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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May 8, 2003

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 won’t be wearing green caps or recycled gowns. What will distinguish them is a promise they’ve made to use the knowledge they’ve 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 year’s 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 officer.”

The pledge concept originated in 1987 at California’s 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 Dame.

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 who’ve 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 don’t 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 program’s 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 company’s 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/.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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