Get an overview of 14 great readings on sustainability in higher education and universities for students, staff and academics.
There are many academic publications on sustainability in higher education. But those are often very conceptual and cost money to access. Luckily, networks around the world have also published guides and handbooks. Those were specifically developed for sustainability coordinators, student groups, Green Offices or other sustainability initiatives. But those are often difficult to find. To give you a first overview, we compiled a list of 14 non-academic publications (in English and German) that we find useful – plus an overview of four resource hubs where you can find many more documents.
These three publications provide a good introduction into the topic of sustainability in higher education:
- Sustainable development and universities: The Flemish government commissioned a very good and concise introduction about the fundamentals of what sustainable development means in the context of universities, education and research (38 pages).
- Greening Universities Toolkit 2.0: If you read – and remember – this massive 164-page document by UNEP, then you’re an expert on sustainability in higher education. This document stands out through a strong focus on operational and governance issues. There are also many case studies from around the world.
- Getting started with SDGs in universities: You wonder what your university can do to help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? This 55-page publication describes five actionable steps on how to take a whole-university approach towards the SDGs.
You will find many case studies also in the other documents mentioned above and below. But here are two publications worth mentioning:
- Case studies: Learn from 30 universities from around the world on how they take a whole-institution approach towards sustainability. The publication also has many examples on how to embed sustainability into education or research and develop collaborations. (74 pages)
- Good practice guide (In German): The German NGO netzwerk n compiled an overview of 27 good practice projects on how to advance sustainability in education, research, operations and governance. So far, the overview is in German only.
Below you find good introductions and practical examples on education for sustainable development:
- Global citizens for sustainable development: What do students need to learn to be able to address the social, economic and environmental challenges of the 21st century? There are many concepts, theories and frameworks out there. But it was only after I read this UNESCO publication that the light in my head went on (34 pages). Especially pages 8-14 are very insightful.
- From Art to Zoo Management: The sustainability team of the National Union of Students UK compiled a great overview of how different UK universities embedded sustainability into courses from art, business studies, drama to zoo management (31 pages).
- Guide for educators on teaching and learning: You are looking for a way to communicate to teachers and lecturers how they can embed education for sustainable development into their courses? The University of Gloucestershire produced a 7 pages guidance that you could adapt.
GOVERNANCE, REPORTING AND ASSESSMENT
- Sustainability governance: Since rootAbility is working a lot on sustainability governance at universities, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is one of my most favourite publications on the topic. The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) compiled an excellent clustering of sustainability governance approaches. (30 pages)
- Green Office Model: Leuphana University Lüneburg and rootAbility published an e-Book on the Green Office Model, the idea of a sustainability hub that informs, connects and supports students and staff to act on sustainability. This is a useful resource for everbody who is looking for a way to improve engagement and collaboration.
- Assessment and reporting tools: This EAUC publication is useful for everyone who wants to get an overview of what tools are out there that you could use to assess sustainability at your university and report about it. Be prepared: There are a lot! (50 pages)
Many publications exist on how to improve the environmental, social and economic footprint of operating any organisation. Many of them are useful also for universities. Below you find three publications specifically developed for institutions of higher education:
- Green Guide for Universities: The International Alliance of Research Universities compiled a 148 pages guide that covers just about everything, from buildings, laboratories, purchasing, transportation to student and staff engagement.
- Campus Green Fund Toolkit: Financing sustainability initiatives is often a challenge and setting-up a revolving loan fund can be a great way to do it. Savings from reduction programmes are funnelled back into the fund. Those are then reused to finance new efficiency projects that generate new savings (30 pages).
- Procurement: If you want to start improving the environmental, social and economic impacts of your university’s supply chain, this 93-page publication provides you with guidance. The Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability Programme developed this resource. All publications from the programme, for example on accounting reporting or communications, can be found here. They are from 2004, but you still might find some insights relevant.
Once you skimmed through the publications above and still want to learn more, you can find more publications here:
- Sustainability Exchange: The EAUC collected over 4,000 resources on sustainability in higher education and makes them accessible to everyone for free. It can be a bit overwhelming to navigate through this. There is no other free platform out there that provides so many resources.
- Campus Sustainability Hub: This is the US-American equivalent to the Sustainability Exchange. A downside is that to access many resources you need paid AASHE membership.
- Portal: The International Association of Universities maintains a googlemap where you can see what different actions member universities are taking on sustainability.
- Mediathek (in German): This resource hub of netzwerk n is interesting for all German speaking students and staff that want to access more resources in German about sustainability and sustainability in higher education.