UNH Sustainability Planning

LIVING UNH Sustainability Strategic Planning Document

Sustainability planning has been taking place at UNH for more than 15 years. In 1995 a grass roots effort by faculty, staff, students and administrators produced a white paper outlining goals and action steps to advance sustainability at UNH. That effort led to the establishment of the first endowed, university-wide sustainability program in the country in 1997.

Since that time sustainability has emerged as a core identity of UNH, and, as a result, sustainability planning has and continues to take many forms. Some has been coordinated, university-wide planning processes, such as planning for the Sustainability Institute and the working group on sustainability in the UNH strategic planning process of 2009. Other planning has and continues to be ongoing and institutionalized in the form of mechanisms like the Energy Task Force and the Ecosystem Task Force. At the same time, planning is also ongoing at the level of particular departments, programs or practices. This combination of approaches reflects the highly decentralized nature of the university as well as the complex and contested idea of sustainability as an organizing principle for higher education. At UNH, sustainability leadership, ownership, and accountability have to be distributed rather than centralized, while at the same time networked and coordinated to set and achieve overarching goals.

Sustainability planning at UNH is supported by:

  • A conceptual framework linking principles and practices of sustainability to core university functions. This framework integrates the interactions of four key systems -- biodiversity and ecosystemsclimate and energy, food systems, and culture -- with four key functions of the university known by the acronym CORE: curriculum, operations, research, and engagement.
  • A programmatic entity whose structure, function and responsibilities are aligned with the CORE/systems conceptual framework – the Sustainability Institute at UNH (UNSHI). UNHSI has full time staff, faculty fellows, student interns and collaborative networks across and beyond the university. UNHSI is lead by the university's chief sustainability officer.
  • Successful projects and programs that provide tangible experiences and examples for members of the UNH community to “experience” sustainability and be inspired to find their unique way of contributing. A relatively comprehensive view of the dozens of examples in place at UNH is provided by the 2009 publication The Sustainable Learning Community: One University's Journey to the Future, an edited volume with contributions from more than sixty UNH faculty and staff.

This sustainability strategic planning document brings all of this planning, thinking and work together into one living document. It is a starting point and a suggested guide for the university’s investments of time and resources in sustainability over the next five years – investments done under the broad umbrella of the UNHSI but undertaken across campus collaboratively. The goal is to link key efforts across the university and beyond into a collaborative network that makes the whole of the interactions of these effort far greater than their sum. Given the amount of sustainability planning taking place, the potential is enormous.

For example, this planning document reflects the work of hundreds of people as part of the following reports, planning efforts, task forces, committees, etc.:

This planning document will be constantly updated and informed
by continual cross-campus collaboration 
through UNHSI, the four UNH task forces in biodiversity/ecosystems, climate/energy, food and culture, UNSHI faculty fellows and staff, and the UNH community more broadly. 

In addition, we encourage your thoughts and feedback at sustainability.info@unh.edu.