Representative Ehlers Encourages Sustainability in Higher Education

Higher Education Sustainability Act creates grant program for universities
WASHINGTON – Under a bipartisan bill introduced in the House this week by Reps. Vernon J. Ehlers and Earl Blumenauer, universities could compete for federal grants to teach students about sustainability. The $50 million in competitive grants authorized by the Higher Education Sustainability Act of 2007 (H.R. 3637) would also allow the Department of Education to award grants to colleges and universities to put in place more sustainable practices, like recycling and energy conservation.

The concept of sustainability was developed to ensure that current generations leave the earth a better place to live for future generations. It is a comprehensive concept, in that it can be applied to various aspects of society, such as business, industry, agriculture, or to society as a whole. Responsible use of resources and protecting the environment around us are the cornerstones of sustainability, and many individuals, businesses, institutions and government are becoming more aware of its implications.

"Teaching students about sustainable practices will help ensure that sustainable concepts will be applied in the lives of future generations," said Congressman Ehlers, who is the bill's main co-sponsor. "What better way to promote sustainability than to encourage our institutions of higher learning to create academic programs to teach its concepts, and to implement sustainable practices themselves. Society will reap the benefits of the excellent return on investment gained by educating students in sustainable practices."

Many colleges and universities are already taking steps to offer courses related to sustainability, including some in West Michigan. For example, Aquinas College's undergraduate bachelor's of science degree in sustainable business was the first in the nation. "Sustainability, as a transforming approach, offers possibilities for economic prosperity, ecological health and vibrant and healthy communities all wrapped into one," said Dr. Deborah Steketee, Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College. "We have seen what commitment and resources have done at Aquinas to help us begin to grow a generation of new business leaders. They're changing the world already."

The Higher Education Sustainability Act will provide the catalyst for colleges and universities to develop and implement more programs and practices around the principles of sustainability, which will help make the earth a better place to live for generations to come.

"Individuals can make a big difference in the world around them if they are conscious of the effect their actions have on the environment and on our finite supply of natural resources," added Congressman Ehlers. "Students graduating from universities that take advantage of this grant program will not only implement in their own lives the concepts they learn; they will approach their career with a sustainable mindset that will benefit the companies and non-profit institutions they work for, and also benefit our nation's economy as a whole."

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   Tuesday, September 24, 2007
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