Sustainability and Policy

This post from student Shayne Van Leer on his experience in Unity’s “STARS: Sustainability Assessment” course this semester.

Unity College is filling out AASHE’s STARS for the first time.  STARS, a self-reporting assessment will gauge Unity College’s progress towards sustainability.  STARS is currently being conducted by our Sustainability Coordinator and three Unity College students.  This assessment is popular among colleges because of its comprehensive focus on sustainability.  Not only does it focus on the institution’s environmental performance it also focuses on the institution’s social performance.  The college’s performance includes Operations, Planning, Administration and Engagement, and Education and Research

With that mind, as I started collecting data and filling out the credits I noticed that there was a trend towards an institution’s policies.  By this I mean that some credits were worded as “Does your institution have an institution-wide stated preference for…..?”.  My response to this is; does an institution have to have a “policy” to be sustainable?

Here at Unity College all of the paper we purchase is 100% recycled content, all of the cleaning products that our maintenance department uses are Green Seal certified.  Unity College does not have a “stated” preference for these things but we do have a preference for these things.  In reality, in both situations an institution would be equally sustainable with or without a policy.  However with STARS, Purchasing credits require a purchasing policy to receive full credit.

Yes, there is a benefit to having a written policy; a policy would bind departments to purchasing things like recycled paper and Green Seal certified cleaning products.  Here at Unity College things are a little different.  Sustainability is intertwined into everything we do.  Working towards sustainability is ingrained into our everyday lives.  From class projects to classes, from Faculty and staff to entire departments, sustainability is part of our job description, culture and our way of life.

In my personal opinion I feel that Unity College would not benefit from having a formal purchasing policy because we follow an unwritten rule of purchasing 100% recycled paper and Green Sealed cleaning products.  However, if someone wanted to take the time to write a policy it would help us receive credit on the STARS application, but would not further sustainability at Unity College.

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