Sustainability is one of the five values included in Pacific’s Vision 2020, a set of priorities for the university determined by President Lesley Hallick and the Board of Trustees. However, translating a broad vision like sustainability into realistic goals requires time, money and dedication. The Sustainability Committee is pushing to advance campus sustainability, but the members are finding themselves overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done.
“We just don’t have the time and in some cases we don’t have the skills,” said Chair of the Sustainability Committee and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Ramona Ilea.
The Sustainability Committee is a university standing committee with faculty, staff and student members from all the colleges, including the Hillsboro and Eugene campuses. Members are appointed to the committee and serve three-year terms. Their mission is to attempt to develop ways for the university to become more environmentally friendly and establish a sense of campus-wide social unity, but pinning down a term like sustainability into a to-do list is no easy task.
The committee, which meets only once a month, operates on a zero budget and has no staff except for one work study student funded by the College of Arts and Sciences. Ilea explained that members of the committee, while they have a passion for the cause, have had challenges finding time to make drastic changes.
“Instead of grading philosophy papers, I’m updating the Facebook page,” said Ilea, who said that many of the committee members are already overwhelmed with commitments such as teaching or other university positions.
Ilea said that she’d like to hire more work-study students and, ideally, for the university to create a sustainability director position. The director could have the time to fully dedicate his or her attention and resources to the work.
“There are lots of things we could be doing, but all those require research, they require time, and in some cases they require money,” said Ilea, “but in some cases, they would save money. You just need to do the work to get them started.”
Ilea added that most small liberal arts universities in the area, including Pacific’s competitors already have or are looking into sustainability coordinator or director positions.
“We’re kind of catching up here,” she said, adding that sustainability is an issue that matters to students, donors and alumni. “To stay competitive, we need to be doing a lot more.”
While no vote has passed yet, Ilea said that at the presentation by the Sustainability Committee to the University Council meeting, on Nov. 11, there appeared to be positive support for a director position.
Meanwhile, the committee’s main goal for the 2010-2011 academic year is to gather data for the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System or STARS. STARS is a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to gauge relative progress toward sustainability and that the rating will help the committee establish more specific goals for the university.
The STARS rating is based on research and data compiled by the Sustainability Committee members and includes fields such as buildings, waste, water, research, purchasing, food and energy. Once submitted, the data would become public record and anyone could have access. As public record, anyone could contest the information, however, Ilea said that she doesn’t think that will be a problem.
“We’re not looking to deceive anyone,” she said, and emphasized the committee’s commitment to accuracy.
While the Sustainability Committee focuses on researching the current environmental situation on campus, the Evergreen Committee, another committee centered on sustainability, is looking into more immediate action. According to minutes of the October Sustainability Committee meeting, the Evergreen Committee is looking into a few specific advances. These include getting bus passes for undergraduate students, perhaps establishing a brown bag series on sustainability issues, and looking into bringing ZipCar to campus, which is sharing and car club service. It is an alternative to traditional car rental and car ownership.
In the mean time, if students, staff or faculty want to show their support for the committee and it’s progress, they can become fans of the “Sustainability at Pacific University” Facebook page and post events and news related to the cause. The committee has created a sustainability website which can be found at http://www.pacificu.edu/sustainability/index.cfm.