AASHE Conference 2012 – What Did We Learn?

Date posted: October 25, 2012

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education hosted a conference in Los Angeles earlier this month. The conference fostered communication between college environmental representatives and teaches across the country. Bellevue College’s ASG (Associated Student Government) environmental representative, Mackenzie Williamson, was granted funds through the Student Environmental Sustainability Fund. Zack Boucher, the transportation Programs Coordinator, was the winning applicant to accompany Mackenzie on the trip. Deric Gruen, as the Sustainability Resource Conservation Manager, also attended the conference. The three Bellevue College representatives attended workshops on a variety of topics such as zero waste campuses, full cycle water systems, social justice issues, student engagement, and curriculum integration. They also listened to several Environmental experts like Hunter Lovins and Billy Parish.

The conference inspired the three to work on implementing some of the things they’ve learned. Mackenzie hopes to reduce the number of disposable water bottles on campus, and have water bottle fill stations installed. Zack wants to raise campus awareness so that we can get more students participating. Deric hopes to implement net-zero (self-sufficiency) building practices and to get more faculties involved. Deric also believes that “we need to focus on solutions and empower student leaders inside and outside the classroom in order to meet students where they’re at.” They are going to use all the lessons they’ve learned to make this year’s Earth Week a success.

Here is what our Resource Conservation Manager, Deric Gruen, had to say about the experience:

The Conference was once again an intense experience for me, with so many Colleges and Universities sharing their experiences in a brief few days.  I attended sessions on variety of subjects in my domain of responsibilities for Bellevue College, including:  green building, curriculum integration, student engagement, and social justice and campus operations.  I also participated in a sustainability officer’s workshop focusing on leadership and change management.  Here are just a few of the most insightful or intriguing notions for Bellevue College.

  • To engage students in two-year college we must target our messages, students level of engagement varies,  with at least for major types:  1) know but don’t act 2) act but don’t know 3) know and act 4) don’t “believe” in acting.   We need to focus on solutions and empower student leaders inside and outside the classroom that meet students where they’re at.
  • Building Net-Zero is possible and is being done here in the Northwest and elsewhere.  With strong leadership from the top, we can achieve this goal in our future developments; however it requires dedication both before and after completion and a project team up to the task.
  • Net-Zero or self-sufficiency, the goal that is sought after for many colleges, is a limited perspective of sustainability.  Consider the society in which we are emended. How can we better deal with the duality of the global and the local at the same time?  How can we leverage the diverse and varied lives and identifies of our students towards our mission, rather than seeing it as a barrier to engagement?
  • To comprehensively address our impact, we must look to our purchasing and identify and address our role in the supply chain and communicate this to the end users.
  • What goes unexamined and unnamed?  The dominate race, sexuality, humans place in the world, etc.  Has this always been the case? We must challenge and deconstruct these notions to reconstruct the realities we want to see.