How to implement a sustainability plan

University of Maryland, Baltimore

Edwin Remsberg

Challenge 

Making sustainability a priority across all facets of a dining services program and becoming “widely recognized as a national model for a Green University.”

Solution 

Creating a strategic plan in collaboration with students, administration and key stakeholders that addresses the campus, the culture, the curriculum and the community with regard to sustainability—and then truly acting based on those principals.

How it’s done

Making sustainability a priority is more than just making a wish list. Living and working sustainably is a behavior change—which doesn’t happen overnight. Implementing a sustainability plan takes organization, collaboration and communication, as well as some help from your peers.

The University of Maryland’s plan, developed in 2008, created “a vision for a greener campus by stating that the campus will cut energy use, reduce its carbon footprint, expand green spaces and build and retrofit buildings to strict environmental standards.” Following the university’s success, Alison Lilly, sustainability and wellness coordinator for dining services, shared best practices at the 2014 National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) national conference in July.

Define key terms

Get everyone on the same page by defining the terms that will serve as the cornerstones of your plan. Often, important and frequently used words such as “local,” “fair trade” and “green” mean different things to different stakeholders. “It’s very much an institution-by-institution initiative,” Lilly says. “Determine what works best for your university.” Share these definitions across your operation to develop a common language and keep them on hand to offer clarity when the need arises.

Establish your stakeholder community

Identify current stakeholders that are engaged in your food programs, Lilly says, such as dining staff, contracted staff, students, administration and community organizations. Understand why and in what ways each group is currently involved and how their resources can be leveraged in the future. At the University of Maryland, a Sustainable Food Working Group was established to facilitate collaboration and exchange between administration and students and to keep moving toward the established sustainability goals.
 

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