Sustainability Symposium will explore ideas for campus sustainability

September 29, 2016

Tomorrow, a working group started by the Office of Sustainability will unveil the University’s first Sustainability Master Plan at the seventh-annual Sustainability Symposium.

The Sustainability Symposium is an annual event hosted by the President’s Sustainability Steering Committee. Students, faculty and staff from across campus will present on efforts and initiatives that promote themes like environmentalism and conservation.

One of this year’s sessions will include a presentation about sustainable food practices at the Division of Housing and Food Services by sustainability coordinator Neil Kaufman.

“It’s a good place to bring all of the sustainability initiatives and programs into one room where it can be discussed and talked about,” Kaufman said. “This helps us all consolidate our messages into one spot and one event.”

This year, members from the Office of Sustainability and other areas of campus will present the Sustainability Master Plan during the morning sessions of the symposium. The document is a 15-year plan for improving sustainability practices campus-wide in areas of conservation and social equity. Jim Walker, UT Director of Sustainability, said this plan will be the first to integrate sustainability efforts across campus.

“There are a lot of individual departments that have sustainability programs going on,” Walker said. “We don’t have an institution-level sense of sustainability and how it integrates into the identity of the university.”

The plan will cover a broad range of topics related to sustainability, including social equity or equality. Equity, unlike environmentalism, is not always thought of as a part of sustainability, according to sustainability program coordinator Alyssa Halle-Schramm.

Halle-Schramm said equity is important in ensuring that people of different socioeconomic classes have access to sustainable resources. One session at the symposium will go more in depth on how equity relates to sustainability.

“We really see it as a core component of sustainability, so we wanted to make sure that that was incorporated into the plan,” Halle-Schramm said. “We very much see equity as part of sustainability, but maybe we’re not great at communicating that externally.”

Walker said he hopes the plan can communicate this equity side of their sustainability efforts to the UT community.

“We hope that students, faculty and staff take away that sustainability is not just about environmentalism,” he said. “There’s a strong focus on it, but there’s also equity, a people side, that we’re trying to bring forward in the plan.”

The Sustainability Symposium will be held on Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the SAC Legislative Assembly Room.

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