Category Archives: Social Sustainability

Reflecting on AASHE (with shout-outs!)

Presenting three talks at two very different conferences in a span of six days is a lot of input, particularly when the audiences have such different lenses on our common causes: improving our higher education institutions. This post is about the first conference (AASHE); in a separate post I’ll write about CUPA-HR.

At the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE, aashe.org) in Pittsburgh (Oct 3),  I talked with with an interesting mix of students, faculty, and staff in a variety of different roles. The conference theme was the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and there was heightened sense of urgency to take action on climate change was palpable; this past Monday the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its landmark report Global Warming of 1.5º C is sobering about what needs to be done.

This was my third consecutive year presenting at this conference; for folks unfamiliar with AASHE it is very broad “tent” with a primary emphasis toward environmental sustainability. The expo hall includes everything from electric cars/carts to customized recycling containers to bike share and campus scooter programs to carbon-footprint tracking and academic programs in sustainability from many different perspectives. There’s a whole lot of green building going on out there!

The sizable area of poster sessions at AASHE included everything from thermostat control initiatives (Wesleyan U) to “blender bikes” (Ohio U) to making “bag boards” from compressed plastic bags (UNC-Wilmington). Social sustainability – such as the focus of my project – is a bit of a niche within AASHE. If audience size from year to year is any indication, it is an area of growing interest – and concern – in American higher education. I was grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our ongoing conversation.

It was a lot of fun to explore my material from different perspectives in each of my two AASHE talks. My introductory session on living wage policies attracted a number of students, and an intermediate level session for people familiar with the living wage concept, where were able to talk in greater detail about what I’ve learned so far through this project and compare notes with practitioners. And some folks came for both (you know who you are – thank you!).

Between the two sessions, I was able to chat with a public policy graduate student from just down the street here in Philadelphia, sustainability coordinators from coast to coast (and all points in between), and adjunct and tenure track faculty in public and private institutions.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with AASHE, and I’ll keep you posted here whenever I have significant news. Next year’s AASHE conference is in Spokane WA, October 27-30, 2019. I hope to see you there.