Sunday through Wednesday, I'll be at the AASHE 2008 Sustainability Conference in Raleigh, NC. This is the largest green conference for Colleges and Universities and has sold out (2000 attendees, up from 750 attendees at the first conference 2 years ago). College commitment toward sustainability continues to grow as over 500 college presidents have signed the Presidents Climate Commitment (PCC). From our work with some colleges, it appears to that colleges are starting to move from a general, directional commitment toward sustainability to actual implementation of projects, but we have found a large variance in investment levels.
Key questions for me at the conference are the following (for which I'll report after the conference concludes).
1. How aggressively will colleges invest in sustainability and actual efficiency and carbon reduction projects in the next 18 months, particularly given the recession. Have they put projects on hold or cancelled projects? If they don't have a sustainability manger or officer, have they delayed hiring one? Who is approving investments?
Benefits of Investment
2. Where do they see the biggest benefit of investment (or conversely where are they getting the most pressure to invest)? Students? Alumni? Trustees? faculty? cost savings? "keeping up with peer colleges as they battle for new students?
Effects of Grading Schemes
3. At least 5 college "green" grading schemes have been develop, all using a different methodology. How much do this influence investment decisions?
4. How committed to actual climate neutrality are they if their organization as signed the PCC? Does the president and trustees realize that this may involved spending millions for offsets? Will the PCC be any different than the Talloires Declaration, a ten-point action plan for colleges and universities committed to promoting education for sustainability and environmental commitment signed by over 330 colleges and universities, but for which little investment was made?