Commission for Sustainable Communities 2016-10-28T23:43:34+00:00

Commission for Sustainable Communities

Today, there are more than 18 million students in colleges and universities in the United States alone, and if they graduate with the skills to help societies develop more sustainably, higher education will have indeed played a key role in leading our communities in a new direction.

In order to create conditions that will ensure a more sustainable future, higher education will have to provide college and university graduates with the skills, background, knowledge, and habits of mind that will prepare them to meet the challenges presented by the future.

There are many reasons why collegiate recreation should play a critical and active role in these efforts. Students are engaged in sustainability at a greater degree than ever before. They are seeking campus partners to advance their efforts and recreational sports programs have always been open to such collaborations. When considering the environmental, economic, and social implications, these relationships and the social and political capital we gain are critical to our long term success. Sustainable enterprises such as recreational sports and higher education as a whole can only be attained through the combined efforts of all. As a member of that society, campus recreation has an institutional, if not a social responsibility to be engaged in this endeavor.

Engage with NIRSA Colleagues on CONNECT

Program Questions for Sustainability in Collegiate Recreation

  • Have you purchased equipment to support equal and inclusive access?
  • Do you use the human capital in your department to engage in service projects in your community?
  • Do you have policies or programs in place to lower barriers or negotiate constraints AND encourage participation by all populations (e.g., LGBTQ, differently abled, people of color, deconditioned population, international students)?
  • Do you ensure that all types of people/body types/color/nationality are included in your marketing images?
  • Have you had a conversation about if/how your department can make reasonable accommodations for all sorts of inclusiveness (physical, religious, gender, sexual orientation)?
  • Do you have a public statement about diversity and/or inclusivity?
  • Do you facilitate and encourage recycling in your facility? Composting?
  • Do you try to reuse products and look for those that are made with recycled content?
  • Do you use environmentally-friendly cleaning products in your facility?
  • Does your facility have water fountains with bottle fillers?
  • Do you have low flow toilets and waterless urinals in your facility?
  • Do you track your use of resources or waste (electricity, water, energy, recycled/landfill) and set organizational benchmarks?
  • Does your department use financial resources responsibly?
  • Do you consider buying less?
  • Do your RFP’s include asking vendors to report on their sustainability practices and is it weighted in your scoring rubric?
  • Do you consider your department as part of the total cost of education?
  • Have you sought alternate funding sources to minimize fee increases?
  • Does your department have a long-term financial plan with sufficient reserves built in?
  • Do your employees have a safe and healthy work environment?
  • Do you promote sustainable practices in your program areas? (e.g., leave no trace, use of electronic and social media/less paper to promote events)?
  • Have you leveraged your departmental resources to support students and staff providing service to the greater community in which you live?
  • Do you try to purchase food items and products that are locally grown/made or using organic practices?
  • Have you taken steps to increase energy efficiency in your facility?
  • Is your facility LEED certified or designed and operated with green building in mind?
  • Are occupancy sensors installed in appropriate rooms in your facility?
  • Have you considered cleaning during operating hours instead of off-hours?
  • For outdoor facilities, are you practicing relevant water reduction practices?
  • Do you minimize electrical consumption by turning off any plasma or digital displays at closing?
  • Do you consider the life cycle cost in your purchases and/or product specifications?
  • Do you consider or weigh in factors of recycled versus recyclable when purchasing?
  • Do you have a public statement about sustainability or environmental impact?
  • Do you encourage your staff to establish a work/life balance so they generally do not work more hours than they are being paid for (e.g., graduate assistant working 30-40 hours but getting paid for 20 hours)?
  • Do you set fair wages and encourage growth and promotion throughout all levels of employees?
  • Do you provide avenues for fee based services to all users regardless of ability to pay? (e.g., free hours for personal training, reduced rates for adventure trips, etc.)?
  • Does your department have any Fair Trade policies with regards to the purchase of clothing or equipment?
  • Do you have a staff development model to position your department and individuals for long-term success?
  • Do you have a risk management plan that appropriately balances participant safety with economic risk?


Valuing Sustainability in Collegiate Recreation

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NIRSA Sustainability Questions for Collegiate Recreation Programs

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Marc Iturriaga

Janice DeMonsi, Santa Clara University


Bill Callender, Oregon State University

Jeff Elbracht, Washington State University

Megan Krone, University of San Diego

Keli Kuykendall, NIRSA Headquarters

Maureen McGonagle, DePaul University

Rex Pringle, University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Wendy Windsor, UCLA


This Commission is charged with developing concrete plans—through concrete objectives that support the Association’s Strategic Plan, pursuing measurable goals, as well as developing and delivering usable resources—within the area of sustainability for the benefit of the collegiate recreation profession and the Association. Additionally, Commissioners may be asked to provide leadership and guidance for the Association in this vital areas of campus recreation.

2015-2016 Goals

  • Post monthly to NIRSA Connect discussions and libraries about programs, services, best practices, research compilations and desired information regarding sustainability issues, topics, and questions
  • Submit proposals to present on sustainability-related topics at local, regional, NIRSA’s annual conferences
  • Present a pre-conference workshop related to at 2016 Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo at the Gaylord Palms in Florida
  • Publish sustainability-related article for the NIRSA news, to be featured in the NIRSA Know
  • Determine the future of formal and informal relationships with other sustainability-focused entities that impact the work of collegiate recreation
  • Update the sustainability library and continue to refine how members can better use the library as a key tool in assisting their sustainability needs
  • Establish a process for the sustainability ambassadors to maintain traction and continue to building the ambassador team

Established in December of 2011

The Commission for Sustainable Communities, co-chaired by Marc Iturriaga and Janice DeMonsi, Santa Clara University, is constituted and operating. The NIRSA Board endorsed a model, list of questions for collegiate recreation professionals about their sustainability habits and goals, and rationale addressing “Why and Why Now” NIRSA is engaged in this issue prepared by the Commission. The Commission members took advantage of several opportunities at the 2012 NIRSA Annual Conference to present and discuss the model and sustainability as a lens through which to view our work. The next steps for this Commission include opportunities for additional input by members and development of an action plan.


Application Process

Commissioners are appointed by the NIRSA President and typically serve for three year terms. Each Strategic Values Commission has two co-chairs that serve three-year terms. The size of the Commissions generally range between eight and 12 members, including the co-chairs. One or two appointments are reserved for emerging professionals to support NIRSA Leadership development. Terms begin after the Annual Conference.

The Strategic Values Commissioner is critical to the success of embedding our values in the daily professional lives of NIRSA members. Below is a list of competencies that we are looking for in future Commissioners:

  1. Communication — Ability to clearly and effectively articulate opinions and ideas as well as acclimate to the various audiences of NIRSA.
  2. Strategic Thinking and Decision Making — Ability to think conceptually, imaginatively, systematically, and opportunistically in alignment with organization’s core purpose.
  3. Critical Thinking — Ability to actively and skillfully conceptualize, analyze, synthesize and evaluate information to inform decision making.
  4. Leadership — Qualities or features that make someone distinctive in a positive and diverse way. Holds a high reputation in that capacity.
  5. Knowledge Competencies — Knowledge about and demonstrated commitment to the value area.

If you would like to serve on any of NIRSA’s Strategic Values Commissions, you will need to submit a <a title=”Strategic Values Commission Application” href=””><strong>Strategic Values Commission Application</strong></a>.


Discuss and share files related to Sustainable Communities in our Communities of Practice.

NIRSA Sustainability Model

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