The Image of Sustainability on Campus

Sustainability really needs to get it’s image together when it comes to it’s branding. I ran across this article from the student-run paper at Washington University in St. Louis a few days ago. It basically states that Campus Sustainability Day came and went on October 20th (My birthday!) without much fanfare and the majority of students on campus not even aware of it’s existence.

This doesn’t surprise me. Did you know it was Campus sustainability Day? I didn’t. Hell, I’m enrolled in one of the most sustainable-oriented schools in the states and no one at school mentioned anything.

But you know what? I’m okay with it. Kinda. Here’s what the article said about the day:

But while Washington University considers itself a leader in collegiate sustainability, boasting its participation in the day in an official press release, many school officials and students both consider the day unimportant.

According to Deborah Howard, interim director of sustainability, the day is not a true priority, and communication about it is limited to word of mouth.

“We wanted to support it, but that’s all,” Howard said. “Obviously it’s something that’s important to us, but 365 days a year, not just the one day.”

I’m glad that sustainability is “important to them” all year round, but they also committed one of the 7 sins of Greenwashing. The sin of fibbing. Don’t “boast about participation” when no one at the school really cares. But hey, you know what, any school that is beginning to offer an undergrad degree in sustainability is on the right track.

But back to Campus sustainability Day.  You know what? I couldn’t care less about it. I think the whole concept could be another way to greenwash at a school that really celebrates it. What about the school that has done nothing to clean up its act, but pours money into pretending it’s actually doing something? That way everyone at the school can breathe deeply knowing that they’ve gotten all those environmentalist to shut up for a while and go back to the status quo.




6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bria on October 24, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    It seems there is a day for everything. I used to work at a hospital, there was doctor’s day, nurses day, secretary’s day, along with a day for every clinic, even the obscure ones. There were so many celebratory days of recognition that it became background for me. With blinders on, it was just another day. I like the Harvard quote, about caring 365 days a year, to me that means a lot more.


  2. […] EcoErudite Sustainability in Academia Skip to content HomeAbout ← The Image of Sustainability on Campus […]


  3. I agree with Bria that there’s an excess of “this day” and “that day” celebration, but I don’t think you can make that a reason to not support a day that aligns with your values. Sustainability is certainly a 365 day a year activity, but this is a missed opportunity for organizers and campus reps to coordinate awareness and activities which promote sustainability. The benefit of several schools doing this is the cross-talk between students and faculty of different schools.


  4. Hey Alex:

    You know… “Every day is Earth — (er, insert theme here) — Day!”

    But I hear you, nonetheless… Much needed service, by the way, educating folks on the pervasiveness of greenwashing!

    Getting Business to Green Places


  5. Interesting find Alex. My sentiments are similar to Bria’s. I’m not a huge fan of ANY _____ awareness day or whatever. These things only do something if people are enthused and actually do something in line with the theme. This does not seem to happen very much. They should have offered free Big Macs to students who carpooled. Oh wait…


    • Posted by Lisa on October 28, 2010 at 11:04 am

      Alex – I think the fact that no-one knew or remembered is that we are all going soooo fast that we don’t even stop to recognize our own personal special days, let alone anyone/anything elses. I am getting to the point that I barely remember my own birthday. I know you are not there based on the celebration posted on FB but it too may happen to you someday :).


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