Over the past two decades sustainability has evolved from a term used in debating global policy, to a contemporary one illustrating how individuals choose to live, and how institutions choose to operate.

Perhaps the most universally accepted definition comes from the 1987 publication
Our Common Future (or the Brundtland Report*), created by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development who were “…concerned about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development.”

The report states:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

At Boston University, President Robert A. Brown has called the entire academic community to action with the Boston University Sustainability Initiative, focused on reducing our energy consumption and decreasing waste across campus. He has asked students, faculty and staff, to contribute innovative ideas to ensure that the best, most cost effective approaches towards energy conservation are considered.

“The reality of gasoline at four dollars per gallon, and growing concerns over the impact of carbon fuels on the atmosphere, must inspire all of us to action,” Brown said in his 2008 matriculation speech. “We have an opportunity to play a key role in examining how changes in our way of life and in how we operate the University, can contribute to greater energy efficiency and an environmentally sustainable future for all of us.”

Part of the president’s initiative includes the creation of a Campus Sustainability Committee comprised of students, faculty, staff and administration. The Campus Sustainability Steering Committee provides strategic guidance to the working groups established in four critical areas:

A one million dollar Sustainable Revolving Loan Fund will finance new projects judged to have the highest impact and shortest economic payback in the areas of energy conservation, waste management, and sustainable building design construction and operation.

“I am asking the entire academic community to help us in this effort to create a more sustainable campus,” said President Brown. “You can help us plan, but most importantly, you can help us adapt.”

* Our Common Future is also known as the Brundtland Report in recognition of former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and her role as Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development.