Last week, BioStripe® attended the 2016 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Baltimore. This event brought together sustainability professionals, students, and sustainable products and services providers with one goal in mind: advancing sustainability initiatives. With 1500+ attendees each bringing unique perspectives and experiences working to advance sustainability, the event had no shortage of insightful information. My main takeaways were:
1. Leading by Example
While achieving both LEED Certification with new construction projects and earning STARS credits are accomplishments in their own right, universities have larger goals in mind. The hope that their efforts can serve as proving grounds for new, innovative sustainable practices, and promote adoption of these initiatives on a larger, more widespread scale.
2. New Solutions
Sustainability professionals are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to expanding their efforts. Some new, innovative products and practices have shifted the perception of some areas of campuses from ‘necessary evils’ from a sustainability perspective into opportunities for expansion. For example, parking lots are traditionally seen as an environmental detractor, with their heat island effect and use of petroleum in asphalt, sealers, and paints. However, there are now soybean-based paints and coatings that universities and sustainability-minded organizations can replace traditionally petroleum-dependent asphalt maintenance products with in BioStripe® and BioSealcoat. With everything from lightweight, fuel efficient lawn mowers to eco-friendly solvent distillation and recycling systems, the event featured products capable of spearheading sustainability initiatives beyond the conventional.
3. Critical Collaboration
In discussing the challenges associated with managing sustainability initiatives, many sustainability coordinators and directors expressed the need for buy-in and collaboration from other departments. From implementing green procurement strategies to gathering information for STARS reporting, sustainability professionals at large higher education institutions rely on strong partnerships and open lines of communication with other departments to evaluate projects and their impacts. For example, sustainability coordinators must communicate with facilities departments to evaluate the efficacy of new sustainable maintenance products and have continuous communication with finance departments to measure a project’s return on investment.
Did your organization attend the AASHE Conference? What were your impressions? OR Has your organization implemented new sustainability initiatives recently? Share your thoughts in the comments!