Beneath the surface of sustainability

Laura Huenneke

          by Laura Huenneke, Provost

Sustainability has long been a core commitment of NAU, embodied in our strategic plan and a host of innovative academic, research and operational approaches. Naturally this commitment appeals to me, given my environmental science background. In the past year, we’ve made some major progress that may not yet be visible to everyone.

Drop by and chat
Friday, April 19, 8–9 a.m., Starbucks at The Suites.

The campus climate action plan is being revised and is morphing into a campus sustainability plan. The year’s biggest story has been the launch of a major investment in energy and water efficiency, the Green NAU Energy Initiative, or GNEI project. Many faculty and staff have signed up to serve as mentors for the program, which promotes behavioral approaches to reducing energy waste as well as installation of new, high-efficiency fixtures across campus; we expect broad student participation next year.

NAU has given birth to some great innovation in terms of organizations and student involvement. The Environmental Caucus (and its student counterpart, the GreenJacks) continues to serve as a great platform for communication and creative, grass-roots generation of ideas. The Coordinating Council on Sustainability brings the various operational divisions of the university together to coordinate efforts,  while the Academic Sustainability Steering Committee assesses curriculum across the colleges. Green NAU provides a comprehensive platform for connecting with sustainability resources. And the student Green Fund has invested in innovative campus projects.

Sustainability Awards celebration
Coming Monday, April 22, when the Environmental Caucus recognizes the efforts of students, faculty staff and campus organizations that have enhanced the culture of sustainability at Northern Arizona University.

All of this activity builds on the university’s historical strength in research and teaching, from Forestry and the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research to the School for Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability and several interdisciplinary master’s degree programs. This year university marketing efforts have resulted in far more national visibility for some of our researchers.

How well informed do you feel about the university’s sustainability agenda, and where do you think we should go next?