For best practices in campus sustainability, see AASHE’s 2021 award winners

by Brianna Crandall — December 15, 2021 — The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) recently announced the 12 winners for the 2021 AASHE Sustainability Awards, recognizing exemplary strategies in promoting campus sustainability in such areas as landscape management and environmentally sustainable healthcare.

AASHE logoThe awards provide global recognition to the individuals and organizations leading the higher education sustainability movement. With the help of volunteer judges from the community, the awards program raises the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects and collaborations, pioneering research, and student leadership, helping to disseminate innovations and inspire continued progress toward environmental, social and economic health.

This year’s winners are listed below.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

  • David Shi, a visionary leader for sustainability who, as president at Furman University from 1994 to 2010, helped transform the institution into a widely recognized model for sustainability.  Notable accomplishments under his leadership include the adoption of a general education requirement in sustainability and the launch of a new bachelor of science degree in Sustainability Science. David was also charter signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and later served on the board of Second Nature. His impact on campus continues to be felt in the work of the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, which promotes sustainable communities through education, research and leadership.

Racial Equity and Sustainability Collaborations Winners

  • Catawba College’s Equity, Diversity, Justice, Inclusion Task Force, which aims to build a campus community where all members thrive by working to cultivate critical conversations and practices that close opportunity gaps and promote equity, diversity, justice, and inclusion on campus and in the larger community.

Campus Sustainability Achievement Award Winners

Associate/2-year Institutions

  • Cascadia College’s Cornucopia Food Forest, an integrated learning project at Cascadia College that creates opportunities for students from multiple disciplines to engage in and learn about permaculture.

Institutions with over 10,000 FTE Enrollment

  • North Carolina State University’s Pack Essentials Steering Committee, a large, diverse network of N.C. State and community partners working to address the multidimensional challenge of food and housing insecurity.

Institutions with under 10,000 FTE Enrollment

  • Brandeis University’s Sustainable Dining Program, which harnessed the RFP and contracting process for a new dining vendor in 2019-2021 to make huge strides in sustainability in the University’s dining program.

Campus Sustainability Research Award Winners

Undergraduate Research

  • Wiley J. Hundertmark, Marissa Lee, Ian A. Smith, Vivien Chen, Conor K. Gately, Pamela H. Templer and Lucy R. Hutyra at Boston University and Ashley H.Y. Bang at Brown University for Influence of landscape management practices on urban greenhouse gas budgets. This study quantifies the impact of landscaping management strategies — such as mulch application and expanding tree canopy — on biogenic carbon emissions.

Graduate Research

  • James Ayers at Blekinge Institute of Technology for Educational contexts and designs for cultivating leaders capable of addressing the wicked issues of sustainability transitions. This thesis investigates the efficacy of academic sustainability programs in developing sustainability competencies among students and suggests strategies for improvement.

Published Journal Article — Academics

  • Nicole Redvers and Be’sha Blondin at Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, Clinton Schultz at Bond University, Melissa Vera Prince at University of Washington, Myrna Cunningham at El Fondo para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas de América Latina y El Caribe (FILAC) and Rhys Jones at University of Auckland for Indigenous perspectives on education for sustainable healthcare. This research paper discusses the urgent need in the health professions education community to prioritize environmentally sustainable healthcare practice, and argues that it must include and prioritize Indigenous voices and Indigenous knowledge systems.

Published Journal Article — Engagement

  • Alexandra Lyon and Hannah Wittman at University of British Columbia and Harriet Friedmann at University of Toronto for Can public universities play a role in fostering seed sovereignty? This paper examines the history of public research for seed systems in North America, arguing that commercialization of public research has exacerbated inequalities inherent in the founding structure of public agricultural research. It offers a reimagined public seed research agenda that focuses on strengthening links between public research and grassroots seed movements.

Published Journal Article — Operations

  • Molly Anderson at Middlebury College, Nicole Tichenor Blackstone at Tufts University, Eleanor Sterling and Erin Betley at American Museum of Natural History, Sharon Akabas at Columbia University, Pamela Koch at Teachers College, Columbia University, Colin Dring and Will Valley at University of British Columbia, Joanne Burke and Karen Spiller at University of New Hampshire for Towards an equity competency model for sustainable food systems education programs. This paper assesses the extent to which sustainable food systems education programs in the U.S. and Canada address equity, and proposes an equity competency model that provides strategies for dismantling racism and other forms of inequity.

Published Journal Article — Planning & Administration

  • Helen Kopnina at The Hague University of Applied Science and Northumbria University for Education for Sustainable Development Goals (ESDG): What Is Wrong with ESDGs, and What Can We Do Better? Using a course as an intervention, this paper discusses the shortcomings of the current use and practice of sustainable development and education for sustainable development, arguing that they are anthropocentric and have moral and pragmatic limitations.

Student Sustainability Leadership Award Winner

  • Teresa Homsi and Eric Urbaniak at Central Michigan University for Central Sustainability, a successful effort to create a centralized sustainability structure at the University.

AASHE’s Executive Director Meghan Fay Zahniser commented:

The 12 institutions and individuals that make up this year’s award winners clearly demonstrated the incredible work that happens regularly throughout the higher education sustainability community. We are thrilled to recognize these outstanding efforts to advance sustainability.

For more details about the campus sustainability programs and projects honored by this year’s awards, visit the AASHE Awards webpage. AASHE empowers higher education administrators, faculty, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE enables members to translate information into action by offering essential resources and professional development to a diverse, engaged community of sustainability leaders.