AASHE 2010: Exploring, Learning, Connecting

The week of October 11 several ASU employees, including myself had the amazing opportunity to attend the 2010 Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Denver with other sustainability-forward representatives from universities all over the world.  There was a wonderful diversity in attendees ranging from students, faculty, Facilities Management to food service professionals and housing representatives. Many members of our ASU community submitted abstracts about their various sustainability projects and were able to present at this prestigious conference.  Our very own Director of University Sustainability Practices, Bonny Bentzin presented multiple sessions about the status of ASU’s efforts. We also heard from two of our project developers and one of our program coordinators; Alex, Eric and Betty. They presented field reports about successes in waste diversion during the last two years of ASU Move-in and Move-out and a bike share pilot program that was unveiled at GIOS earlier this year in partnership with the Cannon Leadership Program. The conference was packed with universities of all sorts sharing all types of sustainability ideas.  I heard a myriad of presentations ranging from implementing water bottle bans  to campus energy auditing. As it turns out, many unique ramifications surround all of these policy changes and then some. For instance, a possible consequence of a water bottle ban could be lost revenue for campus dining or even an increased consumption of soda, There were also multiple presentations about the success of on-campus stores that sell items collected at the end of the year to returning and incoming students in the fall. How cool would it be if ASU had a “reduce, reuse” program like that on campus??The conference, which was a zero-waste event, served all compostable items during lunches (including utensils), had preplanned sending their remaining food to homeless shelters, and offered great vegetarian meals.  A large reception was held for the attendees where members of the three Arizona Universities and other state schools, such as Rio Salado and Scottsdale Community College, sat together to network and collaborate. Many people from the different universities are already in partnership tackling and solving sustainability issues common for colleges and for Arizona.  I enjoyed meeting the students from U of A and NAU.  At NAU, students work on campus sustainability issues through a masters degree program, so the students I met were very specialized, informed, and motivated. Everyone came away from the conference inspired, excited, proud of ASU, and probably a bit tired.  It was a great opportunity to expose everyone to new ideas relating to all aspects of our university and sustainability in general as it pertains to higher education. By Beth Magerman