Author Archives: wynn

Sustainability at the University of Alaska Anchorage: A Student’s Perspective

The Declaration, Volume 7, No. 1: Summer 2004  [Spotlight]

By Calvin Sweeney

After having called Alaska home since 1979, I decided to stay in state for my undergraduate studies, choosing to attend University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). Having interests in conservation issues prior to enrolling at UAA in 2000, I was familiar with how polarized Alaskans are when it comes to environmental issues, with the pro-development choice representing the majority. Prior to enrollment, I had assumed that the university was more progressive with respect to conservation issues, especially with its well educated administration and faculty. However, I was astonished to find that environmental awareness was to a large degree a hidden agenda in the campus community. For example, with the exception of a few individuals, even basic paper recycling was nonexistent on campus until last semester when a few professors pushed it as a service learning option (a valuable program to get students involved with sustainability on the campus and in the community). Unfortunately, one of these professors left UAA and only two students are currently involved with the paper recycling program; the sustainability task team is currently working on this issue.

To credit the efforts by a select few, UAA does offer well designed environmental studies minor, which I will have completed at the end of this semester. I feel that the environmental studies minor classes have been categorically the most important classes that I have taken in my university experience. For instance, not only have these classes have enabled me to become acutely aware of many social, economic, and environmental issues that we face today, but more significantly, how critical it is to understand the interrelationships between these issues to find sustainable solutions. Furthermore, I am certain that the understanding and set of values instilled by these classes will help to guide my internal compass as I apply principles of sustainability to choices I will make with regard to employment, lifestyle choices, and community. As a result of taking the environmental studies minor, I hope to be a better person and contribute in some small way toward helping to make the world a better place.

As a student of UAA, I am proud to announce that last April we joined the ranks of more progressive institutes of higher education by becoming an official signatory to the Talloires Declaration. During the multi-day event, Dr. Anthony Cortese was not only our inspirational keynote speaker, but he also spent considerable time with the UAA students, faculty, staff, and community members helping to build the foundation we would need to succeed. We owe a great deal of our sustainability accomplishments so far to Dr. Cortese’s efforts.

Since the signing of the Talloires Declaration we have been progressing forward with the implementation process. For instance, we had a Chancellor appointed Task Force on Sustainability (TFS) last summer charged with developing a comprehensive campus-wide strategy to implement UAA’s commitment to the Talloires Declaration. In addition to a small group of faculty and staff, I was one of two students who was offered and accepted this appointment. My summer Task Force position has inspired me to stay involved with the implementation of the Talloires Declaration. This semester I applied for and was accepted into a Community Service-Learning Advocate Program. This program is a win-win: The University wins because I am going to research how to integrate systems thinking concepts, especially with how economic, social, and environmental issues are interconnected, into UAA’s curricula and campus community. I win because in addition to receiving a 3-credit tuition waiver, I have the opportunity to be involved with a very inspiring project that allows me to contribute in a meaningful way to sustainability at UAA.

Having limited staff and resources, our summer TFS had to prioritize our projects. We ranked these by order of importance. We choose coalition building as one of our first projects. In addition to working to expand our campus and community networks, we secured funds to join ULSF and the Education for Sustainability Western Network (EFS West). As members of ULSF and EFS West, we look forward not only to gaining new ideas and collaboration from our new colleagues over the coming years, but also to the power of synergy that results from these alliances. A group of us from UAA, for example, will be attending the EFS West conference from October 21-23, in Portland, Oregon. We are all looking forward to this great opportunity to learn and network with so many other individuals and organizations committed to a sustainable future.

Another project that we began working on this summer was looking at what other institutions of higher education have done to implement the Talloires Declaration. From this research the TFS compiled a number of both short and long-term goals. Had this information not been so readily available (e.g., on the web), we never could have made as much progress as we have so far. We want to express our admiration for what others have done to implement sustainability on their campuses and our gratitude for their willingness to share this information.

Although we feel an urgency to accomplish more sooner, at least we are traveling on the right path. Some of our other projects to date include increasing our visibility and accessibility by setting up our website. We also secured funding to purchase sustainable furnishings and a comprehensive book, journal, and video collection for a sustainability resource room in our new library building. An ongoing project we tried to initiate was a campus-wide 100% Post consumer content, chlorine-free recycled paper program for all campus photocopy machines. We had campus support and supplier interest in the program, but unfortunately we were only able to secure enough paper to run a few pilot programs. (Ideas are welcome.) An exciting recent development is that we secured funding to host a “Sustainability” conference at UAA that is scheduled for February 11-12, 2005.

Calvin Sweeney is a student intern and advocate with the Sustainability Task Team at UAA. He hopes to teach environmental studies at the college level. Calvin can be reached at

The U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

The Declaration, Volume 7, No. 1: Summer 2004  [Spotlight] In December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring a “Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” to begin on January 1, 2005. The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is serving as the lead agency for this Decade, and nations are being…Continue Reading

Building a Statewide Network for Sustainability in Higher Education

The Declaration, Volume 6, Number 2: November 2003  [Spotlight] Michigan State Network At a workshop hosted by Michigan State University on March 13, 2003, colleges and universities across Michigan discussed how they could make their campus communities more sustainable in operations, academics, research, and outreach. The workshop brought together faculty, staff, students and administrators from…Continue Reading

An Emerging Campus Ecovillage Movement

The Declaration, Volume 6, Number 1: December 2002  [Spotlight] By Yonatan Strauch Personal Seeds In late 1999, a fellow student at Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB, Canada) proposed that a few of us work to create a ‘sustainable residence’, a new environmentally built eco-theme house that would also serve as a center for environmental and…Continue Reading

Higher Education for Sustainability and the World Summit on Sustainable Development

The Declaration, Volume 5, Number 2 : May 2002  [Spotlight] This June and July 2002, Higher Education Policy and the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education will publish the same series of articles in their respective issues. The Preface to that joint issue is reprinted here, with permission from the journal editors. Preface From…Continue Reading

Lüneburg Declaration Presented to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

The Declaration, Volume 5, Number 1 : December 2001  [Spotlight] The “Lüneburg Declaration on Higher Education for Sustainability” was recently presented to the United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kofi Annan by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Rector of the United Nations University, Professor Hans van Ginkel. Professor van Ginkel was one of…Continue Reading

Wind Power at the University of Colorado, Boulder

The Declaration, Volume 4, Number 2 : May 2001  [Spotlight] By Ghita Levenstein Last spring, in the largest student voter turnout in University of Colorado-Boulder history, students voted by a 5 to 1 margin to increase student fees by $1 per semester for 4 years to purchase wind power from Xcel Energy’s Ponnequin wind farm.…Continue Reading

Global Higher Education for Sustainability Partnership (GHESP) is Launched in December 2000

The Declaration, Volume 4, Number 2 : May 2001  [Spotlight] MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING Four organizations with a significant commitment to making sustainability a major focus of higher education hereby agree to form a “Global Higher Education for Sustainability Partnership (GHESP),” namely: The COPERNICUS Programme of the Association of European Universities (CRE), The International Association of…Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy

The Declaration, Volume 4, Number 1 : October 2000  [Spotlight] Seeing environmental challenges ahead, and mindful of the expertise and interest in environmental issues that exists in many Pennsylvania institutions of higher education, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) have worked with Pennsylvania colleges…Continue Reading

Guilford College Commits

The Declaration, Volume 3, Number 3 : February 2000  [Spotlight] By David Landis Barnhill It was sunny and warm on April 22, 1999, at Guilford College. On the 29th anniversary of Earth Day, President Don McNemar took the podium on the lawn outside Founders Hall to announce the Green Campus Initiative: a new major in…Continue Reading