September 17, 2009 News » Cover Story

Linda Kogan 

Sustainability director, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

My work, and that of many others, has been to encourage the integration of a triple bottom line — social, environmental and economic — into all major decisions and strategic planning at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. We're also trying to reduce the school's ecological footprint, and to provide all our graduates with sustainability and climate education that will help prepare them for future decisions and leadership roles.

We've signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and added a minor in sustainable development. We've built two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold buildings and installed a solar thermal system to heat the Recreation Center swimming pool. Our students have voted to pay a $5 fee each semester to fund solar electricity on campus.

But we still have much work to do to achieve a designation of a sustainable institution. Ultimately, we're talking about changing the culture of the entire campus community.

UCCS is similar to a small city of 8,500, with its residences, operations, purchasing, waste, construction, etc. If it's difficult to change the culture even in a city of 8,500, it promises to be immeasurably harder to do the same in a city of 400,000-plus.

It is difficult for cities, especially in economic downturns, to think strategically about sustainability, which is essentially a long-term strategy for the well-being of the city. Yet this is when it is most important to focus on sustainability strategies, in part for the efficiency savings, but also for the health and quality of life of the community.

I am concerned that local taxpayers have not selected to provide enough funds to keep our city fully functioning, or to encourage investment in sustainability projects. While we have demonstrated some success on some initiatives, we have not yet established a cohesive sustainability identity with clear goals for the city, which I believe is crucial for long-term prosperity.

I look forward to a Colorado Springs that attracts businesses and organizations with strong sustainability cultures, as well as renewable energy companies that are drawn not only by the magnitude of our mountains, but also the intelligence and elegance of our planning efforts. And I applaud a significant first step in that direction, the designation of a city sustainability coordinator, Carrie McCausland.

Major entities such as Fort Carson, Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College, UCCS, the Air Force Academy and District 11 have all started leading the way in both sustainability strategic planning and aggressive efficiency initiatives. My vision for the city of Colorado Springs is to connect all of these small "cities": to improve mass transit, increase recycling and composting infrastructure, and provide a means for entities to pursue large-scale renewable energy.

Linda Kogan has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 20 years. She has been involved in sustainability and environmental efforts within the city and state for the past 10 years, most recently with UCCS and CC.


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