The new "green conscience" in the U.S.
Environment: The U.S. is not regarded as sustainable – one example is its high energy consumption. Changes, however, are underway with respect to environmental protection.
Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix is unique: Every student is required to attend an introductory course in sustainability. “For the university, sustainability is an agenda,” said ASU president Michael Crow to VDI News. Through its School of Sustainability, ASU is the first university in the U.S to offer interdisciplinary bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in sustainability.
The curriculum includes efficiency in water management, urban planning, resource use, and questions that ask why many technologies in the market are more successful than others. The School enrolls 450 undergraduate students and 300 graduate students, as well as 3,000 students who are seeking a minor in sustainability.
The university is advised by a board of trustees concerned with sustainability, who regularly connect with international experts in the industry sector, science, and politics to discuss ecological balance, economic security, and social justice. Under the theme of “Sustainability is a global challenge” the board met briefly with the consumer products company, Henkel, located in Düsseldorf.
“The U.S. economy must learn to take responsibility for the environment,” said board of trustee member Julie Wrigley, of the chewing gum dynasty Wrigley. The aim is to develop solutions, and that requires sensible education. Wrigley donated $15 million to ASU to create the Global Institute of Sustainability, and then another $10 million in 2007. She finds the U.S. has a lot of catching up to do: “We want to learn from Europe.”
The U.S. is on the right path, believes Brad Casper, head of Henkel’s consumer products division in the U.S. “I am surprised at how fast Americans have taken to sustainability.” For him, a prime example is Walmart. The retail chain has made sustainability a top priority.
“Our customers want this,” says Samuel Robson Walton, chairman of the board of the largest worldwide retail chain, Walmart. In April 2008, Walmart offered 200 products that were produced under environmentally friendly conditions. Some items were sold out before the end of the offering.
Now Walmart wants to switch to renewable energy, waste reduction, and products that are good for people and the environment. For that, a sustainability index based on lifecycle analysis will be utilized, the kind that ASU and companies such as Henkel have developed. “If retail chains want to sell more sustainable products, suppliers need to react,” says Casper. “The U.S. is on its way to a sustainable future.” For this, Casper believes Henkel is well positioned.