Friday, December 1, 2023

Opinion: The university recognizes we have a sustainability problem

OpinionOp-EdOpinion: The university recognizes we have a sustainability problem

Staff Writer

On April 3, the university announced that Christopher Williams, professor of wildlife ecology, will be the associate provost and academic director of the Office of Sustainability. It also appointed Jeffrey Summerhays, who was the former sustainability manager for the University of California San Diego, as the director of sustainable operations. 

However, the university can be rightfully criticized for promoting itself as a sustainable school when it is not practicing actual techniques that lead to sustainability. In fact, the university has even recognized it is falling behind compared to other universities nationwide in their sustainable practices. 

“As of 2020, the University of Delaware has a ‘Bronze’ ranking, putting our sustainability performance considerably behind comparator institutions and American universities in general,” the university’s sustainability council said in its 2022 sustainability plan. 

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) gave the university this bronze rating, behind the silver, gold and platinum ratings. AASHE encourages universities across the nation to use resourceful practices to advance professionally while cultivating an overall sustainable environment.  

According to the university’s Sustainability Plan, it is in the lower 25th percentile of fellow AASHE-rated institutions in regard to sustainability and only received 70 out of 215 possible points from the AASHE.

Following this ranking, the university created an improved Office of Sustainability to catch up to its competitors and in hopes of continuing to attract incoming undergraduates during the enrollment process, as many students prioritize schools with sustainable practices. The responsibilities of the office include collaborating with other stakeholders on campus, like the Division of Student Life, for sustainability campaigns and offering financial resources to fund the enhanced sustainability practices, all while being led by specialized staff members. 

In Delaware, climate change takes the form of higher sea levels, heavy flooding and precipitation and higher temperatures, according to the State of Delaware’s reports on climate impacts. The State of Delaware released a Climate Action Plan in 2021, and since its release, the state has taken action in a multitude of ways. 

The State launched the Tree For Every Delawarean Initiative in November of 2021, with a goal of planting one million trees. There is also the Climate Leadership Academy, which teaches residents climate literacy and increases awareness, and creates a number of steps towards encouraging and implementing electric vehicle use. 

But what can we do ourselves to contribute to true sustainability?

Stanford University offers 10 ways to improve sustainability on campus, some of which include e-waste drives, donations, composting and even a campus garden. The University of Connecticut was ranked platinum by the AASHE and its sustainability office provides guidelines and directions for a number of sectors such as water, climate, outdoor areas, transportation, dining and more. 

Though the university is making progress on sustainability by appointing new leadership of the Office of Sustainability, an even greater effort is required on an institutional level to help the university catch up on slow progress in comparison to its peer institutions.

Caroline Powell is a staff writer at The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. She may be reached at




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