SI Team Members Contribute to Annual Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education

Joining sustainability colleagues from around the world, we were thankful to be able to attend the 2020 Annual Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education hosted October 20-21, 2020 by AASHE (The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), albeit virtually and contributed to the conversation about how to advance sustainability in higher education.

Are Campuses Making Progress on Their Climate Goals?
Presented by Project Director, Jenn Andrews

Many campuses, including UNH, have now had carbon reduction commitments and goals in place for more than a decade, and track and report their carbon footprints annually. These campus efforts matter not because getting any single campus to carbon neutral will halt global climate change, but because our collective efforts can help drive necessary technological, economic, policy and social changes. UNHSI’s 'Sustainability Indicator Management & Analysis Platform' (SIMAP) has greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory data from nearly 500 campuses, and looking at that aggregated data set gives a sense of to what degree those needed changes are materializing. The SIMAP team, working with our wonderful colleagues at Steve Muzzy at Second Nature, Dave Karlsgodt at Brailsford & Dulnavey, and Chris O’Brien at CustomerFirst Renewables, conducted and presented an analysis of the aggregated SIMAP dataset to tell the story of higher education's progress, addressing questions like the following: Have we seen GHG reductions? (Yes!)  Are those reductions in line with IPCC recommendations? (Yes—the campuses in our data set who are tracking their emissions have reduced their emissions by 24% between 2010 and 2018, which means they are on track for 45% reductions by 2030—the target called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But what about the 3000+ US colleges and universities that aren’t yet doing so? How can we bring them along? Are campuses driving the deployment of renewable energy? (Yes! We’ve seen a 500% increase in campus renewable energy purchases.) The story is one of both inspiring progress, and a great deal of work still to do to preserve a livable planet for humanity and all life.  We are working with our partners to publish the full results of the analysis soon, so stay tuned…

Creating Cultures of Equitable Belonging Using our Food Systems as the Galvanizing Frame
Presented by Karen Spiller, Thomas W. Haas Professor of Sustainable Food Systems

For the past five years, Food Solutions New England has hosted the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge that has inspired thousands to learn, reflect and act in service of creating a culture of belonging and just practices, starting with our food system as a frame. The Challenge content combines researched-based and peer review articles and books; videos and instructional tools developed by nationally recognized organizations in the field; invited blog posts and other curated resources.

Food system practitioners, policy makers, educators, community activists, college students, soil scientists, healthcare professionals and their agencies represent a vast set of diversity sectors of people who continue to find ways to build and nurture relationships, shift policies and challenge norms that include some and exclude most.

With a food system frame and lens of racial and social equity, we have been able to create space for dialogue, authentic engagement and allyship leading action and changes in the way the work is done, and decisions are made. With intentionality, we have used this Challenge as a tool to transform the culture at a higher education institution by engaging faculty in syllabii development for their courses across disciplines of agriculture, social work and business, for example; inviting student-led campus conversations; and hosting point of service and learning activities in the university's dining services and meal plans.

In Karen’s session, participants learned about the historical and still existing inequities in our food system; reflect on how this impacts our personal, interpersonal, structural and institutional behaviors and practices; explore ways and strategies to act and interact at every level of our institutions, committed to prepare, support and celebrate the fullness of our university communities, its students, faculty and staff in its quest to be one of excellence and belonging.

Investing in the Just Transition: How to Leverage Your University’s Endowment
Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer, Fiona Wilson,
contributed to a panel hosted by the International Endowments Network and talked about UNH’s work in sustainable investing, including in the NH Community Loan Fund, leveraging financial resources to enable traditionally underserved people to participate more fully in state's economy.

It was true pleasure to present on this panel discussing how to leverage university endowments to advance a just transition alongside some amazing women leaders, Kaede Kawauchi (Intentional Endowments Network), Lucy Arellano Baglieri, PHR (Low Income Investment Fund), and Shivani Patel (RBC Global Asset Management). I was glad to have the opportunity to talk about University of New Hampshire's work in sustainable investing, including in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, leveraging financial resources to enable traditionally underserved people to participate more fully in state's economy. These types of investments support our financial investment goals as a University, and fulfills our public service mission. We firmly believe that universities not only have a unique opportunity, but an obligation, to do whatever is in our power to build a sustainable future, and University endowments present an exciting opportunity to advance change. Thanks to AASHE and IEN for hosting the conference virtually this year!