Not highfalutin end of the world privileged guilt trip. Campus-speak."
Properly, that sustainabilista medical team (SMT) diagnosed before they prescribed.
- “Our side likes complexity. And in communications, only simplicity works. Our side doesn't like simplicity because they view it as manipulative or not capturing the truth. [But] without simplicity, people don’t remember anything.”
Eventually, even some administrators imbibe the soup.
- “I’ve observed a trend of effective campus sustainability approaches gravitating to the Provost’s Office or Chancellor’s Office on campuses. Only with support and access at that level, where campus sustainability is clearly part of the core mission and not a distraction from or a “nice to have” element on campus, will the necessarily transformative change have a chance to succeed. For the “emergent operating system” that Penn State et al are currently championing to have a chance to innovate at the scale and pace of change that is needed, sustainability needs high-level leadership in addition to the ubiquitous grassroots students support, faculty advocacy, and staff diligence.
A few small, private liberal arts schools have reorganized themselves around sustainability and are leaders in this space. Green Mountain College comes to mind along with a handful of other well-led schools. Thank you all for your leadership
So our transition to a joyful new campus sustainability operating system (call it 2.0 or whatever) may be marked by:
- A focus and language that describes and quantifies how sustainability-related activities align with campus mission and advance specific goals (e.g. 3Rs) BEFORE we focus and talk about climate change, etc.
- And no finger-wagging ever. EVER. Not explicitly or implicitly. Don't box people in. This is really hard for some of the more devout sustainabilistas. They might decline a banana offered to them with "no thanks, I try not to eat bananas because they have a huge carbon footprint." That's a guilt zinger. A simple "no thanks" is all that's necessary.
- Recruiting and developing catalytic personnel that move between units and even silos to cross link activities that synergize sustainability outcomes while advancing campus mission. For instance, we recently won a research contract to study student emotional triggers that motivate recycling behaviors by cross linking our sports sustainability effort with researchers in traditional disciplines cooperating with Housing and Recycling staff. Wouldn't have happened without a couple catalysts who moved across those units with relative ease.
- While a viral network of catalysts or a formalized catalytic array blessed by management will boost institutional integration of sustainability, there's no substitute for having a seat and a real voice in campus leadership discussions. A CSO-like function, well designed, supported and integrated into C-level decision making is probably a prerequisite to full campus integration. More on that next time.
- Likewise, to win your campus leaders’ hearts and minds in support of a formal 2.0 upgrade may require we all learn new skills. The SMT has some Rx for that. Next time too.
- Finally, the SMT prescribes some treatments we sustainabilistas may need to apply to ourselves so we embody and model joy and happiness in all we do. This work is not worth doing if we all get depressed. There are emerging techniques that can help us stay in the happiness zone.
As always, your questions, comments or cheap shots are all welcome. Email me here or post below.
PS: To the members of the SMT, you know who you are, hopefully I synthesized and/or restated your input fairly and didn't bastardize it too much. I sincerely appreciate the help. And if I screwed something up I am confident you will tell me. Thanks!
PPS: I am reminded that my blogs generally have a big-campus bias and I apologize for that. It is no way a narrative on the relative contribution of small schools vs biggies. It is only because that's where I live and where my perspective is forged. I deeply appreciate the dedication, innovation, and impacts made by sustainabilistas in small campus contexts. Indeed, many days I just envy you. Thank you for your leadership.