Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Do you remember your most recent visit to a National Park? At the entrance gate you were given a map that highlights the key natural features of the landscape and suggests places for you to visit. If you went to the interpretive center, you saw several educational displays, explaining the ecological, historical, or geological setting that makes the place so special.
What if college campuses took a similar approach? When you arrive on campus you receive a map and guide to all of the campus sustainability efforts. This would include tours, exhibits, recommended buildings to visit, and other features of the sustainable landscape. Campus signage would emphasize these initiatives, providing various interpretive aides. Admissions tours would point out these features, too.
Are there organic gardens on campus? Show them on a map and explain why they are there. Is there a geothermal installation? Develop a kiosk at the site that diagrams how it works. Is there a LEED building on campus? Have the special LEED building plaque become the starting point for a guided tour through the building. Every one of these initiatives embodies a detailed and rich story of decisions, choices, innovations, and awareness.
The campus is an ecological place, located in a changing environment. There are compelling stories that precede and follow every sustainable action. Let’s make them transparent and interesting, rooted in the history of the campus and projected into the future. If the campus is in the desert, explain how the ecological setting determines water usage patterns. If it’s in a cold climate, explain how the campus stays warm through innovative energy design. Make these stories ubiquitous through signage, curriculum, website exhibits, and all campus publications.