UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May
UBC Grads take the Pledge
Keep it green.
By Michelle Cook
When the first graduates to sign the UBC Sustainability Pledge
walk across the Chan Centre stage this month, they wont
be wearing green caps or recycled gowns. What will distinguish
them is a promise theyve made to use the knowledge theyve
gained at UBC to improve sustainability in their communities,
and remain socially and environmentally responsible in their
personal and professional lives.
Launched in September 2002, the UBC Sustainability Pledge
is the brainchild of Rebecca Best, an Environmental Sciences
student who will receive her BSc at Spring Congregation and
who is also one of this years Wesbrook Scholars. Best
has been involved in various sustainability initiatives throughout
her studies at UBC.
Last April, she approached the Campus Sustainability and
Student Development offices with the idea of starting a graduation
pledge that would encourage students to take their values
and ideas about sustainability into their workplaces.
The pledge is about more than launching office recycling
programs and encouraging colleagues to turn off the lights,
Best says. It can mean lobbying employers to refuse
environmentally or socially damaging contracts, or looking
for work specifically related to sustainability like a conservation
The pledge concept originated in 1987 at Californias
Humboldt State University when a group of students drafted
a promise to apply their social and environmental values to
their careers once they left school. It has now spread to
more than 50 U.S. campuses including Harvard, MIT and Notre
In Canada, the idea has been slower to catch on. UBC is one
of only a few schools to adopt the idea, but it takes the
pledge one step farther than its American counterparts by
expanding it into a personal as well as professional commitment
that begins in school, not only upon graduation.
To date, 180 UBC students have taken the pledge electronically.
The number is lower than Best had hoped for but, she says,
many students on campus are already involved in sustainability
projects and as more people hear about the pledge and more
volunteers sign on to help manage the pledge program, she
expects that number to grow.
As part of the program, those whove signed on receive
monthly e-mails containing ideas about putting sustainability
into daily practice, including information on courses, speakers,
websites, career forums, networking nights and special events.
Best says the goal is to help like-minded students find ways
to connect with each other and work together so they dont
feel like they are upholding the pledge alone.
With Congregation fast approaching, Best says a bigger challenge
will be providing support to pledges once they graduate. She
plans to stay on for a few months after her own graduation
to help expand the programs resources. She is confident
that she and other graduates will not only be able to keep
their promise but will make a difference with it.
As more and more graduates sign on, hopefully we can
send a message to potential employers that these kinds of
issues are important and we will be looking at a companys
social and environmental policies when choosing where to work,
Best says. More companies are realizing that they need
to make a strong social and environmental commitment to be
attractive to us.
For more information on the Sustainability Pledge visit the
website at www.sustain.ubc.ca/sustainable_u/.