Clemson University, located in upstate
South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston,
and the University of South Carolina (USC) with its main campus in Columbia,
the state’s capital, have developed a productive partnership — the S.C.
Sustainable Universities Initiative (SUI). In 1998, the presidents
of the three schools signed a pledge to cooperate in leading the way toward
a more sustainable future through teaching, research, community service
and facilities management. In 2000, the state’s General Assembly appropriated
one-time funds to expand the program to other state-supported institutions
of higher education. To date, 13 four-year and technical schools have joined.
The Initiative was sparked by a private foundation
with business interests in South Carolina and abroad. In the view
of the Foundation’s trustees, Americans are less attuned to sustainability
... to melding what progressive industries refer to as the “triple bottom
line” of economic, environmental and social performance into a cohesive
whole ... than Europeans. They felt that higher education was the
best place to foster change and suggested that the three research universities
begin by working together.
The primary focus of our efforts is to “change
our product” — to help students understand how to meet fundamental human
needs without destroying the planet’s ability to support us. We do
this by working with faculty to expand their teaching and research portfolios
and by working with administrators and operations managers to ensure that
our institutions are practicing what faculty preach. SUI serves as
a catalyst for activities that will make the state's three research universities,
other educational institutions, and ultimately, the state as a whole, more
Teaching and research: Faculty
are encouraged to enhance their understanding of sustainability by attending
conferences and workshops and to enhance their students’ understanding
of sustainability by adding material to existing courses or by developing
Campus environmental performance: Universities
would be hypocritical if faculty taught students one approach in class
while administrators demonstrated another on campus. Our goal is
to make campus operations models of good practice, serving as examples
for students to emulate when they move into positions of authority.
University Environmental Committee
Community links: Universities exist to serve
the needs of society, broadly defined. Thus, it is important to make sure
that work related to sustainability within the university community is
closely linked to that of university “clients” — those who hire our students
and put our knowledge to practical use.