Sustainability is a theme for today, and sustainable development is a goal for tomorrow, where universities and other higher educational institutions including schools have a critical role to play as change agents. With higher education institutions being locally rooted and globally connected, they offer significant opportunities to deliver complementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Higher education can help shape new ways for the world, tackling the grand challenges of our day as reflected in the SDGs through International declarations or charters.
“International declarations are significant because they symbolize the prominence of the sustainability movement, aid in the communication of major ideas to universities around the world, and implore those who have not committed to any sustain-ability initiatives to ‘get on board”.
Since universities and colleges are an integral part of the global economy and prepare most of the professionals who develop, manage and teach in the society’s public, private and non-governmental institutions, they are uniquely positioned to influence the direction we choose to take as a society.
Many universities are providing great examples of how to combat climate change through vision-mission statements, pledging, symbolic commitments and arming students with the green initiatives, knowledge and necessary skills to make individual changes, under the umbrella ‘green campus’.
“Green Campus Initiative is a program that plans, formulates, designs and implements a package of sustainable solutions by the campus community to reduce the environmental impact, enhance the campus sustainability and to protect the health and well-being of the surrounding community & ecosystems, implemented through selfless cooperation and coordination, by involving all stakeholders” - APSCC
The Green Campus concept offers an institution the opportunity to take the lead in rethinking its environmental culture and developing new paradigms for solving problems that are local, national, and global. It also presents a review of the approaches, methods and tools to inform, communicate and educate university students and the public on climate change being used by universities around the world.
The United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) look to tackle some of today’s biggest climate issues (SDG 13) through partnership and cooperation (SDG 17), thereby catalyzing the implementation of almost all goals. Against this backdrop, ‘Green Campus Initiative’ - an awareness and symbolic commitment program by the universities and colleges (Top-Down Approach) is featured with a three-pronged approach, in the line of Talloires Declaration (commitment), Green Protocol Compliance (baseline mapping) and Sustainability Literacy Test (literacy quotient assessment), as recommended by the UNEP - ‘Transforming universities into green and sustainable Campuses: a toolkit for implementers.
Talloires Declaration (implementing ten-point action plan)
The first official declaration integrating sustainability into education, research, campus operations and outreach made by twenty-two University Chancellors, Rectors and Vice-Chancellors was the Talloires Declaration. This historic document was composed in 1990 at an international conference on “The Role of Universities in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development,” held in Talloires, France, and has the Secretariat, University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF) in the USA. The Talloires Declarations paved the way for the formation of sustainable university alliances and is considered to be a preliminary step towards ensuring sustainability research and education are included in the agenda of The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the 'Earth Summit 1992’. The Talloires Declaration is a ‘ten-point action plan’ for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations and outreach at colleges and universities. It emphasizes more on expanding and strengthening their civic engagement and social responsibility work through teaching, learning, research, and service. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Earth Summit 2012 or, Rio+20, reaffirmed sustainable development as an international framework for action and cooperation. Target 4.7 of the SDG agenda also aims to “ensure all learners acquire knowledge and relevant skills needed to promote sustainable development” by 2030.
Green Protocol Compliance (Baseline mapping tool )
The Green Protocol is a comprehensive document that includes a guide to plan, formulate, implement and measure the result through factual means, and was grouped under seven heads such as:
- water management
- soil conservation & sustainable food production
- clean air
- energy conservation
- sustainable management of waste resources
- sustainable use of natural resources &
Principles for the green protocol were adopted partially from UN Conference on Environment and Development - The Rio Declaration (1992) and Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2030). It was drafted by the Association for Promoting Sustainability in Campuses and Communities (APSCC) in partnership with Pondicherry University and Government of Puducherry Departments: Department of Science, Technology and Environment and Puducherry Pollution Control Committee. In this program, the green protocol is used as a tool to map the existing scenario as the baseline of the respective campuses to watch, strategize and plan for campus sustainability, in all walks of life.
Sulitest (basic sustainability literacy level assessment)
Sustainability Literacy Test (Sulitest) was created in France after the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Cop21) and designed to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Sulitest is designed as an initial platform to foster the mission to, “support expanded sustainability knowledge, skills and mindset that motivate individuals to become deeply committed to building a sustainable future and to making informed and effective decisions”. The Sulitest initiative benefits from the support of a wide range of United Nations entities, renowned national and international academic institutions, and the trust of hundreds of contributors around the world. Sulitest was recognized in 2016 as one of the first featured initiatives of the UN Partnerships for Sustainable Development Goals, and in 2017 as a contributor to the review of the 2030 Agenda through the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
In the 1st phase, reaching out to the entire country (India), the National Level Green Campus Initiative Awareness Program (NLGCIP) is planned with the anticipated outcomes: symbolic commitment of the administration and the implementation of the ‘Ten Pont Action Plan’ of Talloires Declaration will make the universities or colleges to enter the International commitment for climate change, followed by the baseline mapping of the existing campus resources with the tool, Green Protocol, to watch and strategically plan for sustainable operations and campus resource conservation. In addition, the students and staff sustainability quotient would be assessed by the Sulitest and the gap will be filled through environment education. Finally, it evaluates and recognizes its position in the regional and global rankings and accreditation: Times Higher Education (THE), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)
Complements the following SDGs