UNH sustainability director Tom Kelly.Tom Kelly is the founding director of the University of New Hampshire's Office of Sustainability. His job which he's held since 1997--is a model of what sustainability is all about--he collaborates with faculty, staff, students and people outside the campus in developing curriculum, research, policies and practices related to educational initiatives in biodiversity, climate, culture and food.
He also will be one of the keynote speakers at the New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility's annual Spring Conference, Monday, June 1, at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Topic of the conference is "Sustainability: The New Frontier of Revenue Growth." More information about the conference can be found at nhbsrconference.org.
* Q. What do you mean by "sustainability?"
A. There are a couple of ways to think about it, but to cut to the punch line, the way we talk about it here is not what is sustainability, but what is it that sustains human communities--families, towns, economies--all the things that need to come together to sustain a good life, a life that we value, a life that's consonant with our values and enables future generations to do the same.
* Q. How does it work at UNH?
A. We look at four key areas or systems that need to come together and be sustained--climate and energy, biodiversity and ecosystems, food, agriculture and nutrition and cultural systems, Like health care, education, all of the sort of institutional infrastructure issues. And then we look at what we call the CORE--curriculum, operations, research and engagement--the core functions of our university. And we then look at what kinds of programming and practices and infrastructure do we put in place across the core.
* Q. How does that work practically?
A. Take something that a lot of people have a familiarity with--the pipeline that is pumping methane gas from the Turnkey Landfill to the campus and that is fed into our cogeneration power plant. It's an example where a lot of thinking and collaboration come together to get us the following: a renewable source of energy for 85 percent of our campus needs; it gives us energy security for, at minimum, over a 20-year time horizon; and we significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It's a good example of sustainability--it's integrating all of these different goals in a creative and strategic way that achieves them all.
* Q. You can use the same framework in a business.
A. It's the common-sense notion that, if you're able to kind of stand back and look at the bigger picture, it makes the best business sense. I think if you talk to somebody like Joe Keefe at Pax World Fund, he'll say the same companies that do well from a social responsibility method are rum exceedingly well. The thinking somehow evolved into these being separate good business prances and social concerns, but they're not separate at all because businesses are embedded in the wider community.
* Q. Do you work with businesses through the university?
A. One of the things we've started is a sustainability internship pilot program. We've got a growing number of businesses saying they'd like to learn from what we've been doing. We're hoping this will grow into a long-term relationship with the business community as well as nonprofits and others. It will give businesses a thing that they value" give students a thing that they value and it will be a way to be more of a good corporate citizen in the state.
* Q. How did you get into this field?
A. You've heard of the bumper sticker, "All who wander are not lost." I ultimately came to it. I had been pursuing a career in music and decided to move away from that as a professional pursuit and got a graduate degree at the Fletcher School at Tufts, working on environmental policy issues. I did a lot of work in Latin America, and it really kind of brought together a philosophy of education and the larger challenge of sustainability and sustainable development, which is where sustainability came from.
I was working away at that when this opportunity came at UNH--a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because it's an endowed program at a public institution, with a real commitment. We have a tremendous opportunity at UNH to be a national leader.
Jeff Feingold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.