Campus Sustainability Plans: A Descriptive Analysis of Sustainability Plans from Institutions of Higher Education in the United States
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As the sustainability movement gains traction around the globe, institutions of higher education are increasingly being looked to for leadership. One established method of improving a campus’s environmental, economic, and social impact is through the creation of a campus sustainability plan. Very little research has been conducted on the quality and content of these plans. The purpose of this study is to describe the different themes and elements included in campus sustainability plans from colleges and universities across the United States. This was done through a systematic document analysis of 155 U.S. campus sustainability plans. Results of the study indicate that most plans are strong in the environmental sphere of sustainability but lacking in the social and economic spheres. It was also found that the topics of engagement, academics, and operations are more frequently discussed than administration, research, or equity. Finally, suggestions for improving the quality of campus sustainability plans are provided for institutions of higher education wishing to create or update their own plan. These suggestions include the engagement of stakeholders in both the plan creation process and the plan implementation process, buy-in from executive leadership, the inclusion of a publication date and revision history, a description of the plan author(s) and the writing process including stakeholder engagement, a definition of terms, ties to the institutional mission, and the use of SMART goals.