Sustainability at Warren Wilson College
Fall Leaves

We acknowledge that a complex web of economic, social, cultural, spiritual and environmental factors determine the well-being of our community.

We recognize our power as individuals, and in community, to influence these complex, interdependent relationships.

We strive to make responsible decisions that take into account the multiple dimensions of sustainability in order to ensure quality of life now and for generations to come.

Sustainability is woven into the fabric of Warren Wilson. It is grounded in our rich history of place and purpose, embedded by generations of community members who have modeled our fundamental commitment to connect values to action. The practice of sustainability flows from the College mission, which serves as our compass for responsible citizenship, and from our unique liberal arts model of engaged learning.

In the record of human history, the practice of sustainability has never been more crucial to the future of life on this planet than now.  The Brundtland Commission’s seminal work on sustainability in the 1980’s revealed that complex issues like poverty, environmental degradation, overpopulation, and illiteracy have common, interconnected strands.  Economic, environmental, and social/cultural components intersect to form the base of these issues and define community well-being.  Based upon their findings, the Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

At Warren Wilson, our Triad of academics, work, and service immerses students in community problem solving. They study the human and ecological history of this planet and understand the need for global citizens to adopt a more informed process of decision making than ever before. Students engage in community-based research and learn that complex issues like unemployment and affordable housing require a cross-disciplinary approach to problem solving. They participate in work crews, ranging from dining services to landscaping, and help the College earn the distinction of being a “living laboratory” of sustainability. Students expect us to make sustainable choices and often serve as ardent champions of best practices. Through service learning they experience, first hand, the importance of their participation in solving chronic community issues. Whether working with literacy programs or disaster relief efforts, students come to understand these problems are complex. Sustainability deepens their conversation about community well-being and provides valuable insight into the root cause of some of our most pressing issues.

campus2In 2000, when Warren Wilson signed the Talloires Declaration, we pledged to “create an institutional culture of sustainability.” In 2004, we were recognized by the National Wildlife Federation as one of the 24 leading institutions in the nation (of the more than 3,200) with “students and staff working for a sustainable future.” In 2006, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)  distinguished us with a Campus Sustainability Award.  Then in 2007, President Sandy Pfeiffer and the President’s Advisory Council (PAC) adopted a sustainable decision making process, committing to an intentional use of  these principles when planning for the College. And in 2008, Sierra magazine named us 4th in the nation of the leading colleges and universities that stand for an “overall commitment to sustainability” and the practices that express this ethos.

While we are honored by these recognitions, they also challenge us to further our understanding and our expression of sustainability.  As a roadmap for community engagement, deep thinking, and accountability to present and future generations, sustainability frames the scope of our concerns. It reveals the extent to which the life we choose impacts our global family. We educate for sustainability at Warren Wilson because our mission directs us to prepare students for responsible community engagement.