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About Sustainability at Geneseo

Sustainability Defined

SUNY Geneseo defines sustainability using the United Nations definition: "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."  We use this definition due to its broad implications.  Sustainability work at the college cannot be restricted to environmental sustainability, it must also address economic and social sustainability.  Addressing one pillar at the expense of the other pillars will not lead to a sustainable future.

Social (People), Economic (Profit), Environment (Planet). Initiatives that are socially and environmentally sustainable are acceptable.  Initiatives that are Socially and Economically sustainable are Equitable.  Initiatives that are Economically and Environmentally Sustainable are Viable.  Initiatives that include all three pillars are Sustainable. 

Sustainability Statement

SUNY Geneseo calls upon all members of our community to embrace sustainability as a core value, including a commitment to its constitutive principles of ecological, social, and economic justice. We recognize the critical role of higher education in creating a sustainable society. Through teaching, research, service, and institutional conduct we strive to nurture the values, skills and knowledge necessary to sustain and enhance human and non-human life on the planet.

The college understands that sustainability is a process of building support for societal and intergenerational equity and a shared sense of responsibility for the ethical stewardship of our social and natural environment. We endorse the broad scientific consensus that human demands on the planet threaten the ecological, social and economic resources upon which our global society depends.

As a public liberal arts college, we seek solutions to these increasingly complex, interdisciplinary problems that are consistent with our shared values and ideals. Through education, guidance, and the encouragement of action, SUNY Geneseo's faculty, staff, and students will further grow the legacy of sustainability. By minimizing the environmental impact of our institutional operations and integrating the principles of sustainability throughout our academic disciplines and co-curricular life we can begin to realize a more profound and enduring form of prosperity for current and future generations.

The Necessity of Sustainability Education

There has been a nationwide call to articulate the purpose of liberal education and to demonstrate that we are following through on that promise.  In many ways, sustainability is “the ultimate liberal art” [Rhodes, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2006], as it requires not only the science background of Geology, Natural Resources, Ecology, Landscape changes and use, and others, but also the disciplines that help to frame the social and economic policy: Sociology, Psychology, Economics, and History.  Furthermore, the broader Arts and Humanities are critical in the themes of human inquiry, moral consideration, and self-reflection that guide human conduct [Rhodes, 2006] and do not forget about technology, innovation, and invention as key aspects of sustainability.  This is a subject that is truly integrated with all others and provides a powerful argument for the benefit of liberal education: the breadth and the depth of academic disciplines, the growth of students into socially responsible and civically-minded citizens, and the importance of equity and inclusion.  

Up until now, most institutions have focused on the operations side of the house [Cortese, Planning for Higher Education, 2003], lowering emissions, lowering electricity usage, lowering waste, investing in local materials, goods, and services, etc.  Operations, however, is just one aspect of the university and has the most indirect effect on education.  Our central mission is teaching and learning, so moving our sustainability focus to the  curricula, integrative and applied learning opportunities, and broadening the discussion to new disciplines is critical to our success at sustainability education.