While visiting with four colleagues (Kate Archdeacon, Che Biggs, Jessica Bird, and Kes McCormick) from the University of Melbourne we were able to learn about their efforts to achieve sustainability at the University. Their goal is to develop guiding principals, which will frame the Environmental Policy and outline environmental sustainability strategies for the University – students and faculty.

For a little background, University of Melbourne is committed to achieving an environmentally sustainable campus by 2015. To do this they are addressing the reductions of their carbon footprint and coordinating a comprehensive range of sustainable programs in the areas of waste, water, transport and community engagement.

They rigorously measure the environmental impact of their operations by maintaining an environmental management system. By providing a wide range of programs and research opportunities in environmental and sustainability areas, whole University community is encouraged to think, talk, and act on environmental sustainability issues.

The University of Melbourne is a signatory to the worldwide Association of University Leaders for a Sustainable Future’s ‘Talloires Declaration.’ The Talloires is a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy as part of their teaching, research, management and outreach.

Some of the simple but interesting things that the University has done include banning the sale of plastic bottles on campus and strategically placing ‘bubblers’ (aka water fountains) across campus. Additionally, an innovative company has placed flavored and carbonated bottle refill machines on campus, so you just drop in your coins and refill your metal bottle.

Bike paths at the University are clearly labeled and wide enough to navigate; trams can take you from the far reaches of the city to a block from campus. The students and faculty embrace both the messages and the actions they must take to build a sustainable future.

Another interesting tidbit is that on our last day in Australia as we walked through the suburb of Manly, just outside of Sydney we saw bottle refill stations and dog watering stations. The water was filtered water which should encourage people to carry refillable bottles. Manly is a beach community, so this should cut down on plastic bottles in the ocean, but we still see water being sold in plastic bottles.

What conservation efforts do you see where you live, work and learn?

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