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Leveraging the Campus Carbon Commitment through Student Leadership

Authors: J Anthony Abbott*, Stetson University
Topics: Higher Education, Sustainability Science, Environment
Keywords: Campus Sustainability, Sustainability Director, Student Activism
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Colleges and universities pursue environmental sustainability in myriad ways. Sustainability officers, faculty working groups, and student activism are common social formations, at times functioning in isolation or in cooperation. Institutional integration ranges from formal inclusion in organizational frameworks through ad hoc committees to single issue activism by passionate actors. Second Nature, the non-profit organization administering the Carbon Commitment (formerly the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment) has fostered environmental sustainability in higher education for over 14 years, by prioritizing action on greenhouse gas emissions. A case study from Stetson University, a regional comprehensive private school, shows how the Carbon Commitment was leveraged to create a core group of student environmental activists structurally linked to University administration. These Environmental Fellows are supported by financial scholarships and benefit from institutional memory, through close interaction with faculty and staff, and mentorship to jump start novel environmental initiatives. Leadership training is integral to the Fellows organized into tiered cohorts for peer to peer guidance. Fellows put leadership training into practice by directing key environmental initiatives: management of the school’s Green Revolving Fund and chairing the University’s Environmental Working Group (with membership of several University vice presidents including the chief financial officer and the facilities director). The presenter’s role in this has evolved from campus greenhouse gas audit lead to Environmental Fellows director. Strategies for empowering students to lead the discussion and inspire participation by all levels of administration undergird the success of the leveraging the carbon audit for wider environmental sustainability.

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