Sustainability has become one of the main focuses of Keene State College, and efforts have been made to keep the college sustainable.
From compost bins in the dining commons to replacing crude heating oil with purified waste vegetable oil, the college has made countless efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.
However, it is one thing for the college to practice sustainability, but it is another thing for students to make sustainability a priority in their lives.
Many people contribute to pollution and global warming without even realizing it.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the average U.S. citizen emits 20 tons of carbon dioxide every year, which is five times higher than the global average.
What you eat in the household also contributes to our impact on carbon emissions. The University of Michigan found the average U.S household food consumption emits 8.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The emitted carbon dioxide in the air gets trapped in the atmosphere, causing climate change.
Even though humans can have a negative impact on the earth, we can not give up.
Raising awareness about climate change and doing what we can to live a sustainable life is key to having a healthier planet. The first step in doing so is to try and incorporate sustainability into our own lives.
KSC is already taking steps to make sure students will graduate with the skills and mindset of living sustainably.
In 2015, when Director of Sustainability Cary Gaunt first arrived at KSC, five learning outcomes were established, which are the goals and skills the college hopes students will develop by the time they graduate.
The learning outcomes include critical thinking, creative inquiry, intercultural competence, civic engagement and commitment to well-being.
However, a sixth learning outcome was talked about but not yet established: sustainability.
KSC Program Manager for Diversity and Multiculturalism Initiatives, Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne said, at the time the learning outcomes were first developed, the sustainability outcome was discussed, but never implemented. “There are different ways of viewing sustainability, all very important, all very relevant, and we were struggling to come to some consensus about what that outcome might focus on,” Schmidl-Gagne said.
A few years after the idea of sustainability as a learning outcome was scrapped, Gaunt and Geography Professor Jo Beth Mullens teamed up to officially establish it.
Gaunt and Mullens worked with the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability. Last semester, Gaunt, Schmidl-Gagne, R.O.C.K.S. and the Eco-Reps worked together in creating the sustainability learning outcome.
“We want people that come to school here to not only live and learn at a sustainable campus, but understand what that means and understand how to carry those values into their lives after Keene State,” Gaunt said.
Schmidl-Gagne said the biggest obstacle was summing up the sustainability outcome in a few sentences. That’s when Gaunt and Schmidl-Gagne reached out to students.
KSC Eco-Rep Justin Landry said the Eco-Reps and R.O.C.K.S. worked together to develop the language of the sustainability learning outcome by brainstorming key concepts through creating a word cloud. Landry said sustainability can be applied to almost every major and course offered at KSC.
“I think the learning outcomes, specifically sustainability, are a great idea,” Landry said. “All the learning outcomes and all the things that make up the learning outcomes can be incorporated into any class, and I think that’s especially true of sustainability. Even classes that are completely unrelated still have some component of sustainability.”
Gaunt said she is hoping the new outcome will be developed by Earth Day on April 22.
Gaunt said either one or two public forums will be possibly held in the beginning of April on the input of the learning outcome draft.
She said there are also focus groups with different majors and stakeholders on campus.
By Earth Day, Gaunt hopes the outcome plan will be “rock solid” and approved by the College Senate.
Schmidl-Gagne said if a student wants to help out with developing the outcome to talk to either Gaunt or Mullens and to keep an eye out for the public forums.
Katherine Glosser can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org