a report on the university's environmental stewardship progress under the goals stated in its first ever five-year environmental stewardship action plan.

ESAP 2011-2015 Highlights

  • 53 environment/sustainability research grants were  externally-funded totaling $5,787,830.
  • Three cohorts of faculty participants representing seven colleges and 18 programs completed sustainability-enhanced course re-design  in diverse areas such as dance, physics and foreign languages .
  • Environmental stewardship learning outcomes and a corresponding assessment were developed for the undergraduate student population.
  • A composting program began, and 13 percent of campus waste was composted last year.

And while JMU's Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability works on that recap with a variety of on-campus partners, it is also hard at work drafting the next plan for 2016-2020.

"JMU will issue a progress report for the 2011-2015 plan, and we're going to create the next environmental stewardship action plan, which will correspond to the university's new strategic plan," said Hartman, executive director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.

The challenge of the new plan will be building on the past actions. "We had a list of objectives in the first plan, many from the 2007 JMU President's Commission, and now we need to go beyond that. We need to face some of the harder questions," said Hartman.

Achievements, Hartman said, will depend not only on changes in operations, many of which are being implemented via green building, but the personal choices everyone in the JMU community makes, from thinking critically about the role of environmental stewardship in their lives to choosing to conduct environment-focused research and service learning projects.

While university policies and practices are important, individual staff, faculty and students have been, and will continue to be, the critical contributors to environmental stewardship. "We're seeing more faculty members integrate environmental stewardship using campus as a living laboratory," Hartman said. "How can we use the campus to advance students' knowledge and reasoning skills related to environmental stewardship and have the work contribute to campus sustainability as well? The campus has launched an environmental stewardship tour with examples of possibilities and a request process to facilitate connecting facilities and environmental stewardship research and education."

The 2011-2015 ESAP had three main goals:

  • To minimize materials impact, emissions, toxins, solid waste and consumption
  • Conserve, steward and restore natural systems
  • Advance environmental literacy and engagement through research, education and community programs.

"Accomplishments are very well represented in many different units across the university,” Hartman said. "You can see contributions from every division, and certainly areas that have engaged in a way that demonstrates progress, such as Facilities Management's storm water management grant work with the community and the transformation of the East Campus Hillside into a learning space that is managed as an ecosystem.

"The next plan should be balanced with commitments across areas of the university and should match our priorities as a university, such as being the model of the engaged university."

Published: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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