Elon has been working on sustainability efforts long before it was common for higher education institutions to have dedicated sustainability professionals on staff. As one example, energy efficiency and conservation initiatives began in the 1970s. These efforts were formalized with the creation of the Environmental Advisory Council in 2004 and initial Sustainability Master Plan in 2007. These and other key points in Elon’s sustainability journey are outlined below.
2004 President Lambert appoints the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC).
2007 Environmental Advisory Council develops the initial Sustainability Master Plan.
2008 Elon hires its first, full-time Sustainability Coordinator, Elaine Durr.
2009 Elon Commitment strategic plan features sustainability under theme eight.
2010 Climate Action Plan is developed.
2011 Sustainability Coordinator position evolves into Director of Sustainability. Elon becomes a STARS participant and earns a Silver rating.
2013 Office of Sustainability expands to two full-time employees.
2015 Elon completes updated Sustainability Master Plan.
2020 Sustainability and Elon’s carbon neutrality by 2037 goal is incorporated into the Boldly Elon strategic plan.
Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability’s mission is to advance sustainability at Elon by helping to streamline and improve university operations and developing and fostering educational programs.
The Office works toward this mission by collaborating across the campus and overseeing and coordinating numerous sustainability programs and initiatives. Key areas of focus include: reducing greenhouse gas emissions toward carbon neutrality by 2037; expanding identification and implementation of strategies that support sustainable operations; and enhancing and expanding programs to educate students, faculty and staff about sustainability.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative
The Office of Sustainability understands that a balance of all three P’s—people, planet and prosperity—is needed in order to truly achieve sustainability. We value and embrace diversity of all identities, abilities and perspectives and know this diversity enriches our community.
As a primarily white staff in a predominately white field, we recognize our complicity in a broken system and our privilege within it. While we cannot truly know the pain that the Black community experiences, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. We stand with climate leaders in the Black community, Indigenous communities and other communities of color that have been climate advocates for a very long time and hear their voices.
The Office of Sustainability commits to the below action items to improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the Office and its programs. We view DEI broadly, including, but not limited to, diversity of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing and intellectual viewpoint.
- Infuse environmental justice and anti-racism content into Office of Sustainability programming in order to amplify BIPOC voices and stories of those impacted by environmental degradation and climate change.
- Support and promote diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus through event and programming partnerships with centers supporting equity and inclusive excellence and ensure all programs and events are accessible to all individuals.
- Include a Land Acknowledgement statement at all Office of Sustainability sponsored events and on the Sustainability website.
- Encourage students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds to serve on the Environmental Advisory Council and prioritize a commitment to inclusivity within the Council.
- Incorporate equity-minded language into the application process for the Sustainability Faculty Scholars Program and prioritize a commitment to inclusivity throughout the program.
- Incorporate equity-minded language into the application process for the Sustainability Research Grants and clarify that sustainability research can address one or more of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
- Ensure all Office of Sustainability job descriptions are written without biased language and prioritize a commitment to inclusivity throughout the entire hiring process for both professional and student staff.
- Expand the reach of recruitment efforts for student staff positions through campus partnerships with centers supporting equity and inclusive excellence.
- Ensure recruitment efforts for any open professional staff positions prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Provide ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion training, including topics such as anti-racism and environmental justice, for all student staff in the Office of Sustainability.
- Ensure professional staff in the Office of Sustainability participate in diversity, equity and inclusion training and discussions on a regular and ongoing basis.
The Office of Sustainability will review and monitor progress and performance regarding these action items and its programs on an annual basis.
The Office of Sustainability utilizes the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Land Acknowledgement that was drafted specifically for use by non-members at events:
I would like to acknowledge that we are on the land of the Eno, Tutelo, Saponi, Occaneechi, and Shakori Native people.
We are gathered today on land that was traditionally part of the territory of the Saponi people, in the Piedmont of what is now the state of North Carolina. This area is not far from the “Great Trading Path”, used by both the native people of this area and non-native peoples during the early years of contact. The Saponi people, whose descendants include the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation Indian Tribe still thrive and live in this region, officially recognized by the state government of North Carolina. We pay respect to their elders past and present. The Occaneechi People (The Ye’sah), ask that you will keep these thoughts in mind, while here on their ancestral lands and treat it with the respect, love, and care that their Ancestors did, and as the Occaneechi Saponi people do so today. OBSN Tribal Council
Elon has received external recognition for its sustainability program, including inclusion in The Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges: 2022 Edition” and all previous editions. In 2017, the Piedmont-Triad Branch of the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Elon University with its “A Green Apple a Day” award. Elon was also named a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee and received APPA’s 2016 Sustainability Award.