'Sustainabilty' More Than Buzzword on College Campuses

Article excerpt

"Sustainability" is moving beyond its status as a marketing buzzword on college campuses, advocates say.

It has quietly become a way of thinking across the curriculum and in administration offices across the nation, said David Hassenzahl, dean of Chatham University's new School of Sustainability and the Environment.

"It is this idea of, 'How do we move into the future in a way that doesn't leave a degraded environment in a degraded economy in a degraded social system?' " said Paul Rowland, executive director of Denver-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Nestled in a wooded Shadyside neighborhood surrounded by the mansions of deceased deans of industry, Chatham is building a new "green" campus at Eden Hall Farm in Richland. School officials boast it will be the nation's first "net-zero" energy campus, producing all the energy it consumes through a combination of geothermal and hydro-electric production, low-velocity wind turbines and other efforts.

A tour of the Eden Hall campus is one of several activities that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education plans when it brings 2,500 members on Sunday to Pittsburgh for a three-day conference.

Marketers and construction associations have seized on the terms "green" and "sustainable" to describe any number of products they want to sell as being environmentally friendly.

Rowland said a far more important movement is under way on campuses, in which colleges have incorporated sustainability into everything -- from waste disposal and energy use, to curriculums in disciplines as diverse as engineering and food services.

Rowland's group went national in 2006 with 40 members. Today, it boasts 150 businesses, 100 nongovernmental organizations and 913 colleges and universities, ranging from tiny private schools to Penn State University among its dues-paying members.

Chatham, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Point Park, Slippery Rock and West Virginia universities are among the institutions hosting the national conference. …