2021 Sustainability Plan Engagement

Everyone at American University plays a role in creating a sustainable campus.

Engagement Sustainability For All

Sustainability progress on campus is only possible when our entire community is engaged and empowered. From the classroom to the arboretum and beyond campus, our entire community has played a critical role in helping AU become a leader in sustainability. We will continue to support students, organizations, faculty, staff, and offices that want to engage with and advance sustainability on campus. We aim to weave human health, wellness, inclusivity, and accessiblility into all the work that we do. 

1. Scholarship and Teaching

“[C]ampuses that address the climate challenge by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by integrating resilience into their curriculum, research, and campus operations will better serve their students and meet their social mandate to help create a vital, ethical, and prosperous civil society.” – Second Nature Climate Commitment

Goal 1.1: Substantially increase the number of courses identified as sustainability focused or related.

Goal 1.2: Support continued and expanded scholarship related to sustainability, specifically adaptation and resilience, wellness, and environmental justice.

  • Substantially increase the number of courses identified as sustainability focused or related.
  • Support AU’s Year of Climate Action (AY 2021-2022) by partnering with other environmental units on campus to catalyze and create a strong linked calendar of events.
  • Create a program to support faculty who wish to integrate sustainability into an existing class. Recruit from across schools to increase the number of departments that offer a sustainability course.
  • Support library efforts around the expansion of open access publishing.
  • Create resources for faculty members to include adaptation and resilience, wellness, and environmental justice into their classes.
  • Secure funding for an annual award that will recognize a member of the faculty who has embodied sustainability in scholarship through the generation of new knowledge or practices.
  • Work with the new cross-campus Center for Environment, Community, and Equity to promote research and community engagement opportunities for AU students.

Colleges and universities have a unique opportunity in the effort to mitigate climate change to educate the future leaders of companies, non-profits, and government about how climate change and environmental problems are linked to every aspect of society. By connecting sustainability with students in the classroom, we can enable our students to turn any career path into a green career path regardless of a student’s area of study.

2. Wellness

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” – David Attenborough

Goal 2.1: Establish building and grounds standards to advance wellness goals.

Goal 2.2: Expand accessibility in outdoor spaces

Goal 2.3: Expand resources to support active lifestyles in outdoor spaces

Goal 2.4: Expand access to wellness resources (including food resources and off-campus resources).

  • Investigate WELL and Fitwel building certifications and write campus standards to align with campus plan.
  • Investigate Campus Nature Rx.
  • Expand partnerships to further develop outdoor walking trails to create educational and fitness tools on campus.
  • Expand programming that connects the Arboretum with wellness efforts.
  • Expand on-campus biking resources (i.e., showers, bike racks, education) and advocate for additional off-campus resources.
  • Study and increase walkability and accessibility on-campus (i.e., pedestrian safety, curb lips) and advocate for additional resources.

A number of public health issues are directly related to sustainability. By considering human health and wellness in the built environment, in our outdoor spaces, and in our programming, we can improve wellness across the AU community.

3. Environmental Justice

“Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” –EPA

Goal 3.1: Review sustainability programming to identify opportunities to improve inclusivity and work to continuously improve inclusivity in programming.

Goal 3.2: Connect ongoing sustainability work with issues of environmental justice

  • Work with CTRL to incorporate inclusive teaching practices into best practices for green teaching.
  • Review sustainability outreach materials, utilizing campus resources, to improve inclusivity.
  • Incorporate environmental justice into sustainability outreach.
  • Incorporate environmental justice into sustainability curriculum expansion efforts.
  • Connect campus inclusive event and green event guidelines.

Through AU’s commitment to Inclusive Excellence, we will work to connect sustainability efforts on campus with racial and social justice goals. We know that climate change, like other environmental problems, will have a disproportionate impact on disenfranchised communities.

4. Campus Engagement

“The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it.” – Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist

Goal 4.1: Increase involvement from students, staff, and faculty in co-curricular and other sustainability activities.

Goal 4.2: Improve sustainability literacy and expand a culture of sustainability across the AU community.

Goal 4.3: Increase communication efforts to inform the AU community about grounds, energy, zero waste, transportation, dining, and other campus sustainability efforts.

  • Continue to organize sustainability-focused events, campaigns, competitions, volunteer opportunities, and campus tours.
  • Renew and grow our support for sustainability-focused student organizations.
  • Continue to hire a cohort of undergraduate interns to conduct sustainability engagement activities across campus.
  • Increase participation in the Green Office Program and create new tools to encourage sustainable workplace behaviors. Expand program to recognize offices that create tailored sustainability plans.
  • Host workshops and presentations focused on applying sustainable practices at home and work.
  • Create engagement plan to increase participation and knowledge around zero waste, energy, and other sustainability efforts.
  • Conduct bi-annual sustainability literacy and culture survey.

Sustainability progress on campus is only possible when our entire community is engaged and empowered. From implementing energy-saving measures to starting the beekeeping society, our campus community has played a critical role in helping AU become a leader in sustainability. We will continue to support students, organizations, faculty, staff, and offices that want to engage with and advance sustainability on campus.

5. Community Engagement

"Building sustainable cities – and a sustainable future – will need an open dialogue among all branches of national, regional, and local government. And it will need the engagement of all stakeholders – including the private sector and civil society, and especially the poor and marginalized." – Ban Ki-moon

Goal 5.1: Expand and create partnerships across the District to meet shared sustainability and resiliency goals.

Goal 5.2: Offer sustainability educational programs to the community.

Goal 5.3: Continue and expand our involvement in local and global sustainability policy development.

  • Continue community engagement programs that connect students with local organizations to consult on sustainability.
  • Invite the community to join us for workshops and educational programs.
  • Continue to work with the DC government and other universities and organizations in the district on shared sustainability goals.
  • Share Community-Based Learning resources with faculty as a way to integrate sustainability into courses and create projects to promote sustainability issues across disciplines and schools.
  • Collaborate with Explore DC program to advance ongoing partnerships to address community needs and connect incoming students.
  • Promote and create sustainable Alternative Breaks for students.

AU has long been recognized as a leader in sustainability; we can use our knowledge to help other organizations advance their own sustainability efforts. Sustainability can also serve to strengthen our relationships with the community immediately surrounding campus and throughout DC and the DMV region. Working together with other schools, organizations, and governments, we can achieve local and global sustainability goals faster.