In mid-2019, the AUR community formed a committee of volunteers (The AUR Environmental Action Group) to address how the university as an institution and the AUR community (both en masse and individually) could play its part in addressing the urgent issues around climate and sustainability that currently threaten our future.

Below is the text of a letter that was sent to Dr. Richard Hodges, President of The American University of Rome, on 3 December 2019. Beneath that, you will find his reply and his commitment from the university to act upon the recommendations laid out by the committee.

We thank both the committee and Dr. Hodges for their contributions - this is just the first step on a long road but it is a step taken timely.

[Begin letter to Dr. Hodges]

Dear President Hodges,
 
The AUR Environmental Action Group was formed at the behest of students, staff, and faculty of The American University of Rome to serve as a community leadership committee examining and extending the University’s response to the ongoing climate crisis that threatens the modern world.
 
The current generations of students are more attuned than ever before to the impact of human activity on the planet. They recognize that whilst individual actions to minimize waste, recycle, and reuse everyday materials hold importance, we need organizations both large and small as well as national governments to make swift decisions in order to be able to make a significant difference to the future of our planet.
 
We urge the University to make a firm commitment to contribute towards The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its heart, thereby setting an example and acting in the best interests of its student population. Many of the AUR community are keen environmentalists, campaigning to change policies and create new ones. We have dedicated individuals and student groups that have committed themselves to this cause, eager to see continuous work on the SDGs within the University.
 
The SDG Accord is the international education sector’s collective response to the UN’s Global Goals. Its purpose is twofold. First, to advance education in its critical role in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and celebrate the value it brings to governments, business and wider society. Second, to engender learning institutions’ mutual commitment to strive to deliver the goals, to annually report on each signatory's progress, and to do so in ways that share the learning with each other both nationally and internationally.

We formally request that you, as leader of The American University of Rome, sign the Accord on behalf of the University and thus recognize the indivisible and interconnected nature of the universal set of Goals – People, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership, Peace – and affirm that, as educators, we have a responsibility to play a central and transformational role in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
 
You can sign the Accord here.
 
Secondly, we formally request that AUR become a signatory to The Global Climate Emergency Letter. Already signed by 232 Higher and Further Education institutions representing approx. 4,333,313 students, the letter states
 
"As institutions and networks of higher and further education from across the world, we collectively declare a Climate Emergency in recognition of the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.
 
"The young minds that are shaped by our institutions must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change. We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.
 
"We are today committing to collectively step up to the challenge by supporting a three-point plan which includes:

  • Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  • Committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;
  • Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes.

We call on governments and other education institutions to join us in declaring a Climate Emergency and back this up with actions that will help create a better future for both people and our planet."
 
You can sign the letter here.
You can see other signatories here.
 
Finally, we urge you to commit the AUR community to working towards fulfilling the following points that will start us on the road to a more sustainable workplace:

  • Promoting energy saving through the following directives:
    • turning off lights and computers in offices after closing time;
    • maintaining an internal temperature of 22 degrees during the winter
    • limiting the use of air conditioning during the summer;
    • encouraging green travel means (providing appropriate bicycle parking spaces);
  • Appointing a member of the community as “AUR’s Environmental Officer” – a role that will promote our environmental procedures and initiatives
  • Creating more green areas;
  • Planting a tree or shrub each time a flight is taken on AUR business;
  • Increasing the percentage of renewable energy in public facilities;
  • Establishing a green policy for all students, staff, and faculty;
  • Installing vending machines that use less packaging;
  • Limiting the use of the use of plastic on campus
  • Investing in refillable ink cartridges rather than single-use cartridges
  • Installing a water dispenser on campus to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles
  • Providing students with re-usable flasks and containers for takeaway food and drinks
  • Working with local businesses to promote a more green mentality

For our part, we as individuals and as a community will commit to abide by these steps and to each sign up to the SDG Accord.
 
Finally, we ask for your permission to publish both this letter and your response on official University channels in order to demonstrate our commitment and encourage others to follow suit.
 
Yours sincerely,
The AUR Environmental Action Group     

[end letter to Dr. Hodges]

[Begin Dr. Hodges' letter of response]

Dear AUR Environmental Action Group,
 
I am very pleased to wholeheartedly support this proposal to heighten awareness of the Climate Crisis and Sustainability at AUR, and indeed to put into effect the series of suggested environmentally active procedures.

I firmly commit to signing up the institution to both The SDG Accord and to The Global Climate Emergency Letter.
 
The crisis affects all our lives: the use of electricity when we turn lights on, air conditioning, when we walk rather than take vehicular transport, how we take our vacations and most of all what we eat. The small things in life are the big things! Awareness of this has never been more important, as in Italy, for example, we are losing the last of the traditional country-people and becoming essentially an urbanised society with little grasp of the rhythms of our quotidian world.
 
AUR can help in how it manages its property and daily actions. And we shall try to do this. But more our faculty and students should be crusaders to ensure that the Italian countryside is safeguarded as a lung for our urban community – it is not eternal, that in a country with champions gastronomy, we champion constructive ways forward in this crisis, and that we reach out at every possibility to a political class that remains woefully behind the needs of being carbon neutral. None of this is easy. But as a collective, AUR could make a difference by finding the appropriate media to make this cause everyone’s cause….

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Richard Hodges, President of The American University of Rome.

4 December 2019

[end Dr. Hodges' letter of response]