Sustainability Matters: with Christian Palmer

A visit from the UH System Sustainability Office

In early November, Matthew Lynch, the UH System sustainability coordinator, and Krista Hiser, the UH System sustainability curriculum coordinator, came to WCC to conduct research, share information on system-wide initiatives and learn from WCC students, faculty and staff.

The diverse series of meetings, focus groups and informal conversations illustrated how improving campus sustainability involves a lot of different people across different campus areas. Here are a few important and ongoing conversations that emerged from these meetings.

First, S-designated or Sustainability-designated courses are a growing and integral part of learning in the University of Hawai‘i system. Every campus has some form of a sustainability designation.

At all of the campuses except Mānoa, this looks a lot like a WI (Writing Intensive) designation, which can be applied to any course across disciplines. UH Mānoa instead created a SUST alpha for sustainability courses that can also be cross-listed. In addition, UH West O‘ahu has already made S-designated courses a graduation requirement.

Several community colleges have recently created academic subject certificates in sustainability and others are working on putting them together.

Here at WCC, Woody Garrison of Media Services and Alex Parisky, Title III STEM developer, are helping to create an online, system-wide Introduction to Sustainability course that could become an important part of these academic subject certificates. These initiatives about teaching sustainability are so important because teaching is what we do best as institutions of higher learning.

In addition, Hiser conducted several focus groups with students, faculty and staff to get  a sense of what people know and understand about sustainability, workforce development and the future of Hawai‘i.

The focus groups talked about global warming, food security and other important issues and are part of a research project to learn about student and staff perceptions and understanding about sustainability.

Hiser and Lynch wanted to learn from the Windward community what we think and know, making it a two-way conversation.

Finally, a series of meetings with administration talked about campus operations, funding for green projects, the UH President’s Green Project Implementation Award and the upcoming system-wide Sustainability Summit.

The Green Project Implementation Award is a $10,000 grant for a student-led sustainability project in the UH system that closes on Dec. 30.

All of these different conversations illustrate the multiple approaches needed to make the University of Hawai‘i more sustainable.