Kalamazoo College’s Commitment

Climate change has been asserted as endangering our planet’s health. As former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said at the time of the 2009 Copenhagen worldwide summit on climate change:

“The stakes are enormous. Economic growth has been achieved at great environmental and social cost, aggravating inequality and human vulnerability. The irreparable damage that is being inflicted on ecosystems, agricultural productivity, forests and water systems is accelerating. Threats to health, life and livelihoods are growing. Disasters are also increasing in scale and frequency.”

“Sustainability” has been suggested by many environmental experts and advocates as a means vital to meeting the world’s challenges. But understanding what sustainability is, why it is needed, and what practices should be implemented remains conceptually elusive to most people because of their lack of familiarity with this critical issue, especially at a scale of global proportions.

The most popular definition of sustainability can be traced to a 1987 United Nations conference, Our Common Future, which defined sustainable developments as those that “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Seeking sustainability, however, requires new ways of thinking about the use of our natural resources, a re-evaluation of our energy policies and practices, and changes in our daily lifestyles. It requires that we create “learning laboratories” that not only direct our attention to strategies and attitudes aimed at reducing carbon emissions but that we make opportunities available so that we may understand, experiment, and practice new and more ecological ways of living. As an educational institution, Kalamazoo College is well-positioned be a “learning laboratory” for teaching its students such sustainability
theories and practices. It can also demonstrate sustainability leadership by adopting policies that reduce the institution’s environmental footprint.

Kalamazoo College, with its 55-acre campus, 21 buildings, 1,400 students, and 350 employees, has a significant environmental footprint. As an official first step, in July 2007, the College joined 347 other institutions as a charter signatory to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the operations of their respective campuses. President Wilson-Oyelaran then established a campus-wide committee charged with creating a comprehensive institutional action plan to move the College toward complete climate at the earliest possible date. Through this commitment, the College aims to do its part in reducing its environmental impact in measurable ways and to become a leader in the local community by developing and advocating environmentally sound values and practices among its students, faculty and staff. This document outlines the goals and strategies for achieving this ambitious but essential endeavor.

The College has already established some practices supportive of sustainable environmental standards in its operations and facilities. Individual members of the College have also demonstrated interest and commitment as reflected in a broad range of initiatives, activities and research that they have pursued. The time has come, however, to build on those initiatives and articulate a comprehensive set of sustainability goals that call upon all members of the College community, both individually and collectively, to help the College play its role in the global effort to achieve a sustainable future for all.

We believe that we have a responsibility to look for ways to achieve environmental improvements in our own operations. By using the campus as a laboratory for the development and deployment of new technologies and practices, we will not only contribute to and exemplify the range of behaviors needed to achieve a sustainable society, but we will also involve our students in ways that will train them to be good environmental citizens.