As the largest public university in the country (with more than 70,000 students) and with its location in an arid environment, associating Arizona State University (ASU) with a successful sustainability program seems as unlikely as growing a successful business selling ice in the arctic circle. With its four different campuses, ASU is a complex system; in fact, its operations reflect that of a small city. Given the struggles that cities and towns are having in encouraging and developing sustainable living programs, it isn’t surprising that ASU has come up against problems of its own. But, thanks to its learning environment and its dynamic president, Michael Crow, ASU has willingly chosen to pursue a course rooted in sustainability. ASU is known as one of the first universities to develop an integrated effort to achieve sustainability. The Global Institute of Sustainability, ASU’s organizational hub for sustainability, has four cornerstones: education, research, operations and global connections (outreach, solutions and community engagement efforts). On the operations side, we have four main goals:
- carbon neutrality or reaching zero on our carbon footprint in areas such as our energy consumption, transportation waste footprints and liquid fuel consumption;
- zero waste — both solid and water waste;
- active engagement — essentially that we have more than 82,000 potential change agents in our faculty, staff and students (not counting vendor and stakeholder partners), and everyone has a role to play in our success in sustainability, and last but not least;
- principled practice — encompasses how we express our value system of sustainability in the way we operate the university and the way individuals engage with the university, including such things as the products we purchase, how we clean our buildings, the food we serve and the quality of our living, learning and work environments.