The Center for Sustainability
Pepperdine makes a distinction between simply making our campus "greener" and making our campus sustainable. While protecting the environment constitutes a large part of sustainability, it is by no means the full picture. The idea of sustainability itself has grown to encompass a wide and varied range of definitions and goals. The oldest and most widely known definition we have comes from the Brundtland Report, written in 1987, which states that sustainability is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
This definition underlies the idea of sustainability today, but even this does not take into account the complexity of the issue. Maintaining a certain quality of life for future generations requires us to take a step back and think about the big picture—environmental, economic, and social—and how these things together can help us "sustain" foundational systems such as food, biodiversity, water, and climate, for everyone as a community.
Commitment to Sustainability
Although all things "green" have gained momentum in recent years, Pepperdine's commitment to strive toward sustainability began in 1972 when a water reclamation program was implemented for irrigation. As an educational institution, Pepperdine University has a unique obligation to not only engage in sustainability but also to educate our students. Likewise, as a Christian institution, we have a unique opportunity to view sustainability as a moral or ethical obligation, one that requires the protection of ecosystems to ensure justice for both current and future generations. This is necessitated by the fact that those of the lowest socioeconomic status are the most impacted by environmental degradation. This values-centric framework for sustainability is consistent with the University mission of graduating academically knowledgeable and ethically responsible students with a lifelong commitment to purposeful service and leadership. The Center for Sustainability is a conduit for the advancement of sustainability through communication, implementation, and education.
What is the "triple bottom line"?
Today more and more businesses and institutions follow what is called the "triple bottom line" when it comes to sustainability. Simply put, this involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity. Companies aiming for sustainability need to perform not against a single, financial bottom line but against the triple bottom line.
Consider the following definition of sustainability given by the Global Institute of Sustainability: "A sustainable society considers the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, and social systems; reconciles the planet's environmental needs with development needs over the long term; and avoids irreversible commitments that constrain future generations." This suggests we have a bigger role to play in ensuring a good quality of life for future generations than simply "greening" up our campus. Every decision regarding the sustainability of our campus is given careful consideration of the environmental, social, and economic impact on our students, present as well as future.
Why is creating a sustainable campus so important?
Institutions of higher learning have always played a role in our cultural views and values. They stand as an example to their students and immediate surrounding communities, and the research, teaching, and interaction that such institutions do with outside communities can help incite change in the larger issues that face us today.
Pepperdine takes seriously the task of creating a good example of sustainability, as well as ensuring that students leave here with an eco-minded awareness. With issues like the environment and sustainability, every little bit counts as a victory. We are continually working to improve our environmental practices and remain steadfast in our focus on sustainability through communication, practice, and education.