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George Mason University .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
Information
  • Submitted by: Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI)
  • Topic: Education
  • Keywords: education
  • Location: Fairfax, United States (The)
  • Date of completion: 2015
  • Click for more information
Deliverables & Resources
Action network
  • This voluntary initiative came from Higher Education Sustainability Initiative
Dean
Signatory/Dean
Alan Merten, President
George Mason University

Partner(s)

George Mason University

Description/achievement of initiative

George Mason University aims to be a leader in strategic research, education and service to promote a more sustainable campus, community and world. Our sustainability projects through 2015 span five kinds of actions -

1. Teach sustainable development concepts:

We aim to integrate sustainability into both academic and extracurricular programs. Our 2014 Strategic Plan includes « extending global and local awareness in the environmental area. » Teaching next generations about the importance of environmental stewardship is a goal for programming on campus, supported by the office of the Provost and the office of University Life. Ongoing extracurricular programming includes annual « Fall for the Book » presenters on sustainability topics, a month-long series of scores of « Earth Week » activities each April, a student-run organic vegetable garden, and curriculum development workshops producing new sustainability courses and academic programs. Mason now offers 99 sustainability-related « green leaf » courses and 18 green leaf academic programs, spanning the majority of our colleges and schools. One Strategic Plan target involves raising the number of students graduating in environmental sustainability academic programs to 50 by 2014. This milestone was just achieved in the most recent academic year, and should be exceeded hereafter. The Office of the Provost hosts a faculty Fellow of Sustainability Studies to promote formal and informal learning about sustainability across our campuses.

2. Encourage research on sustainable development issues:

In research and education alike, we seek an expansion of inter-unit activity involving Environmental Science and Policy, the strong University activities in climate dynamics and earth observation, conflict analysis and communication. Mason has identified at least 125 faculty pursuing sustainability-related research across units as diverse as the Center for Climate Change Communication, the Center for Emerging Market Policies, and the Center for Clean Water and Sustainable Technologies. We will continue to feature and foster interdisciplinary collaboration in sustainability research across these and other research units through 2015, and beyond. Mason’s Office of Research and Development heads this coordination effort, in collaboration with academic units’ representatives on the associated Research Council.

3. Green our campuses:

As part of its ACUPCC commitment, Mason aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Our Climate Action Plan commits us to reduce then maintain net greenhouse gas emissions at or below 2006 levels from 2012 onward and to decrease energy intensity (per student and per floor area) by 2% per year thereafter. To this end, new office equipment is ENERGY STAR-rated, and all new buildings are built to a minimum of the LEED Silver standard. Having achieved an AASHE STARS Silver sustainability rating in 2011, two years earlier than anticipated, we will maintain this status in subsequent annual AASHE reporting while striving to achieve STARS Gold rating no later than 2015. Other ongoing operational sustainability efforts include reducing the percentage of Mason community commuting to Mason in single occupancy vehicles by 5%, and increasing our recycling rate to 25%, by 2014. (Waste not diverted is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.) Mason’s Office of Sustainability leads in coordination and reporting for both ACUPCC and AASHE initiatives, with support from administrative units across the university. This office also administers a « Patriot Green Fund » of $100,000 per year to make Mason’s campuses more sustainable through facility upgrades or installations and student research projects.

4. Support sustainability efforts:

The Mason Sustainability Institute provides sustainability-oriented education and skills development workshops for Mason and its surrounding communities. Workshops span topics from solar panel installation to bicycle repair to permaculture. Mason faculty participate actively in environmental governance advisory groups, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, and the MWCOG Climate, Energy and Environmental Policy Committee. Mason faculty and students also contribute to municipal-scale energy and greenhouse gas emissions inventories and deliver environmental stewardship educational experiences to about 10,000 local secondary school students annually. Activities like these will be promoted and pursued across pertinent academic units for as long as interest and resources permit. Exemplary practices will also be highlighted where applicable in our AASHE STARS reports.

5. Engage with and share results through international frameworks:

Mason spearheaded and hosted the first Global Problem Solving Consortium International Conference in March 2012. Eight universities across four continents participate in the Consortium. Its objectives include offering a focused program of study for undergraduates to improve their knowledge of global issues and their awareness of how other societies approach these issues. The Consortium also intends to give rise to internationally team-taught courses, faculty exchange, study abroad opportunities, and other joint projects pertinent to sustainable development and related global challenges. Mason’s Office of Global and International Strategies leads this initiative. In mid-2012, we also expect to start participating in the UN Global Compact and UN Academic Impact initiatives.

Implementation methodologies

As part of its ACUPCC commitment, Mason aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Our Climate Action Plan commits us to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions at or below 2006 levels from 2012 onward and to decrease energy intensity by 2% per year thereafter. Mason's Office of Sustainability leads in coordination and reporting for both ACUPCC and AASHE initiatives. This office also administers a « Patriot Green Fund » of $100,000 per year to make Mason's campuses more sustainable through facility upgrades or installations and student research projects.

The Mason Sustainability Institute provides sustainability-oriented education and skills development workshops for Mason and its surrounding communities. Workshops span topics from solar panel installation to bicycle repair to permaculture. Mason faculty participate actively in environmental governance advisory groups, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, and the MWCOG Climate, Energy and Environmental Policy Committee.

Mason spearheaded the first Global Problem Solving Consortium International Conference in March 2012. Eight universities across four continents participate in the Consortium. Mason's Office of Global and International Strategies leads this initiative. We also expect to start participating in the UN Global Compact and UN Academic Impact initiatives.

Deliverables
Deliverable Date
Global Problem Solving Consortium International Conference 2012
Patriot Green Fund 2015
Climate Action Plan 2015
SIP/COP (Sharing information on Progress) (PRME, UNGC) 2015
Resources
Type Details
Staff / Technical expertise Expertise of students and staff concerning sustainable development
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