On Defining Sustainability at the 2014 Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Summit

On February 27-28, 2014, a group of St. Edward’s University students, staff, and faculty attended the annual Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Summit (TRACS) at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. The aim of the conference was to assist the Texas sustainability community in strategically advancing their programs on all levels. Gwen Bailey and Thomas LaPoint, two St. Edward’s University graduate students in the Environmental Management and Sustainability program, presented a poster during the conference titled “Comparing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Among Texas Universities.” Following the conference, Ms. Bailey wrote a reflection on her experience and a call to action to fellow students to engage in a discussion of what sustainability means to them. Check out her musings below:

By Gwen Bailey

Sustainability, and its definition, is widely contested. Sustainability is a word that is not inextricably bound by one context, which is why its definition applies to multiple realms including sustainable development, sustainable education, sustainable economics, sustainable society. But last month, the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability held a conference to discover what it means to have or to work towards campus sustainability.

Thankfully, the two-day conference didn’t spend all of its time trying to define sustainability! However, one of the most compelling events of the conference was a breakout session facilitated by Dr. Merna Jacobsen of Texas A&M University. The moderator of the session, which was listed on the agenda as “Campus Sustainability Visionary Process”  asked each table to answer a fundamental question: What do we want TRACS to be, to become, and to be known for? Ultimately, the group I was put into came up with a generic response such as “an open forum of shared ideas on sustainability initiatives.”

Since universities are some of the most, enlightened, open, and politically forward institutions that this country has, then the sense of urgency to define sustainability needs to be pushed into full force. I write today to provide SEU with it’s own open forum. To moderate a session for SEU students to quibble over their personal definition of sustainability. What does sustainability mean to you, dear fellow colleagues? How would you define it in your own terms?

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