What is Sustainability?

The most quoted definition of sustainability comes from the 1983 UN World Commission on Environment and Development: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Given this definition, we can now connect Sustainability and Environmental Justice, as explained by the University of Connecticut: “As we pursue sustainability, we must recognize that it has not yet met the needs of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in our communities. In order to move forward, we must address the historical exploitation of Black, Brown, low-income, and marginalized people in order to make sustainability equitable”.

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is the right to a decent, safe quality of life for people of all races, incomes and cultures in the environments where we live, work, play, learn and pray. Environmental Justice emphasizes accountability, democratic practices, equitable treatment and self-determination. Environmental justice principles prioritize public good over profit, cooperation over competition, community and collective action over individualism, and precautionary approaches over unacceptable risks. – Asian Pacific Environmental Network

Intersectional Environmentalism

This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. –  Leah Thomas

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color. Environmental racism combines with public policies and industry practices to provide benefits for whites while shifting costs to people of color. Environmental racism is reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions. – Robert D. Bullard

Inclusive Excellence in OSU Sustainability Work

The following goals were formulated to support the goals within OSU’s Inclusive Excellence Strategic Plan and are being pursued by OSU Materials Management and the Sustainability Office in the 2020-21 fiscal year. These goals aim to first build internal capacity and knowledge, provide opportunities for the greater campus community to expand their knowledge, and create a longer-term action plan to guide the next few years. These goals represent the first phase of this important work and will lay the groundwork for a longer-term strategy.

  • Goal 1: Expand Internal Knowledge – Expand the knowledge of current employees - and volunteers where relevant - related to social and environmental justice issues, and encourage systems thinking.

  • Goal 2: Expand External Knowledge  – Encourage students, faculty, staff, clubs, and other departments to increase their learning and awareness about Environmental Justice.

  • Goal 3: Tell Inclusive Stories – Share relevant stories and accomplishments of people engaged in sustainability or environmental justice who are from underrepresented communities.

  • Goal 4: Develop a Longer-Term Plan – Develop a longer-term plan for integrating and advancing inclusive excellence within all aspects of sustainability work in our units - including policies, practices, etc. - with measurable action items.



 Land-Grab Universities

What does a "land-grant university" really mean? This High Country News investigation explores how U.S. land-grant universities, like OSU, were funded with expropriated Indigenous land.

 Intersectional Environmentalism Resource Hub

Founded by Leah Thomas, Intersectional Environmentalism offers engaging educational materials related to inclusive environmentalism.

Racial Equity & Social Justice Resources for Sustainability in Higher Education Community

Developed by AASHE, this document links to anti-racism resources, tools & toolkits, podcasts, shopping recommendations, and more.

NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Resources

The NAACP provides lots of informative resources, including reports, campaigns, newsletters, blogs, videos and more!

 J.E.D.I Heart: Transforming a Movement

Marcelo Bonta's report explores how foundations can support "effective diversity, equity, and inclusion capacity building efforts in environmental organizations."

ASOSU Environmental Justice Resources

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