Sustainability Community

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Get inspired, share, innovate and be a part of your local sustainable community for global change

Our aim is to provide fun and useful resources that will inspire sustainable behaviours and ideas.

Start sharing John Blewitt’s film and fiction recommendations with friends or family.

Calculate your carbon footprint with the Footprint Calculators and let us know on Facebook how you did!

Are you looking for some practical guidance? Check out Margaret Robertson’s resources for:

  • Conducting a waste audit
  • Green Revolving Funds
  • Policy Writing Basics
  • Sustainable Event Planning
  • How to have a good meeting
  • Grant Writing Basics

We have many Routledge authors and experts to thank for their generous contributions to the Hub – find out who the Hub Contributors are.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch about innovative sustainability resources you’d like to share!

Hub Contributors

Bill Adams is Moran Professor of Conservation and Development in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is an editor of Decolonizing Nature (2002), and author of Green Development: Environment and sustainability in a developing world (2008) and Future Nature: a vision for conservation (2003).

Julian Agyeman is Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, USA. He is a series editor for the Routledge Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City series, and editor of Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (2001) and Incomplete Streets: Processes, practices and possibilities (2014). He is also founding editor of the Taylor & Francis journal Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability.

David Banister is Professor Emeritus of Transport Studies at University of Oxford, UK. His books include Transport, Climate Change and the City (2014), Unsustainable Transport: City Transport in the 21st Century (2005) and Transport Planning (2002). 

Simon Bell is Professor of Innovation and Methodology at the Open University, UK. He is an author of Rich Pictures: Encouraging Resilient Communities (forthcoming 2015) Resilient Participation: Saving the Human Project? (2012), Sustainability Indicators: Measuring the Immeasurable? (2008), Measuring Sustainability: Learning from Doing (2003) and How to set up Information Systems (2003).

John Blewitt is the Co-Director of the MSc Social Responsibility and Sustainability program, Aston Business School, Aston University, UK. His main research interests focus on the nature and future of work in a sustainable degrowth society. He is a Distinguished Schumacher Fellow, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a core member of the think tank Green House, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Among his many publications are The Sustainability Curriculum (2004), The Ecology of Learning (2006), The Media, Animal Conservation and Environmental Education (2012), Searching for Resilience in Sustainable Development with Daniella Tilbury (2013) Understanding Sustainable Development (2014) and Sustainable Business: Key Issues (2014).

Colin Butler is Professor of Public Health at the University of Canberra, Australia. He is editor of Climate Change and Global Health (2014), and co-editor of Health of People, Places and Planet. Reflections based on Tony McMichael’s four decades of contribution to epidemiological understanding (2015).

Jonas Dahlström is a visiting researcher at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Bangladesh. His work focuses on social adaptation and the influence of risk perception of climatic changes.

Joost Dessein is a researcher in Rural Development at the Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) and a visiting professor at Ghent University, Belgium. He is a series editor for the Routledge Studies in Culture and Sustainable Development series and an editor of Cultural Sustainability and Regional Development(forthcoming).

Rachel Beth Egenhoefer is an Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Francisco, USA. She is an artist, designer and writer.

Jose Etcheverry is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Canada. He is Business and Environment Coordinator and co-Chair of the Sustainable Energy Initiative.

Michael R. Greenberg is Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. He is the author of Protecting Seniors Against Environmental Disasters (2014) and The Environmental Impact Statement after Two Generations (2012).

Robin Hickman is a Reader at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London and Visiting Research Associate at the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford, UK. He is author of Transport, Climate Change and the City (2014).

Saleemul Huq is a Senior Fellow with the Climate Change Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), UK. He is an editor of Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (2014).

Ariane König serves as Head of Sustainable Development and Senior Researcher at the University of Luxembourg.

Helen Kopnina is based at The Hague University of Applied Science, the Netherlands, as a coordinator of the Sustainable Business program and researcher of environmental education. Her books include Sustainability: Key Issues (2015), Sustainable Business: Key Issues (2014), Environmental Anthropology: Future Directions (2013) and Environmental Anthropology Today (2011).

Bruce Lankford is Professor of Water and Irrigation Policy in the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia, UK. He is an editor of Water Security (2013) and the author of Resource Efficiency Complexity and the Commons (2013).

Martin Mulligan is Associate Professor in the Sustainability and Urban Planning teaching program in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS) at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of An Introduction to Sustainability (2014), Rebuilding Local Communities in the Wake of Disaster (2011) and Decolonizing Nature (2002).

Andreas Neef is a Professor in Development Studies at University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of The Food, Water and Energy Nexus: Conflicts, Ethics and Governance (forthcoming).

Jules Pretty, OBE is Professor of Environment and Society in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, UK. His works include Nature and Culture: Rebuilding Lost Connections (2010), The Earth Only Endures (2007) andThe Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Agriculture (2005).

Nancy "Sami" Reist is Professor in the Department of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State University, USA. She is the author of Environmental Communication and the Media (forthcoming).

Margaret Robertson, ASLA, holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Oregon. She is a Sustainability Fellow in the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium and teaches at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where she is the coordinator of the Sustainability Coordinator degree program. She is also an Adjunct Instructor in Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Sustainability Principles and Practice (2014).

Bill Scott is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Bath where his research focuses on the role of learning in sustainable development, on the contributions that education (viewed broadly) can make to this, and on the problems of researching the effectiveness of such activities.  Bill blogs about sustainability and learning at and his key books for Routledge are Higher Education and Sustainable Development: Paradox and possibility (2008), Key Issues in Sustainable Development and Learning: A critical review (2004), and Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the issues (2003). 

Katriina Soini is Sustainability Science Fellow at the University of Helsinki, Centre for Environment and Principal Research Scientist at Natural Resources Institute, Finland.  She is a series editor for the Routledge Studies in Culture and Sustainable Development series.

Stephen Sterling is Professor of Sustainability Education and Head of Education for Sustainable Development at Plymouth University, UK. He is an editor of The Sustainable University (2013) and Education for Sustainability (1996), and an author of Sustainability Education (2010).

Thomas Sterner is a professor in environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden In WG III in the latest IPCC report, he was the Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 15 on policies and institutions. His main areas of work are instrument design for climate and environmental policy, catch shares in fisheries and theory of discounting. He is the series editor of Environment for Development series and the author of Policy Instruments for Environmental and Natural Resource Management (2012), Environmental Regulation and Public Disclosure (2013), and Fuel Taxes and the Poor (2012). 

Rob van Tulder is Professor of International Business-Society Management at RSM Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He is an author of Managing the Transition to a Sustainable Enterprise (2014), Skill Sheets (2012), International Business-Society Management (2005) and The Logic of International Restructuring (1995).

Stephen M. Wheeler is Associate Professor in the Landscape Architecture Program at the University of California at Davis, USA. He is the author of Planning for Sustainability: Creating Liveable, Equitable and Ecological Communities (2013) and Climate Change and Social Ecology: A New Perspective on the Climate Challenge (2012), and an editor of the Sustainable Urban Development Reader (2008).

Henning Wilts is a project coordinator at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Germany.

Sustainability Glossary

Click to download complete glossary.


acid rain
Precipitation containing higher than normal amounts of sulfuric acid and nitric acid, formed when natural rainwater combines with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by burning of fossil fuels.
active solar heating
A system that uses mechanical devices such as pumps or fans to move heated air or liquid between solar collectors and a building.
Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment.
Living systems or processes that occur in the presence of oxygen.
Minute solid or liquid airborne particles that remain suspended in the atmosphere for at least several hours.
Agenda 21
An action plan to promote sustainable development by addressing social, economic, and environmental impacts of human activity, adopted by delegates to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro.
Coarse particles of rock, used in concrete and paving.
The practice of cultivating plants and animals as food crops.
An interdisciplinary approach which applies principles of ecology to the practice of agriculture.
A measure of a surface's ability to reflect sunlight, often expressed as a decimal fraction on a scale of 0 to 1.
A substance that activates the body's immune system, causing a response when a response is not necessary.
alternative energy
An energy source that is an alternative to fossil fuels.
Living systems or processes that occur in the absence of oxygen.
An informal term for the most recent period in Earth's history, during which human activities have had significant impact on climate and ecosystems.
A view of reality in which human values and interests are primary.
Resulting from human activities.
The industrial farming of fish or seafood.
An underground water-bearing layer of permeable rock, sand, or gravel capable of supplying wells or springs.
benthic organism
An organism that lives on the bottom of a water body.
The process in which the concentration of a substance taken in by an organism increases faster than the rate at which the organism can remove it.
biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)
A measure of organic content in water, given by the amount of dissolved oxygen consumed by aquatic organisms as they break down organic matter.
A fuel made of oils from plant materials or animal fats and used as a diesel fuel substitute or diesel fuel extender.
The variety of genes, species, and ecosystems found in a particular area.
biodiversity hotspot
An area that contains an especially great diversity of endemic species facing a high risk of extinction.
A liquid fuel made of plant material and used as a partial substitute for gasoline.
A gas generated by the decomposition of organic waste.
biogeochemical cycle
The movement of matter in cycles through the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Examples include the carbon cycle and the hydrologic cycle.
biointensive agriculture
An approach to producing high yields of food crops in small spaces using raised beds; also known as French intensive agriculture.
The process in which the concentration of a substance increases as it passes to successively higher trophic levels of a food web.
Biology: The total weight of all living organisms in a particular area.
Renewable energy: Plant or animal material, often wood or grasses, that can be converted into energy through burning or through conversion into a gas or liquid fuel which is then burned.
A major regional habitat type characterized by particular climate and soil conditions and particular biological communities.
An approach to designing products or buildings using nature as a model.
The genetically encoded emotional need of human beings to affiliate with nature and with other living organisms, rooted in human biology and evolution.
biophilic design
An approach to designing the built environment in ways that connect people with the natural world.
An area with similar climate, topography, plant and animal communities.
An approach to living and learning which is based on local knowledge of the particular bioregion where a person or group of people lives.
The use of microorganisms to break down pollutants in soil or water.
The part of the Earth system on land, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere inhabited by living organisms.
A vegetated linear depression used to cleanse and infiltrate stormwater.
birth rate
The total number of people born in a given year.
Wastewater from toilets, kitchen sinks, and dishwashers.
The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, a green building rating system developed in the UK and used in Europe.
brood parasite
A bird that lays its eggs in the nest of another bird, which then cares for the offspring.
An abandoned or underused industrial site in which redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous material.
Acronym for concentrated animal feeding operation, an industrial-scale facility for housing animals at high densities for feeding prior to slaughter; also known as a feedlot.
cap and trade
The buying and selling of permits to pollute; also known as emissions trading.
The supply of resources available.
capital project
A long-term investment in the improvement of a fixed asset, such as a building or infrastructure, requiring a comparatively high financial outlay.
carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)
Technology which removes carbon dioxide from industrial processes and stores it underground or under the ocean floor.
carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)
The climate impact of a greenhouse gas expressed as the number of tons of carbon dioxide that would result in the same impact; determined by multiplying the number of tons of the given gas by its global warming potential.
carbon footprint
A measure of greenhouse gas emissions associated with an activity; technically expressed as area of land needed for carbon dioxide sequestration, but often used more loosely to mean the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted, measured in tons.
carbon neutral
Living or doing business in a way which results in no net carbon emissions; also known as climate neutral.
carbon sequestration
The removal and storage of carbon in a carbon sink through biological or physical processes.
A substance known to increase the risk of developing cancer.
carrying capacity
The maximum number of individuals that a given environment can support indefinitely.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as Superfund; a U.S. law which regulates wastes on land and in navigable waters.
A procedure by which a third party verifies the level of performance of a product, process, or service compared to some standard.
chaos theory
The mathematical theory that very small changes in the initial state of a system lead to large and unpredictable effects. See also nonlinearity
A fast-paced planning process in which participation by multiple stakeholders produces a collaborative solution.
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Chemical compounds containing atoms of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine that are harmful to the ozone layer of the atmosphere.
See methane hydrate
climate change
A significant change in measures of climate such as temperature, precipitation, and wind lasting for an extended period of time; can result from natural processes or human activity.
climate commitment
The climate change that would still occur even with no further human influence, resulting from greenhouse gases already emitted.
climate neutral
Living or doing business in a way which results in no net climate impact; also known as carbon neutral.
climax community
Historic term for a community resulting from a process of ecological succession that remains unchanged in the absence of disturbance.
closed loop
A cyclical system of production in which the concept of waste is eliminated.
A composite mixture of clay, sand, straw, and water used as a building material and built up by hand.
See combined heat and power
combined heat and power (CHP)
The production of electricity and useful heat using a common energy source.
The systematic process of verifying and documenting that building systems are functioning as intended.
A group of interacting species living in a particular area.
community garden
A piece of land on which food is grown by a group of people.
community-supported agriculture (CSA)
An approach to supplying food in which customers buy subscriptions to local farms in return for regular deliveries of shares of the harvests.
compact fluorescent light
A small fluorescent lamp used as a replacement for a screw-in incandescent bulb.
A process in which particles of soil are pushed together and the pore spaces between them are reduced in size or closed off.
A term used to characterize interacting relationships in a system in which simple rules of cause and effect do not apply and outcomes are not predictable.
Decomposed organic matter which has been broken down by microorganisms in a controlled environment.
The outcome of a group decision-making process in which the views of each participant have been heard and considered and the resolution is one that can be supported by every participant.
Activity to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem function in a particular area. Also a term used in the early twentieth century to mean a view of nature as a resource to be efficiently managed for human use.
conservation banking
A mechanism similar to wetland mitigation banking in which habitat areas are set aside to compensate for habitat that is destroyed elsewhere; banked habitats provide credits which can be bought and sold.
conservation biology
A scientific discipline that focuses on the preservation of biodiversity.
conservation easement
A legal agreement in which a landowner retains ownership of their property but permanently relinquishes the right to build on or develop the property, often in exchange for financial or tax benefit.
conservation tillage
An approach to growing crops by planting in undisturbed soil covered by crop residues and other mulch. Also known as no-till farming.
constructed wetland
A wetland feature engineered to use natural processes of plants, soils, and bacteria living in association with wetland plant roots for the purpose of water or wastewater treatment.
conventional pollutants
Major water pollutants regulated by the U.S. Clean Water Act: biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, fecal coliform bacteria, pH, and oil and grease.
cool roof
A roof covered with material which reflects rather than absorbs sunlight.
corporate social responsibility
The voluntary commitment of a business to take responsibility for the social, economic, and environmental impacts of its activities.
See habitat corridor
cradle to cradle
A design approach in which materials are thought of as nutrients which recycle continuously.
cradle to grave
The life cycle of a product or material from production to disposal, excluding recycling or reuse.
criteria pollutants
Major air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Clean Air Act: particulates, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, lead, and ground-level ozone.
critical root zone
The area around a tree within which soil must be protected from excavation or compaction; also known as the tree protection zone.
Earth's ice and snow cover.
Buildings: The use of natural sunlight for illumination in order to reduce or eliminate electric lighting.
Stream restoration: The act of returning a buried stream to the surface and allowing it to flow aboveground.
The removal of a formerly endangered species from the list of endangered species.
demographic transition
The shift from high birth rates and death rates to low birth rates and death rates in developed countries.
A field of social science that applies the principles of population ecology to human populations.
design for environment
The practice of designing products and manufacturing processes in environmentally responsible ways.
An increase in the quality of goods and services, with or without quantitative growth; development is a qualitative measure.
A molecule composed of two atoms.
A natural or human-caused event such as fire, flood, or urban development that changes the structure and function of an ecosystem.
A characteristic of reprocessing a material, in which the quality of the material decreases over time.
A place where waste is deposited without further treatment or protection.


Earth system
The total complex of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere that influences conditions at the Earth’s surface.
Speech which uses the technical language of ecology to make the user appear ecologically aware.
An approach to product and process design that seeks to minimize material consumption, waste, and pollution.
eco-industrial park
A complex of industrial facilities which applies the principles of industrial ecology in an industrial ecosystem.
A label which gives information about a product or service in terms of its environmental or social impacts.
A subdiscipline of linguistics which studies the role of language in environmental problems and solutions.
ecological economics
A discipline that merges economics and ecology and conceives of the economy as a subsystem of the Earth ecosystem.
Ecological Footprint
A measure of the demand a person, population, or activity places on nature in order to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, usually expressed as acres or hectares of productive land and water.
ecological restoration
Activity to assist the recovery of degraded biodiversity and ecosystem function in a particular area.
ecological rucksack
The total weight of material “carried” by a product; the material displaced in order to extract, process, and use the material over the course of its lifetime.
The study of the relationships between organisms and their environment.
A physical area with a particular combination of environmental conditions, including climate, topography, geology, and vegetation.
A system of living organisms interacting with each other and their physical environment.
ecosystem services
The essential benefits people obtain from ecosystem processes.
edge effects
Altered environmental conditions that impact organisms living near the edge of a fragmented habitat.
elevator speech
A concise summary, brief enough to be conveyed within a 30-second elevator trip.
embodied energy
The total energy used to produce, transport, and dispose of a product.
The spontaneous appearance of novel properties at the level of a system that cannot be predicted by knowledge of the system’s parts.
emissions trading
The buying and selling of permits to pollute; also known as cap and trade.
endangered species
A species considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future.
endocrine disrupter
A pollutant that interferes with normal hormone functions.
The ability to do work.
energy audit
A systematic, detailed analysis of how and where a building uses energy.
energy efficiency
Using less energy to perform the same tasks.
energy service
The amount of useful work done by each unit of fuel.
energy services company (ESCO)
A company which provides measurement, verification and energy efficiency services for a building and whose fees are paid for out of the energy savings.
energy utilization index (EUI)
An index used to measure building efficiency, usually expressed as a ratio of Btu per square foot of gross floor area per year.
The degree of disorder in a system.
All the living and nonliving external conditions that affect and interact with organisms, populations, or other living systems.
environmental ethics
The branch of philosophy that studies the moral value of, and humans’ ethical relationship to,
the nonhuman world.
environmental health
The discipline which studies the effects of environmental factors on human health.
environmental history
The study of human relationships to the natural world through time.
environmental impact statement
A document that outlines the positive and negative environmental impacts of a proposed action, together with one or more alternative actions, as an aid to decision-making.
environmental justice
The concept that access to a clean, healthy environment is a fundamental human right.
environmental management system (EMS)
A formal system within an organization for developing, implementing, and maintaining environmental policies and procedures.
The state of a system in which opposing influences are balanced and in which the system will remain unless disturbed.
See social justice
A process in which rock or soil is loosened, removed, and transported from one place to another by the action of water, wind, or other natural agents.
Accelerated plant growth and decay in aquatic environments caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and resulting in oxygen depletion.
evidence-based design
An approach to designing the built environment in which decisions are based on the best available current research evidence.
Discarded electrical or electronic equipment.
experiential learning
Education which involves learning by doing.
A cost which is external to the entity creating the damage and not reflected in the price.
The death of all individuals within a species.
Factor 4
A concept which proposes that humans should reduce their consumption of resources to one-fourth of the current levels in order not to exceed the planet’s carrying capacity.
Factor 10
A concept which proposes that humans should reduce their consumption of resources to one-tenth of the current levels in order not to exceed the planet’s carrying capacity.
failed state
A state, or self-governing political body in which the ability to govern has broken down.
The description of how a pollutant changes over time.
fecal coliform bacteria
A group of bacteria found in the feces of humans and other animals which are used as indicators of disease-causing bacteria.
A system that taxes socially undesirable activities and products and uses the money to support more desirable ones; a recently coined word combining “fee” and “rebate.”
A circular mechanism in which the result of an initial process triggers changes in a second process, which in turn influence the initial process. An interaction which increases or amplifies the original change is called positive feedback; an interaction which decreases the original change is called negative feedback.
An industrial-scale facility for housing animals at high densities for feeding prior to slaughter; also known as a CAFO.
fertility rate
See total fertility rate
first flush
The initial quantity of water that runs off a surface at the beginning of a rainstorm.
The flat area adjacent to a river or stream that is subject to periodic flooding.
food chain
A linear sequence of feeding relationships.
food desert
An urban area in which residents do not have ready access to healthy food.
food miles
The distance from where a product is grown to where it is eaten.
food security
The state of having access at all times to sufficient, nutritionally adequate, and safe foods that meet dietary needs and food preferences.
food web
A network of feeding relationships in an ecosystem.
A geographic area within which the food for a population is produced, transported, and consumed.
The practice of gathering food found in public or common spaces.
fossil fuel
Combustible geologic deposits formed from partially decomposed remains of organisms trapped in the Earth’s crust and converted to coal, oil, and natural gas by exposure to heat and pressure.
See hydraulic fracturing
The breaking up of a habitat patch into two or more smaller pieces, usually by human activities such as agriculture, urban development, or roads.
fuel cell
A device that generates an electrical current by converting the chemical energy of a fuel supplied from outside the cell into electrical energy.
fuel switching
Substituting one fuel for another to do the same task.
Gaia theory
The theory that the Earth is an evolving, self-regulating system that maintains conditions favorable to life.
gap analysis
Comparing conservation goals, biophysical data, and existing protected areas to identify gaps in ecosystem protection.
A device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
genetic drift
The gradual loss of genetic variation in a small population due to random events.
genetically modified organism (GMO)
An organism whose genetic code has been altered using a technique called recombinant DNA technology.
Genuine Progress Indicator
A measure of economic progress that considers improvement in wellbeing and quality of life; proposed as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product.
geographic information systems (GIS)
Computer software which combines maps and databases, with information stored on layers.
The practice of gathering food from leftover crops in farmers’ fields.
global warming potential (GWP)
A ratio that indicates the greenhouse effect of a particular gas relative to that of the same quantity of carbon dioxide over a fixed period of time, usually 100 years.
global warming
An average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface.
The process of decision-making by which an organization or society regulates activities and exercises control over resources; often refers to collective actions of multiple stakeholders working together in order to achieve common goals.
Untreated wastewater collected from bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs, and clothes washers which has not come into contact with toilet waste.
green building
An energy- and water-efficient building made of nontoxic and often locally sourced materials which is environmentally responsible and healthy for its occupants; also known as a high-performance building.
green chemistry
The use of chemical materials and processes with little or no toxicity.
Green Revolution
The intensification of global food production in the mid-twentieth century based on technologies such as fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and high-yield crop varieties.
green roof
A kind of roof covering made of a waterproof layer, growing medium, and plants.
Open space that has never been built upon.
greenhouse effect
The warming of a planet’s surface as a result of certain atmospheric gases which absorb some of the infrared solar radiation that would otherwise escape into space and re-radiate this energy back to the surface.
greenhouse gas
A gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere; greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and others.
The use of deliberately misleading terms in order to portray an environmentally responsible image.
A network of interconnected transmission and distribution lines that distributes electricity from power generation stations to users.
gross domestic product (GDP)
A measure of economic growth consisting of the total value of goods and services produced within the boundaries of a country.
Water that has accumulated in saturated soil or rock below the Earth’s surface.
An increase in size or an increase in production; growth is a quantitative measure.


The physical environment where an organism lives and finds food, water, cover, and space to grow and reproduce.
habitat corridor
A linear landscape element that connects otherwise isolated habitat patches, allowing movement and dispersal.
habitat fragmentation
See fragmentation
habitat patch
A discrete area large enough to support breeding by a particular species.
A phenomenon or activity that can cause damage, disease, injury, or death.
hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)
A list of chemicals identified by the EPA as particularly dangerous.
heat island
See urban heat island effect
heat pump
A refrigeration machine with a reversing valve, used to transfer heat into a building to provide heating or out of a building to provide cooling.
heavy metals
Metals which have high atomic weight, such as lead, mercury, and arsenic.
high-performance building
An energy- and water-efficient building made of nontoxic and often locally sourced materials which is environmentally responsible and healthy for its occupants; also known as a green building.
Acronym for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning; the system or systems that condition air in a building.
See biodiversity hotspot
hydraulic fracturing
The fracturing of fossil fuel–bearing rock using fluids injected underground at high pressures. Also known as fracking.
A plant which can accumulate larger amounts of micronutrients than most other plants.
hyporheic zone
The subsurface environment below a stream channel.
The first step in the scientific method; a proposed explanation of a phenomenon that can be tested scientifically.
in situ
In its original position; from the Latin phrase meaning “in position.”
A composite indicator which combines multiple sources of data into one number.
A representative factor which indicates the condition or functioning of a characteristic or a system, used to measure progress toward a goal.
indicator species
A species whose presence indicates particular environmental conditions.
industrial ecology
An approach to the design of products and processes that helps an industrial system behave like an ecosystem, with the output from one industry being the input for another.
industrial symbiosis
A network of exchanges in which the output from one industry is the input for another.
industrialized agriculture
Large-scale farming using fossil fuel–driven machinery, large amounts of irrigation water, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and monoculture planting; also known as agribusiness.
The process in which rainwater flows through or is absorbed by pores in soil.
The technological support systems used to transport people, goods, water, waste, energy, and information in human communities.
integrated pest management (IPM)
An ecologically based strategy which controls insects with minimal use of pesticides.
invasive species
A species introduced outside its normal distribution, and which increases in abundance at the expense of native species, interfering with an ecosystem’s normal functioning.
A food processing method in which food is exposed to a dose of radiation for the purpose of killing pathogenic bacteria and insects by disrupting their DNA.
keystone species
A species so critical to an ecosystem that its removal could cause major disruption for the whole ecosystem.
Kyoto Protocol
An international treaty adopted in 1997 at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and expiring in 2012, which limited carbon dioxide emissions for those developed countries that signed it.
land trust
A nonprofit organization that works to acquire land, to help others acquire land or conservation easements, and to provide stewardship.
A type of bioremediation in which waste or contaminated soil is spread in a thin layer on the land so that it is easily accessible by aerobic soil microorganisms.
A waste disposal site for long-term storage of solid waste in which waste is buried. See also sanitary landfill
Liquid in a landfill consisting of rainwater, liquid from organic waste, and dissolved pollutants.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification system.
life cycle assessment
A method for quantifying the total environmental impacts of a material, product, or building through all phases of its life from cradle to grave; also known as life cycle analysis.
Light-emitting diode; a semiconductor device used for lighting which consumes less energy and lasts longer than other current lighting technologies.
The addition of a species considered to be facing a high risk of extinction to a list of endangered species such as the international IUCN Red List or the lists maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, mandated by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Living Building
A stringent green building certification system based on the Living Building Challenge.
Living Machine
A proprietary biological wastewater treatment system which uses a series of tanks containing communities of bacteria, plants, and animals.
A person who eats primarily locally produced food. 
low-hanging fruit
An informal term used to describe targets which are easy to achieve and which carry no or low cost.
mass extinction
An extraordinary extinction event in which a large proportion of the world’s species become extinct in a relatively short time period
Any physical substance; something which occupies space and has mass.
measurement and verification (M&V)
A written plan which verifies that investments in energy efficiency measures are providing the benefits expected.
membrane bioreactor
A compact device for wastewater treatment consisting of a series of tanks where bacteria living on membranes break down nutrients.
A collection of local populations of the same species linked by some degree of migration; a “population of populations.”
methane hydrate
A partly frozen mix of methane gas and ice, usually found in sediments.
Small-scale variations in the shape of the surface of the land, resulting in a diversity of microhabitats.
Milankovitch cycles
Regularly recurring changes in the tilt of Earth’s axis, precession of Earth’s axis, and eccentricity of Earth’s orbit which influence cycles of cooling and warming climate.
Climate change: Measures undertaken to minimize the extent or impact of a problem such as climate change.
Habitat: A mechanism in which a damaged habitat is rehabilitated or an intact habitat area is set aside to compensate for habitat that is destroyed elsewhere.
The planting of a single crop over a large area.
Montreal Protocol
An international treaty signed in 1987 which phases out the production and use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons.
A layer of organic material spread over the surface of soil.
municipal solid waste (MSW)
Waste from households, offices, institutions, and small businesses; called “municipal” because such waste is the responsibility of local governments.
A substance which damages genetic material, or DNA, in cells.
A symbiotic relationship between the roots of most plants and certain fungi.
native species
Species that developed in the place where they live and are adapted to conditions there.
natural capital
Environmental resources and ecosystem services that make all economic activity possible.
nest predation
The action of predators who eat juvenile birds in the nest.
net metering
A billing arrangement that allows customers who generate their own electricity to sell excess electricity to the local power utility.
net zero
A net zero energy building is one which produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year.
A toxin that damages the nervous system.
New Urbanism
An urban design movement similar to smart growth promoted by the Congress for the New Urbanism.
The role an organism plays in its ecosystem.
A condition in which there is no simple proportional relationship between cause and effect.
nonpoint source
A diffuse source of pollutants that cannot be tied to a specific point of origin.
nonrenewable resource
A natural resource with a finite supply that cannot be replaced once used, or one that cannot be replaced as fast as it is consumed.
no-till farming
An approach to growing crops by planting in undisturbed soil covered by crop residues and other mulch. Also known as conservation tillage.
The emission of volatile organic compounds from synthetic and natural products.
A voluntary payment made to reduce pollution or emissions at one location in order to compensate for an equal quantity of pollution or emissions at another location.
oil shale
Underground formation of fine-grained sedimentary rock that contains kerogen, a waxy hydrocarbon that can be converted to a heavy oil called shale oil when heated.
open-graded aggregate
Aggregate all of which is within the same size range.
organic agriculture
The general method of growing crops using environmentally healthy methods and without using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides; also known as organic farming.
The act of consuming something in excess of its ability to be renewed.
The gap between the demand for ecosystem services and the rate at which nature can provide them; that is, the amount by which resource consumption and waste production exceed nature’s capacity to create new resources and absorb waste.
A fundamental framework for understanding the world; a coherent set of assumptions and concepts that defines a way of viewing reality.
particulate material
Matter in the form of fine solid particles or liquid droplets small enough to be suspended in air or water.
passive solar heating
Methods for using sunlight for heating without the use of active mechanical devices such as pumps or fans.
passive ventilation
Methods for using air movement for cooling without the use of active mechanical devices such as pumps or fans.
A European design standard for energy-efficient buildings that use passive heating and cooling methods.
See habitat patch
peak oil
The point at which oil reaches its highest production levels, after which the rate of production declines.
Partially decomposed plant material that has accumulated in a water-saturated anaerobic environment.
peer review
The process in which writing or research work is evaluated by outside experts in a relevant field to determine whether the work is of high enough quality to publish.
A design strategy for agriculture and human communities based on observing patterns in nature; the word was coined by combining the words “permanent” and “agriculture.”
The property of a substance which lasts a long time without changing.
persistent organic pollutant
A class of organic chemicals that remain unchanged for long periods of time, accumulate in the food chain, and are toxic to humans and other animals.
A synthetic substance designed to kill unwanted organisms; categories of pesticides include insecticides, rodenticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
One of the three types of fossil fuel; also known as oil.
A scale which indicates the degree of acidity or alkalinity, based on a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in water.
phantom power
Energy consumed by electronic devices when they are turned off or in standby mode.
photovoltaic cell
A semiconductor device which converts solar energy directly to electricity.
The use of plants to treat pollutants.
A species that colonizes a site in the earliest stages of succession.
place-based learning
An approach to learning in which the curriculum is based on local knowledge.
point source
A source of pollution that comes from a single, identifiable source.
The accumulation of substances with adverse effects on the health of living organisms.
pollution prevention
The design of a process or activity to reduce or eliminate the creation of pollution or waste at the source.
A group of individuals of one species living within a particular area.
population ecology
The study of the growth, decline, and changes in populations of organisms.
potable water
Water which is suitable for drinking.
power grid
See grid
The rate at which energy is transferred.
Parts per billion; the number of parts of a chemical found in one billion parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid mixture.
Parts per million; the number of parts of a chemical found in one million parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid mixture.
precautionary principle
An approach to making decisions in a way that leaves a margin of safety because of the possibility of causing unexpected harm.
Efforts to maintain an area in a state that is relatively undisturbed by humans.
An indicator which stands in for another measurement.


One quadrillion Btus.
The emission of atomic particles as atomic nuclei decay.
rain garden
A planted depression in the landscape where stormwater runoff collects temporarily as it infiltrates into the soil below.
rainwater endowment
The amount of rainwater which can be captured on a particular site.
rainwater harvesting
The process of collecting water that falls as rain and storing it for later use.
rammed earth
A construction method in which soil is laid in formwork and compacted in layers.
The process of restoring a degraded site to an ecologically healthy state.
reconciliation ecology
An approach to restoration that deliberately shares the places where humans live with other species.
A waste disposal method which extracts materials from the waste stream and processes them so that they can be reused in some way.
The process of repairing or rebuilding products or parts in order to use them again with the same function.
The process of cleaning up a polluted site using physical, chemical, or biological means.
renewable energy certificate (REC)
A tradable commodity that represents a unit of electricity generated from a renewable energy source; also known as renewable energy credits, green certificates, or green tags.
renewable resource
A resource that is replenished by natural processes and not depleted by moderate use.
replacement fertility rate
The number of births per woman that will maintain the human population size at zero population growth.
The total known amount of an economically recoverable resource.
A location where energy or matter are stored in systems.
residence time
The average amount of time that a substance spends in a particular reservoir.
The capacity of a system to accommodate change and still retain the same function and structure.
The total quantity of a material that exists in the Earth's crust, whether or not it has been discovered.
See ecological restoration
restoration ecology
A scientific discipline that focuses on the recovery of degraded biodiversity and ecosystem function.
The area of soil immediately around plant roots
Relating to or inhabiting the banks of a stream or river.
A measure of a material's resistance to heat flow.
saltwater intrusion
The movement of saltwater into freshwater aquifers.
sanitary landfill
A landfill engineered to prevent leaks from contaminating soil and water.
scientific method
A systematic study of a problem in which scientists, collectively and over time, observe and describe a phenomenon, develop a hypothesis, collect data, and use the data to evaluate the hypothesis.
A material that conducts electric current under some conditions and the electrical properties of which can be manipulated.
See carbon sequestration
service learning
Learning by doing while working on solutions to community problems.
An invented word which refers to the practice of providing a service instead of a product.
shale oil
A slow-flowing, heavy oil produced when kerogen in oil shale is heated; subsequently refined to produce gasoline and other petroleum products.
An insulated, vertical unit within an organization with little outside exchange of information.
A reservoir where matter is stored and removed from system interactions.
smart grid
A networked microgrid that uses two-way meters, intelligent controls, telecommunications, and distributed storage to distribute electricity.
smart growth
An approach to urban planning which features compact, walkable, and transit-oriented neighborhoods with a mix of uses, housing types, and affordability levels.
Air pollution formed by the interaction of pollutants and sunlight.
social justice
The fair distribution of resources and opportunities to all people.
social marketing
The use of marketing techniques to achieve specific behavioral changes to improve social wellbeing.
soil horizon
One layer of soil in a soil profile.
soil profile
The pattern of soil layers in a particular place from the surface toward the bedrock below.
solar cell
See photovoltaic cell
A storage compartment in the environment that releases matter to another location.
The injection of air directly into groundwater to increase oxygen available to bacteria.
A human settlement pattern characterized by low-density land use, single-use zoning, and automobile dependency.
A person or group who can be impacted by an outcome or decision.
steady state
The condition in which the inputs and outputs of a system are in equilibrium.
Responsible care of the natural world. Also, the belief that humans have a unique responsibility to make decisions about the use and management of natural resources.
Stockholm Convention
An international treaty signed in 2001 which limits or eliminates the production of persistent organic pollutants.
Water that falls as rain.
A regulatory and policy-based approach to sustainability solutions, in contrast to an individual approach.
structural diversity
Variation in the vertical and horizontal features of a landscape.
The practice of using additional meters provided by building owners to record energy use in selected portions of a facility.
Progressive change in species composition, structure, and ecosystem characteristics in a community, often in response to a disturbance.
The program mandated by CERCLA and operated by the EPA for remediation of particularly polluted sites.
sustainability indicator
See indicator
The state in which the needs of all members of the biosphere are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
sustainable development
Development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
A method of using resources or meeting needs in such a way that we can continue to do so indefinitely.
A linear drainage channel with a vegetated surface. See also bioswale
A relationship between two organisms from different species, who live and interact with each other to the benefit of both.
An integrated whole made of interconnected parts.
systems thinking
A way of perceiving reality which considers relationships, processes, and interconnected parts of unified wholes.
take-back program
A practice in which manufacturers assume responsibility for reusing or recycling the products they produce.
tar sand
A naturally occurring deposit of sand impregnated with bitumen, a heavy oil that is extracted by heating and subsequently refined to produce petroleum products.
A substance which causes abnormalities in developing embryos.
An explanation of a phenomenon that has been rigorously tested and become accepted among scientists by general consensus.
thermal mass
A heavy, dense building material which absorbs heat, stores it, and reradiates it slowly.
thermal pollution
An unhealthy change in water temperature.
A branch of physics that deals with the transformation of energy.
threatened species
A species considered to be likely to become endangered in the near future.
The amount of materials and energy that flow through a system.
tipping point
An informal term for the point of critical mass at which accumulated small changes cause a large change in the state of a system.
total fertility rate
The number of children born to an average woman during her lifetime.
total suspended solids
Fine particles suspended in water, too small to be removed by settling.
The degree to which a substance can damage living cells.
A material that damages or kills living organisms.
tragedy of the commons
The degradation of a public resource, the accumulated result of decisions by multiple self-interested individuals to maximize their own personal interests.
transit-oriented development (TOD)
An element of smart growth in which neighborhood development is clustered around convenient transit stations and located along transit corridors.
The ways in which a pollutant moves through the environment.
transportation demand management (TDM)
A set of tools and strategies for changing travel behavior in order to reduce the number of automobile vehicle trips and vehicle miles driven.
A molecule composed of three atoms.
triple bottom line
The concept that sustainability rests upon the three pillars of environment, economics, and equity, also known as planet, people, profit.
trophic level
The position a group of organisms with similar feeding function occupies in a food web.
A measure of water clarity resulting from suspended particles which block light.
urban growth boundary (UGB)
A line adopted by a government body which separates an urban area within which development may occur from surrounding open lands within which development is restricted.
urban heat island effect
The phenomenon whereby air temperature in cities is several degrees warmer than in surrounding rural areas.
A measure of a material's ability to conduct heat; the reciprocal of R-value.
virtual water
The quantity of water required for the production of food or other goods, measured at the place where they were actually produced.
volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Organic compounds that vaporize at room temperature.
Unwanted or discarded material.
A process which captures methane from landfills and burns it in gas turbines to generate electricity or heat.
water footprint
The virtual water content of a good or service.
water service company (WASCO)
A company which provides water auditing and conservation services for a building and whose fees are paid for out of water-use savings.
water table
The upper boundary of the zone of saturation, or groundwater.
An area of land that drains water to a specific river system or water body.
wetland delineation
The process of identifying the location and size of a wetland for the purposes of meeting regulations.
An area of land that is periodically saturated with water and characterized by vegetation adapted for life in saturated-soil conditions.
A synthetic chemical substance which is foreign to living systems.
zero waste
An approach in which every material is a nutrient and waste does not build up.

How to have a good meeting

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Conducting a Waste Audit

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Margaret Robertson

A waste audit is a physical analysis of an organization’s waste stream, which provides a snapshot of the contents of the waste stream, identifying the types of trash generated and in what quantities. Measurement is the first step in management. An audit lets coordinators understand how much waste is being generated, where it comes from, and how much of it is recyclable, helping them identify areas to target for improved recycling and purchasing practices. A waste audit is also a graphic and effective way to make often-abstract waste and recycling concepts visible. For many people, recycling is their first connection to sustainability efforts, and a waste audit gives them real-world feedback.

A waste audit should be done during a time that reflects average activity. For example, if an audit is done on a university campus, an audit done mid-semester reflects campus activity more accurately than one conducted during a quiet break between terms. If practical, multiple audits can be done at different times of the year in order to detect seasonal variations such as yard waste, holiday packaging, or annual reports.

Before the audit itself, a site is selected that is sheltered from weather, large enough to hold the entire waste sample, located away from vehicle traffic, and away from waterways, storm drains, and environmentally sensitive areas. A worksheet is developed that lists all the materials used by the organization, by category. Typical categories include recyclable paper; recyclable plastic, glass, and metal; batteries; compostable food waste; yard waste; reusable items; and true garbage, items that are not compostable or recyclable. Categories vary by site and auditing objective, and some organizations break down paper into further subcategories; some add categories for disposable items related to food service; and some add categories for such things as toner cartridges, electronics, and pallets.

Tools and materials are assembled: tables for sorting; bins or containers for sorting waste into categories, with empty weight recorded in advance; a large scale for weighing; calculators; copies of the worksheet; thick waterproof gloves; and waterproof aprons. A formal or informal risk assessment is conducted to review potential hazards and safety protocols. An orientation session educates volunteers about safety and confidentiality; workers must avoid sharp objects or other hazards, must avoid reading any documents during the audit, and must ensure that nothing leaves the auditing area. Some organizations verify that all volunteers have had tetanus shots. 

Waste is then collected into trash bags and labeled by date and location. Each bag is weighed, and the total weight and volume from each location is calculated and recorded on worksheets. Volunteers then carefully lift out waste by hand and deposit it into appropriate sorting bins, one collection-site bag at a time. Waste categories are weighed and recorded on worksheets. Both weight and volume are recorded. In some cases it is useful to record count quantities as well as weight and volume. For example, learning that 500 pairs of gloves were discarded may have more impact that learning that 55 pounds of latex was discarded. Each category is calculated as a percentage of the total waste.

Results of the audit are shared with the entire organization. The percentages of materials being sent to the landfill that could have been recycled are particularly meaningful figures. A waste audit has the greatest impact if it can be done in a location that is safe but publicly visible, where it can provide positive publicity and launch further recycling initiatives.

For more precise auditing of waste generated during a particular time period, coordinators can flush the system prior to waste collection. For example, if the audit is to analyze waste for a 24-hour period, staff must empty all the garbage and recycling containers that will be sampled 24 hours before the waste is to be collected.

Both weight and volume are recorded and analyzed for two reasons: First, because weight figures can be distorted by spilled liquids which soak into other materials and add weight, recording volume provides another measurement. Second, both weight and volume are used in contracting of waste management. Waste disposal is billed by weight, and knowing the weights of waste and recycling categories allows costs and cost savings to be estimated. In addition, knowing the volume allows estimates of the number of dumpsters, roll-off carts, and on-site storage facilities required.

In order to understand how discarded trash relates to the organization’s larger waste stream as a whole, coordinators collect recycling and waste data and perform a separate audit of the recycling stream during the same time period as the waste audit, compile the additional data in a waste indicator report, and repeat the monitoring over time. One audit gives a snapshot; measuring the same indicators more than once over time allows trends and patterns to become visible. See Chapter 5, “Putting Sustainability into Practice” and Chapter 15, “Waste and Recycling” in the book Sustainability Principles and Practice for information about how to set up indicator reports.


Jensen, Marc. Lean Waste Stream: Reducing Material Use and Garbage Using Lean Principles. New York: Pro­ductivity Press, 2014.

Jensen, Marc and Andrew Sartain. “How Healthy Is Your Recycling Program? Performing a Garbage Audit at a Major University.” Sustainability: The Journal of Record, vol. 7 no. 3 (June 2014): 154–59. DOI:  10.1089/sus.2014.9790.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Waste Audits.” Greening Advisor.

Stone, Michael K. “The Smart by Nature Campus.” in Smart by Nature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009: 65-67.

University of Oregon Campus Zero Waste Program. “Waste Audits.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. WasteWise.

A source for information about waste management practices for municipal and industrial sites. The website offers numerous fact sheets and other resources. Organizations can become partners free of charge, and then have access to a technical assistance team who will help to conduct a waste audit and identify waste reduction opportunities.

Green Revolving Funds

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Margaret Robertson

Green revolving loan funds are mechanisms for financing sustainability projects. A loan provides the initial capital to support a project that mitigates greenhouse gas emissions or reduces resource use. The savings from that project are reinvested in the loan fund, where they can then be used to finance future projects. Typical projects that generate cost savings include energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, waste reduction and recycling. The idea has gained traction in higher education institutions, but can be applied in any sector where sustainability projects save money.

A well-managed green revolving fund is a good investment. A 2012 study of 76 institutions of higher education in the US and Canada reported a median payback period of 3.5 years (Flynn, Orlowski and Weisbord 2012: 5) and an average payback period of 4.4 years (ibid.: 57) with a median annual return on investment (ROI) of 28 percent, reliably outperforming the average investment returns of endowment funds (Indvik, Foley, and Orlowski 2013a: 7). For example, the green revolving fund at Stanford University returned an average annual ROI of 22 percent from 2004 to 2012 (Flynn, Orlowski and Weisbord 2012: 25), and a similar fund at the University of Colorado, Boulder returned an average annual ROI of 37.8 percent from 2008 to 2012 (ibid.: 29).

A green revolving fund offers multiple benefits in addition to above-average investment performance. This approach advances sustainability goals by removing financial barriers, and visibly makes the business case for sustainability. It provides a unified system for tracking financial aspects of sustainability projects as part of an integrated whole. A green revolving fund offers potential funding to support student experiential learning, while also creating innovative fundraising opportunities that are attractive to donors. It creates opportunities to engage the community, bringing diverse stakeholders together to make decisions about sustainability and investments, and clearly communicates an institution’s commitment to sustainability goals.

Setting up a fund begins with research, both to learn how funds are structured in similar peer institutions and to understand thoroughly the accounting system, operations management, and sustainability project portfolio in the home institution. No two funds are alike, and each will need to be tailored to the characteristics of its institution. Successful planning efforts typically involve staff with expertise in finance, operations, and sustainability, and often include participation by multiple stakeholders as well.

A new fund needs seed capital to get started. Capital can come originally from an operating budget, an endowment fund, utility rebates, donations, or grants. Planners need to decide whether to start small, allowing them to pilot a project before scaling up once the pilot demonstrates success; or whether to start at a larger scale, which allows greater flexibility in choosing projects. Planning includes developing criteria for evaluating and selecting projects to be funded. Decisions need to be made about how the fund will be structured, how repayments will be made, by whom, and how often. The green revolving fund may be set up under a loan model, in which a project borrows money from the fund, or under an accounting model, in which both loans and repayments are handled by transferring funds between particular budgets. The system can be overseen by a single administrator; by staff from a relevant office such as finance, facilities, or sustainability; or by a management committee, which has the advantage of promoting broader stakeholder engagement and greater awareness.

The Billion Dollar Green Challenge is a program that encourages higher education institutions and non-profit organizations to invest in green revolving funds. It was launched in 2011 by the Sustainable Endowments Institute in connection with the annual conference of the As­sociation for Advancement of Sustain­ability in Higher Education (AASHE), with a goal of investing a combined total of one billion dollars in self-managed funds to finance sustainability projects. The Billion Dollar Green Challenge suggests that each participating institution establish a fund equivalent to one percent of the endow­ment or one million dollars, whichever is less (Boyd 2013: 346). The Sustainable Endowments Institute offers a range of tools and resources to help institutions facilitate the planning and operation of green revolving funds.


Boyd, Stephanie. “Financing and Managing Energy Projects through Revolving Loan Funds.” Sustainability: The Journal of Record, vol. 6 no. 6 (December 2013): 345–52. doi: 10.1089/sus.2013.9826.

Flynn, Emily, Mark Orlowski, and Dano Weisbord. Greening the Bottom Line 2012. Cambridge, MA: Sustainable Endowments Institute, 2012.

Indvik, Joe, Rob Foley, and Mark Orlowski. Green Revolving Funds: An Introductory Guide to Implementation & Management. Sustainable Endowments Institute and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2013.

______. Green Revolving Funds: A Guide to Implementation & Management. Sustainable Endowments Institute and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, 2013.

Putman, Andrea and Michael Philips. The Business Case for Renewable Energy: A Guide for Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC: National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), Leadership in Educational Facilities (APPA), and Society for College and University Planners (SCUP), 2006.

Sustainable Endowments Institute. “Billion Dollar Green Challenge.” Resources at include implementation guides, an investment primer for financial officers, an investment-tracking dashboard, sample documents, and case studies.

Policy Writing Basics

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Margaret Robertson

Policy is one of the tools used in managing many organizations, and people who work in sustainability are often called upon to write or collaborate on the writing of policies. A policy is a formal statement of principles, a set of guidelines or rules that guide decision-making, activities and conduct in an organization. Policies provide consistency and continuity. With policies in place, everyone has a common understanding, can refer to the same framework for decisions, and the framework remains in place even if personnel change. Policies provide a written record that is accessible to everyone, reducing the potential for conflict or misunderstanding. Once issues are discussed and policies agreed upon, decision-making is more efficient since people do not need to keep discussing the same issues again. The basic approach to writing a policy is to identify the topic of focus, collect examples of similar policies from other organizations, write and distribute a draft, collect and integrate feedback, revise as needed, finalize, approve, draft procedures for implementing, and schedule regular reviews.

As in any problem-solving process, the first step is to define the problem or identify the issue to be addressed. Sometimes a single issue is what prompts a particular policy to be written. In other cases, an organization decides to work methodically to develop a collection of multiple policies, and thus the first activities are planning sessions by stakeholders to identify collaboratively which policies are needed and in what priority. As with all planning and management work, the development of policies is built upon the organization’s mission, goals, and objectives. See Chapter 16, “Working in an Organization” in the book Sustainability Principles and Practice for information about planning within an organization.

Once a particular topic of concern is identified as the subject of a policy that needs to be written, participants begin by gathering information and conducting research. Often the most productive activity is to search for policies written by similar organizations on similar topics, from which to compile a list of elements to consider for inclusion. For example, if a sustainability team at a university needed to develop a policy on green cleaning methods, they could search for existing green cleaning policies at other universities. Although care must be taken not to copy someone else’s policy, this kind of benchmarking is very helpful in providing a framework. Other resources can include professional organizations, technical experts, and relevant laws and regulations, as well as conversations with people who have experience with or who are impacted by this issue, a process which can include both formal surveys and informal conversations.

An individual or small team is then selected to do the writing of a first draft. In general, policy writing should not be done in committee meetings, as there is the potential both to get hung up on insignificant details and to have difficulty getting started with crafting language in the first place. It is easier for a committee to work when participants have an existing document to which to respond. The policy should be written as clearly as possible in straightforward, jargon-free language and should be no more than one page in length. Bullet points are often used to make the layout easy to use. The document should avoid using brand names, names of people, dates, and any other information that can become outdated.

The first draft is then distributed to stakeholders for comment. Feedback can be collected and discussed verbally in meetings; however, it is more efficient if participants first make comments directly on electronic documents, using either a different-colored font or the markup feature of word-processing software, so that those marked-up versions can be distributed and read by participants in advance before coming together for discussion.

The process of meeting to review feedback, agreeing on and incorporating revisions, and circulating a revised draft is continued as needed until a final draft is agreed upon by the group. The final draft is then presented to the approving body in the organization for ratification, which might be an administrator, a management committee, or a board of trustees or directors. Once ratified, the final approval date is added to the policy, and the policy can be communicated to others and then implemented.

Every policy within an organization should follow the same format for consistency. A typical policy contains the title; a brief statement of purpose; a description of scope, that is, where or to whom the policy will apply; the policy narrative itself; the approval date, date of most recent revision, and date of next review; the responsible party with contact information; reference to relevant statute, regulation, or governing authority, if appropriate; reference to related procedure; and definitions of any uncommon or specialized terms or words that can have different meanings in different contexts, listed in alphabetical order.

A written policy is implemented through written procedures. A policy is a statement of guiding principles; it describes ‘what’ and ‘why.’ A procedure provides instructions for carrying out the policy; it describes ‘how’: the specific action steps to be done, how they will be done, and by whom.

Every policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to determine whether it is understandable as written and whether it is working as intended. This is the standard feedback step that is essential to all planning and management activities. As with the original drafting of a policy, review and evaluation should be done collaboratively. The policy is adapted and revised as needed and, unless changes are minor, presented to the approving body in the organization for re-approval.


Campbell, Nancy J. Writing Effective Policies and Procedures: A Step-by-Step Resource for Clear Communication. New York: AMACOM, 1998.

Info Entrepreneurs. “How to Write an Environmental Policy.” Chambre de Commerce du Montréal Métropolitain.

Grant Writing Basics

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Margaret Robertson

A grant is an award of money given for specific activities for the public good: to conduct research or to provide environmental, economic, or social benefits. Grants are given by private foundations, corporations, and various government agencies; applicants ask for money by writing a grant proposal which describes in detail how the money will be used, if awarded, and how the applicant meets specific guidelines spelled out by the granting organization. The two fundamental principles that guide all grantseeking are that (1) the mission of the applicant’s organization and the mission of the grantmaking organization must be in alignment, which the writing of the grant proposal then illustrates; and (2) all of the grantmaker’s instructions for submitting a proposal must be followed precisely.

A grant is not primarily about getting money; it is about being able to implement a goal that has been envisioned. Developing a project comes first, before writing a grant proposal. Projects that are developed simply to respond to a particular grant are not built on a strong foundation; the best grant proposals come from having a clear organizational mission, identifying a problem related to the mission, designing a project to solve some part of that problem, and then finding a grant which aligns with the goals and objectives of the organization and its project. Grants are more likely to be awarded to well-designed projects or programs addressing a problem that is also related to the grantor’s mission. Writing the grant proposal is preceded by careful planning, and the work of developing a proposal is never a waste, even if that particular grant is not awarded. See Chapter 5, “Putting Sustainability into Practice” and Chapter 16, “Working in an Organization” in the book Sustainability Principles and Practice for information about how to plan a project.

When searching for a potential funding source, the goal is to find a grant which is a good match with the project that has been developed. The websites listed at the end of this document suggest some possible sources. Applicants should carefully research each potential grantmaker, reading their reports, reviewing the projects they have funded in the past, and becoming familiar with their mission and problem-solving approach. The grant proposal should be written in a way that demonstrates that the applicant understands the funder’s mission, shares their vision, and is offering a project that aligns with that vision and mission. Consider that if a grantmaker had enough money, they would try to solve the problem directly themselves; however, since they don’t have unlimited funds, they try to leverage the money they do have by funding projects in the area they care about with the potential to have a meaningful, replicable impact. A grant proposal should assure a funder that this project will be a good investment for them.

Preparing to write a grant proposal

A grantmaker gives instructions for applying in a request for proposal (RFP), which describes the questions that must be answered, the order in which they must be answered, the supporting documents that must be attached, the selection criteria that will be used, and a page limit. It is essential that these instructions be followed exactly; inattention to any one of these instructions will cause the proposal to be rejected. Begin by reading through the funder’s RFP and using a highlighter to mark every requirement. Using another highlighter color, highlight words that are used multiple times; these indicate concepts that are important to the funder and give clues to what they are looking for. Make a list of these words, and use the same or similar language in writing the proposal.

To organize the writing of the grant proposal, begin with the RFP and turn it into a shell; use this empty document as the outline for the proposal, which can be filled in as writing proceeds. This will ensure that all of the required headings and subheadings will be included, in the same order, using the grantmaker’s language. Make a list of all of the documents that must be included in the application packet. Use the outline created from the RFP to set up a table of contents, which must include everything the grantmaker asks for and in the order in which they requested it. If the funder provides a point value for each element with their evaluation criteria, make a separate list of the contents with the point values assigned to help determine how much space and information to devote to each section when writing. 

Use clear, straightforward language when writing; avoid jargon, and do not assume that reviewers will be familiar with specialized terminology unless it appears in the RFP itself. Write the proposal in an active, not passive, voice, which lends clarity and an emphasis on action. For example, say, “residents use the community garden” rather than, “the community garden is used by residents.” Make confident statements such as “we address,” rather than tentative statements such as “we hope to address,” and use present rather than future tense where possible. Avoid value judgments and limit adjectives as much as possible, maintaining the proposal as a statement of fact. Give your project a vivid, memorable title.

The project narrative begins with an abstract or summary, if requested in the RFP; if not, it begins with an introduction. The abstract, summary, or introduction provides a snapshot of the entire project, consisting of one or two paragraphs that summarize succinctly and clearly what the project is about for reviewers who know nothing about your project. This section should actually be written last, after the rest of the narrative has been written. The introduction or abstract explains the problem being addressed, the solution being proposed, and the major components of the project: who will be involved, what it will cost, and how much of that cost is being requested in the grant. Most importantly, it describes what activities will be done, what outcomes are expected, and who will benefit. This section may determine how carefully reviewers read the rest of the proposal, and in certain situations it is the only thing that some reviewers will read, so it must be written carefully.

The statement of need is an important section of a grant proposal. This is a compelling, detailed description of the problem you intend to solve and why it matters. No organization can do everything that needs doing; to be credible, your project needs to select one part of the larger issue and focus on that. Demonstrate your expertise in this area; include information about who will be served, and back up your statements with statistics, relevant research in the field, and your own past experience. The statement of need is where you begin to illustrate that the grantmaker’s concerns are your concerns, and that your organization is well suited and capable of addressing this particular issue. Funders look for solutions that are replicable in multiple sites; show how the problem you are addressing in your community is similar to problems in other communities. Keep the focus on the target population you intend to serve, what it is they need and what the impact will be if their problem is not solved. 

The majority of a grant proposal consists of a project narrative, with goals, objectives, activities, outcomes, and a timeline. This is the largest section of a proposal, and it describes the steps of the project. In the statement of need you identified a problem; various approaches could probably be used for solving this problem, and your proposal will describe the approach you think is the more effective.

Having described the problem in the statement of need, the goals and objectives explain what will be done and how it will be done. The goals describe your vision for addressing this need; they reflect the values of your organization and explain why the work of this project is important.

The objectives are a description of how you will do this work, what steps must be taken in order to achieve the goals. Goals and objectives must be measurable so that you can determine whether you achieved what you planned to achieve. Following the objectives, describe in detail the activities that will achieve each of these objectives; include exactly what will be done, by whom, and when. Describe the outcomes that will be achieved as a result of performing these activities, sometimes referred to as the deliverables. The activities and outcomes constitute a work plan.

Many grant proposals include a timeline, a graphical representation of the major activities and benchmarks in the project, often in simple table format. It can include just activities and time periods, or it can also include additional information such as who will do those activities, what the outcomes will be, and when evaluation steps will be performed. A timeline can be an effective way to condense a lot of information into a compact space. It is relatively uncluttered and allows the reviewer to grasp a complete picture more easily.

Charts and tables are devices that can communicate a great deal of data in a relatively compact space. They also allow reviewers to see how elements are related to each other. The content of charts and tables might include such things as staff relationships and responsibilities, and the roles of partners. They are particularly effective in communicating details of objectives, activities, and outcomes.

Potential grantmakers want to know that your mission is in alignment with theirs, and they also want to know that your organization has the capacity and ability to successfully complete the project you propose. This is why RFPs ask for information about the applicant’s organization. This section typically includes a brief description of the organization’s mission, history, programs, and staff qualifications. It should let reviewers see how the mission and work of the organization relate to the project being proposed, and should give evidence that you will be able to manage and complete the work you are proposing. Some RFPs require that projects include partnerships; if so, the organization section should also include information about partners and their particular roles, with explanations of the strengths each partner brings to the undertaking. A discussion of partnerships can demonstrate inclusivity and collaboration.

Every grant proposal must include a budget in table form, with expense items in the leftmost column and income sources across the top, together with a narrative that briefly explains the rationale for all budget items. The budget demonstrates that the applicant has thought through the details of undertaking the project, and also demonstrates the organization’s capacity both to manage the project and to carry the activity forward after the grant has expired.

A project management plan demonstrates that the applicant is ready to go, understands exactly what steps will be required, in what order, and will be able to complete the project successfully; it demonstrates to the reviewers that this project will be a good investment. It includes details about precisely what will be done, who has responsibility for doing it, and when it will be done. The plan also demonstrates how the work of the project will continue after the grant funds have been used. If the grantmaker does not require a full management plan, the proposal should still address these elements in some way.

The management plan should also present details about evaluation and dissemination. Evaluation is the act of measurement; an evaluation plan shows how you will know that you have achieved your goals and objectives. It includes descriptions of what will be measured, when it will be measured, what tools will be used, how the results will be analyzed, and how they will be used. This information can be summarized in table format. Large grant projects hire professional evaluators; small projects conduct evaluations with internal staff.

Dissemination means communicating with others successful results and lessons learned. Grantmakers are interested in dissemination because it provides a way to replicate successful projects and thus multiply the benefits from their limited funds. Applicants can demonstrate that they are serious about dissemination by including funds in the budget for communication activities, for sharing information within their own organizations, their local communities, and their professional communities.

While RFPs place a size limit on grant proposals, most of them allow appendices, and some RFPs require these as attachments. The appendices are where applicants can provide letters of support, curricula vitae (CVs), surveys, budget data, citation references, and other supporting material. Be mindful that reviewers’ time is limited, and take care to include only what is essential to understanding or requested by the funder. 

Once the entire grant proposal has been written, write a one-page cover letter or letter of transmittal, unless it is prohibited. This letter can speak with greater passion than the style used in the body of a grant proposal. Introduce your organization and the target population you intend to serve. Briefly introduce your project, focusing on issues that are important to the grantmaker; show that you have done your research and that your project is in alignment with their mission. Describe your purpose in submitting the proposal and how your project is part of a larger whole. Remember that funders care about what they do; they have worked hard and have spent a great deal of time to set up their fund, to set up the process, and to review and evaluate proposals. Be sure to thank them for the opportunity to submit this proposal.   



Karsh, Ellen and Arlen Sue Fox. The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need, 3rd ed. New York: Basic Books, 2009.

Koch, Deborah S. How to Say It ‒ Grantwriting: Write Proposals That Grantmakers Want to Fund. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 2009.

Margolin, Judith B. The Individual's Guide to Grants. New York: Plenum, 2013.

A guide for individuals who are not affiliated with an organization.

New, Cheryl Carter and James Aaron Quick. How to Write a Grant Proposal. New York: John Wiley, 2003.


Foundation Center.

A US organization that provides resources for both foundations and grant-seekers. Extensive resources include a knowledge base, free tutorials, short and extended training courses, books, and other sources. A searchable database of grants is available through an online subscription service, the Foundation Directory Online, available in many public libraries.

Fundsnet Services.

A list of links to foundation, community, corporate, and government grantmakers in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, sorted by category and available free of charge.

A centralized location for finding and applying for grants offered by agencies of the US federal government. Grants are listed both by date and in a searchable database.

Grantsmanship Center.

An online center whose purpose is to help non-profit organizations plan projects, find grants, write proposals, and manage grant-funded projects successfully. The website offers newsletters, articles, webcasts, print publications, training programs, and links to the top 40 to 50 grantmaking foundations in each state. Access to a searchable database of foundation, corporate, and federal grantmakers known as GrantDomain is available by subscription.

Sustainable Event Planning

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Margaret Robertson

One of the ways people working in sustainability communicate ideas and collaborate with others is through the planning of conferences and other events. Sustainability principles can be applied to these events. Known as a “sustainable event” or “green meeting,” such an event is organized and implemented in ways that minimize environmental impact, add value to the local economy, and leave a positive social legacy for the host community. Sustainable events have ripple effects, leading by example and inspiring change as they raise awareness among participants, staff, vendors, and the local community.

Before moving onto other planning steps, the first step is to consider whether a meeting is really needed. It might be possible to conduct meeting activities electronically, for example through email or teleconferencing, or it might be possible to conduct several smaller regional meetings to minimize travel and consumption of resources. If it is determined that a face-to-face meeting is needed, then careful planning is required in order to minimize impacts.

Planning and implementation

The steps in planning a sustainable event are similar to the planning steps for other sustainability initiatives. One person should be given responsibility for “greening” the event, together with participation by a team. Together, the team develops an action plan which identifies goals, objectives, deadlines, vendor selection criteria, and performance indicators, and identifies who is responsible for each element. Some organizations begin by crafting a sustainable event policy or green meeting policy to serve as a formal guiding framework. Once a team is organized and a plan is in place, organizers take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize consumption of energy and natural resources, avoid toxic substances, minimize waste generation, and foster social and economic benefits.

Social and economic factors are considered in addition to minimizing environmental impact. An event can foster social equity through promoting respect for diversity, inclusion of underrepresented groups, universal accessibility for people of all abilities and, where appropriate, use of Fair Trade-certified products. An event can promote economic benefits through a transparent, public procurement and contracting process, supporting local employment, sharing leftover food with a local food bank, and looking for other ways to give back to the local community.

When selecting a venue, caterer, and other supply vendors, it is standard practice to issue a request for proposal (RFP). An RFP and subsequent contracts should include sustainability performance criteria for vendors. If possible, catering staff and vendors should be considered stakeholders and should be included in the event planning.


Minimizing the environmental impact of a meeting begins with selecting a location. For small and regional meetings within driving distance, organizers can arrange carpooling. If distances are so great that attendees must fly, organizers should look for a host city with an airport that maximizes the number of direct flights and minimizes the number of connecting flights. Participants should be able to travel easily to and from the airport, hotel, and meeting site by public transit, bicycle, or on foot. The meeting site and hotel venues should be near public transportation or within walking and bicycling distance of each other.  In some locations, event organizers may need to consider providing a shuttle service. Organizers should do everything they can to make public transportation easy and attractive, first by selecting appropriate locations and then by publishing information about transportation options ‒ including maps, schedules, and instructions ‒ in registration materials, via email updates, and in a central location at the event itself.


When selecting a hotel venue, sustainable event organizers often provide a checklist or questionnaire which respondents return with their proposals, with preference given to hotels with higher scores. Preference is also given to hotels which already have green policies or environmental management systems in place. Venues should be able to demonstrate water- and energy-efficient practices. Examples include providing at least some lighting from natural daylight, strategies for minimizing the use of air conditioning, recycling and composting programs, minimal or no use of disposable products, no use of polystyrene cups, use of nontoxic cleaning products, and allowing guests to reuse sheets and towels for multiple days. Organizers should visit hotel and conference sites to verify that their green-event criteria can be met.


Organizers should work with caterers and food vendors to plan meals and snacks, using local, organically produced food in season as much as possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, require less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and benefit the local economy. For food and beverages that must be imported, look for Fair Trade certification. Reduce environmental impact by offering vegetarian options, which require many times less land and water and produce many times fewer emissions than meat. Provide condiments in bulk, and use washable, reusable dishes and cups. Avoid disposable items such as plastic flatware, coffee stirrers, straws, paper doilies, and polystyrene cups. If disposable items are used, ensure that they are chlorine-free and compostable, and work with catering and venue staff to set up a composting system for food scraps and paper.

Food provides an opportunity to communicate with and educate attendees. Place signs or place cards next to foods that describe where and by whom the food was produced, any certifications, and other details about why this food was chosen. Provide recycling, composting and, if appropriate, landfill receptacles in convenient locations, and label them clearly using colors and pictures.

Have strategies in place to minimize food waste. Using attendee head count, work with the caterer to estimate quantities carefully. A more formal system could ask attendees to indicate meal preferences ahead of time, either within the registration form or in a separate questionnaire. Set up a program to donate leftover food to a local food bank or homeless shelter, if the caterer does not already have such a program in place.

Event material

Minimize paper consumption beginning with registration. Send announcements, ‘save the date’ information, and registration materials via email and websites, and conduct all event registration online. Make all agendas, programs, handouts, and proceedings available online. Provide printed materials by request only, and if provided, use recycled-content or hemp paper, vegetable-based ink, and double-sided printing. Use recyclable name badges and reusable badge holders, avoid the use of extra ribbons on badge holders, and provide convenient badge-recycling receptacles. If the event requires decorations, artwork, signs, posters, or banners, create reusable versions without dates. Consider packaging type, content, and quantity when making conference or meeting purchases.

For conferences which include trade shows and exhibits, communicate with exhibitors early. Event organizers can include requirements for sustainable practices in exhibitor agreements; since these may be new to some exhibitors, constructive and clear communication is important. Require exhibitors to reuse or take back discarded materials at their own cost. Encourage them to minimize promotional materials. For both exhibitors and other meeting events, eliminate or reduce gifts and favors; if used, encourage gifts that are locally made using sustainable materials.

Climate neutrality

Travel, lodging, food, and various event materials all carry climate impacts. Reduce carbon emissions in every way possible. Calculate the remaining carbon emissions of the event that could not be avoided, then purchase offsets to bring the event’s net emissions to zero. Some organizers offer attendees ways to purchase offsets for travel individually, although there is disagreement over the effectiveness of such purchases. The standards and initiatives in the list of resources at the end of this document offer guidelines and metrics for calculating greenhouse gas emissions for events. See Chapter 6, “Climate” in the book Sustainability Principles and Practice for more detailed information about calculating greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation, and offsetting.

Monitoring and reporting

As with all sustainability activities, measurement is essential both to verify that sustainability goals were met and to provide a baseline for improvement in future meetings. Organizers should collect data on greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water consumption, recycling and waste management, and economic impact in the local community. Metrics should also include basic data such as number of attendees and number of days. In addition to technical measurement, provide a questionnaire or survey to attendees to gauge level of satisfaction and to uncover observations and suggestions which might not have occurred to organizers. Be sure to share both successes and lessons learned with attendees, vendors, and the public.


Planning and implementing a green event is an opportunity to educate and raise awareness for vendors, organizers, attendees, and the local community. Begin by sharing sustainability concepts, goals, and strategies in event announcements and registration materials sent to participants, and in bid invitations and contract materials sent to vendors. Communicate participants’ own roles in contributing toward a green event, helping them understand the choices they can make and the implications of those choices. Include information about sustainability concepts, goals, and strategies in the conference program, and provide additional, preferably reusable, informational signage in food service areas and throughout the event. Help participants understand what you are doing and why.

Monitor and collect data throughout the event, and after the event share this information with vendors, participants, and the community. Consider including data such as tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided, pounds or tons of paper use avoided, number of trees saved as a result of reduced paper usage, pounds or tons of recyclables and composted material diverted from landfills, and quantities of water and energy used and conserved relative to a known baseline. Describe sustainability goals for the event and whether they were met, and discuss lessons learned. Publicize steps that vendors, caterers, and venues took to become more sustainable; consider giving them certificates of appreciation, and recognize their efforts publicly. Show how the successes of the event were the result of everyone, working together.


APEX / ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards.

A set of standards for event organizers, with checklists, strategies, and an implementation guide.

British Standards Institute (BSI). BS 8901 Sustainability in Event Management.

A British standard for event organizers, including a sustainability management system.

Global Reporting Initiative. Event Organizers Sector Supplement (EOSS).

A sustainability reporting structure for event organizers.

Green Meeting Industry Council.

Trade organization for sustainable event organizers. Website provides training, best practices, case studies, information about the APEX/ASTM standard, a registry of suppliers with APEX/ASTM third-party certification, and other resources.

Green Seal. Certified Hotels and Lodging Properties.

A database of US hotels and lodging sites certified by Green Seal, searchable by location.

ISO 20121  Event Sustainability Management Systems.

A comprehensive sustainability management system for event organizers.

Sustainable Event Alliance.

A global organization of event organizers. Website offers links to standards, reporting frameworks, how-to guides, databases of suppliers and venues, and other resources.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability, and International Annual Meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications (IAMLADP). Sustainable Events Guide: Give Your Large Event a Small Footprint. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme, 2012.

Detailed information and guidelines for making large-scale meetings as sustainable as possible.

Recommended films and documentaries

Feature films and documentaries recommended by John Blewitt

There are very many brilliant short and feature length documentaries and some interesting movies addressing sustainability, environmental and conservation themes. Here are just some:

Feature movies:

Avatar (2009) USA
Erin Brockovich (2000) USA
Soylent Green (1973) USA
The Day After Tomorrow (2004) USA
The Constant Gardner (2005) UK
24 City (2009) China
WALL-E (2008) USA
Pom Poko (1994) Japan


Gasland (2010) and Gasland ll (2013) USA
Food Inc (2008) USA
Green (2009) France
Urban Roots (2011) USA
The Cove (2009) Australia
The Age of Stupid (2009) New Zealand
Manufactured Landscapes (2006) UK
Hot Planet (2009) BBC
Design: e2 Series (2006) PBS
Crude: The Real Price of Oil (2009) UK
Darwin's Nightmare (2004) UK
Drowned Out (2002) UK
Caracas: The Informal City (2007) Netherlands
Cane Toads: Unnatural History (1988) Australia
The End of Suburbia (2004) USA
The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) USA  
Petropolis (2009) Canada

For further information on these and other films check out the Internet Movie Data Base and/or Top Documentary Films

URLs last checked and correct as of 5 March 2014.

Recommended fiction, history writing and non-fiction

Exciting book recommendations from John Blewitt

Understanding Sustainable Development 2e includes an extensive bibliography, but there is always more to read and more to learn. These books offer a complementary approach to many of the issues we face encompassing fiction, nature writing, journalism and some additional academic texts. Many of the books are those I like – particularly the SciFi – or have found useful and interesting. In many ways they are a personal choice, but one that I hope you will enjoy too.


Geoff Ryman (2005) The Child Garden, Gollancz, London.
London in a sub tropical future where plants and people feed off the sun.
John Christopher (2009) The Death of Grass, Penguin Books, London.
A psychological thriller in a post-apocalyptic world.
Margaret Atwood (2013) The Year of the Flood, Virago, London.
Another post-apocalyptic eco-thriller with a feminist slant.
Carl Hiassen (2005) Skinny Dip, Black Swan, London.
A funny, perceptive novel about business scams, illegal dumping and murder.
Brian Aldiss (2008) Hothouse, Penguin Books, London.
Classic SciFi – beautiful, thoughtful and absorbing. An environmental crisis with a difference.
David Brin (2012) Earth, Orbit, London.
The Earth is in danger. Is it possible to save it or should the evolutionary clock just be left to start again?
Kim Stanley Robinson (2009) Red Mars, Harper Voyager, London.
The first novel in a trilogy about human society, politics and colonising Mars.
Edward Abbey (2004) The Monkey Wrench Gang, Penguin Books, London.
An important and influential novel about environmental activism.
Don DeLillo (2011) Underworld, Picador, London.
A great novel about modern American culture laced with an environmental theme.

Conservation and Natural History Writing

Philip Connors (2012) Fire Season: Field notes from a wilderness lookout, Pan, London.
Memoirs, meditations and thoughts of a former Wall Street Journal editor working as a fire watcher in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico.
Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley (2012) Edgelands, Vintage, London.
Nature beauty can be found in the ugliest urban places. Beautiful observations and written with a keen sense of nature's poetry.
Samuel Turvey (2009) Witness to Extinction: How we failed to save the Yangtze River dolphin, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
An account of the destructive nature modernization and the sadness of loss.
Robert Macfarlane (2013) The Old Ways, Penguin Books, London.
A journey on foot discovering the lost trackways, drove roads and other routes within the English countryside.
Rachel Carson (2007) Under the Sea-Wind, Penguin Books, London.
The first book by the author of Silent Spring rejoicing in the mystery of the sea and the creatures who live in it.
Nan Shepherd (2011) The Living Mountain, Canongate, Edinburgh.
One of the greatest pieces of nature writing of the twentieth century.
David Rothenberg (2008) Thousand Mile Song: Whale music in a sea of sound, Basic Books, New York.
We may not be the cleverest creatures on planet Earth. Whales may be as they communicate with lengthy and complex song.
Lyall Watson (2002) Elephantoms: Tracking the elephant, W.W. Norton, London.
A personal and fascinating account of the nature of the most iconic creatures on the planet – elephants.

Non fiction

Michael Williams (2006) Deforesting the Earth, Chicago University Press, Chicago.
A major study of the history and geography of deforestation.
Carolyn Merchant (1989) Ecological Revolutions: Nature, gender, and science in New England, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.
An absorbing account of how early European settlers transformed the environment of New England.
Dieter Helm (2013) The Carbon Crunch, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
The climate crisis and how a drastic rethink of global energy is both necessary and possible.
John Blewitt and Daniella Tilbury (2013) Searching for Resilience in Sustainable Development, Earthscan, London.
An investigation into why and how resilience has recently become such an important concept in the sustainability discourse and what it all means.
Tony Juniper (2013) What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?, Profile Books, London.
Former Director of Friends of the Earth UK explains the importance of the environment to human society.
Katherine Boo (2012) Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Portobello Books, London.
A brilliant piece of journalism showing how life is lived in a Mumbai slum.
Molly Scott Cato (2012) The Bioregional Economy: Land, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Earthscan, London.
A leading green economist shows how economics can and should serve nature and humanity.
Richard Sennett (2013) Together: The rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation, Penguin Books, London.
Cooperation rather than competition is the key to a flourishing social and working life, and always has been.
Joseph E. Stiglitz (2013) The Price of Inequality, Penguin Books, London.
Former World Bank Chief Economist demonstrates why inequality is both ethically and economically wrong.
Lawrence Buell (1996) The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, nature writing and the formation of American culture, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
An important study of environmental writing and its significance to the American way.
Stephen Rust, Salma Monani and Sean Cubitt, editors (2012) Ecocinema Theory and Practice (AFI Film Readers), Routledge, London.
A collection of articles on the way cinema has engaged with environmental and sustainability issues.
Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha (2000) The Use and Abuse of Nature, Oxford University Press, New Dehli.
Comprising of two key texts on the environmental history of India – The Fissured Land and Ecology and Equity.
Helen Kopnina and Eleanor Shoreman-Ouimet, editors (2011) Environmental Anthropology Today, Routledge, London.
A collection of articles exploring the significance of environmental anthropology to conservation.
Paul Collier (2011) The Plundered Planet, Penguin Books, London.
A creative take by a leading economist on how global poverty, overpopulation and resource use can be addressed.
Ursula K. Heise (2008) Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
A sophisticated study of ecocriticism, environmental imagination and identity.
Helen Kopnina and John Blewitt (2014) Sustainable Business, Earthscan, London.
A critical but practical primer on sustainability and business.
Barbara Ehrenreich (2006) Dancing in the Streets: A history of collective joy, Metropolitan Books, New York.
The important discussion of joy, love, freedom and collectivity in the human condition.
Ellen Meiksins Wood (2002) The Origin of Capitalism: A longer view, Verso, London.
An economic history of capitalism from a major green economist.
Randolph T. Hester (2006) Design for Ecological Democracy, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
The book outlines new principles of urban design that will connect people to each other and the natural environment.
Alan Weisman (2007) The World Without Us, Harper Perennial, Toronto.
An intriguing thought experiment. What would the world be like if humanity just disappeared?

Footpring Calculator

With offices in several countries, the Global Footprint Network promotes the use of footprint calculators as a way of achieving environmental sustainability. It offers advice on the use of personal, city, national and global calculators and provides links to organisations working with footprint calculators in particular countries.  Check it out here:

Carbon footprint calculators have been added to the earlier ecological footprint calculators, such as:

Another example of a good footprint calculator can be found at

Logo Design Competition

Congratulations to George Hoyland, who designed the winning logo for the Sustainability Hub! 

We received many submissions, but George's best captured the interdisciplinary nature of the Hub and the sense of community that we hope to create among our visitors.

Look out for the new logo, which is used throughout this site and will also be printed on all our forthcoming textbooks associated with the Hub.