By Chelsea Malacara, Sustainability Education & Outreach Coordinator
For us in the Office of Sustainability, a new school year means new opportunities to involve the USM community in exciting sustainability initiatives. But it also means picking up where we left off on projects that began during the last school year and continuing those that we started over the summer. The world of sustainability is not one of instant gratification but one of persistence and hope. Those of us who subject ourselves to this career path know that we must take pride in the small accomplishments because they matter to the larger goal.
Several iterations of the definition of the word sustainability exist depending on what circle you’re in. Our office refers to sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Often, when asked to think about what sustainability means, the environment comes to mind first. While this is a prominent pillar of sustainability, it isn’t the only one. Social and economic sustainability are just as important and working together, our world is more equitable, viable and bearable for the present population and the future one.
The United Nations Development Program supports what are called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or the Global Goals. These goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 goals include areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, sustainable cities, peace, justice and more. If you take time to read all 17 goals, they encompass social equity, economic viability and a healthy environment. A truly sustainable world relies on all three working together to support environmental and human health.
Whether you’re exploring what USM has to offer for the first time, or you’re settling back into what is familiar, consider the three pillars of sustainability. Everyone has something to offer this world to make it a better place now and for future generations. We are currently experiencing the impacts of climate change and over time, we are only expected to see an increase in natural disasters, wildfires, sea level, chronic illnesses and much more. While this might sound like a hopeless cause, I have news for you. It’s not. Each of you has the potential to add a small accomplishment that will be key to the bigger goal. Each of you, with tenacity, hope, and creativity, have the ability to make our world cleaner, safer, equitable and enjoyable.
Do you want to help USM reach its 2040 carbon neutrality goal? Check out usm.maine.edu/sustainability to find out how to become an Eco-Rep.