About sustainability at UW Tacoma

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It is often described as a balance of protection for the environment, a thriving local economy and social responsibility that together lead to a good quality of life for you and future generations. UW Tacoma’s definitions and approaches to sustainability are drawn from national and international initiatives focused on sustainable development.

UW Tacoma’s environmental sustainability efforts are informed by two organizations dedicated to this purpose:

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) sees higher education as vital in making sure the population understands that environmental, social, and economic forces are interdependent and gains the skills and abilities necessary to meet sustainability challenges. Its mission is to “empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation,” and it provides a variety of resources and support to this end.

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is a “high-visibility effort” by college and university presidents to provide leadership in addressing global climate change. The signatories undertake to implement more sustainable practices for campus operations, and to bring their institutions’ significant research and educational influence to bear on developing “the social, economic and technological solutions to reverse global warming and help create a thriving, civil and sustainable society.”

Defining sustainability

The definition of “sustainability” in relation to the environment has grown out of United Nations commission work on “sustainable development.”  In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (aka the Brundtland Commission) published its Report to the UN General Assembly under the title Our Common Future. Chapter 2 defined sustainable development as

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

In 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro laid out a set of 27 principles on sustainable development (the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development), which were expanded upon in the Introduction to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

“. . . [T]aking into account the Rio principles, . . . (t)hese efforts will also promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development—economic development, social development and environmental protection —as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development.”