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Communication is an essential tool for engaging the community, encouraging leadership and inspiring creative action. There is an increasing recognition that much of the educational value of sustainability initiatives is lost if the story is not told. Motivating engagement in sustainability depends on communicating both the challenges the University faces and the opportunities that are available to help address them.

Goals & Progress

  1. Goal: Expand the discourse about sustainability on campus, in the local community and across the nation.
  2. Progress:
    • Princeton developed its first Sustainability Report and posted it online in November 2009 with accompanying video and four-page highlights (available online and in print) for key audiences. The Office of Communications developed a release on the report and distributed it widely to media.
    • As a member of core leadership groups, Princeton consulted and collaborated with peer institutions on developing and implementing successful sustainability strategies, especially through the Ivy Plus Sustainability Committee and the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium; best practices from these collaborations are informing the development of the sustainability field.
    • The Office of Communications produced nearly 40 postings (stories, photos and videos) for the University home page that also were provided to media and used in the Princeton University Bulletin (faculty/staff newspaper), other University publications and newsletters of academic programs.
    • The Office of Communications publicized sustainability events sponsored by University departments that were open to the general public, including the second Sustainability Open House, scheduled for Nov. 16, 2010.
    • The Office of Sustainability began offering a Green Tour of campus.
    • The Office of Sustainability scheduled sustainability updates during the year at campuswide gatherings, including for the Council of the Princeton University Community and the Academic and Administrative Managers Group.
    • The Office of Sustainability created and maintains a public online calendar for campus-related sustainability meetings, events, lectures and other activities.
  3. Goal: Through the Office of Sustainability, collect campus-based stories from students, faculty and staff to capture efforts under way at both the personal and departmental levels that have not yet been documented. Encourage various communications offices across campus to further develop stories for their audiences.
  4. Progress:
    • The Office of Sustainability developed an online form to collect sustainability action stories from community members.
    • The Office of Communications posted on the University home page videos produced in the School of Engineering and Applied Science with funding from the High Meadows Foundation.
    • The Office of Communications posted on the University home page videos produced by the Student Environmental Communication Network with funding from the High Meadows Foundation.
    • The redesigned Princeton Environmental Institute website is incorporating environment-related stories developed by the Office of Communications and others.
  5. Goal: Instill in students an awareness of their responsibilities as global citizens.
  6. Progress:
    • The Office of Sustainability has now trained 37 students and interns through its Student Environmental Communication Network (SECN). Students have investigated the nuances of what is "green" and learned the research and technical skills needed to communicate them through podcast and video media since 2006.
    • The University has created sustainability programs in Outdoor Action and Community Action that reach a high proportion of each freshman class.
    • The University offers freshman seminars on sustainability-related topics, including "Signals, Yardsticks and Tipping Points of Global Warming and Ocean Environments," "Water: Keystone for Sustainable Development," "Sprawl," "Environment and Development," "Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future" and "The Everglades Today and Tomorrow: Global Change and the Impact of Human Activities on the Biosphere."
    • University sustainability efforts received recognition in an editorial published in The Daily Princetonian (student newspaper) on Oct. 1, 2010, noting the "great progress" the University has made since adopting the Sustainability Plan in February 2008 and suggesting that "Students, especially, should follow the examples of their peers who have led efforts to make Princeton greener."
  7. Goal: Improve public access to information on sustainability issues by creating opportunities for faculty, staff and students to share their knowledge.
  8. Progress:
    • The Office of Communications made media aware of University faculty who are experts in areas such as climate change and sea level, sustainable disaster relief technologies for Haiti, and the supply of and the need for fresh water globally.
    • The Office of Communications profiled faculty members and students who are conducting research in sustainability, including professors Denise Mauzerall, Carolyn Rouse, Adam Maloof and his graduate student Nicholas Swanson-Hysell, Yueh-Lin Loo, Catherine Peters and Labouisse Prize winner Ruth Metzel '10 and environmental entrepreneurship class initiator Jason Baum '11.
    • The Office of Communications highlighted the sustainability features in stories and media tours for new buildings opening or in design, including the Frick Chemistry Laboratory, the Neuroscience and Psychology Buildings and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.
    • The Office of Sustainability, with assistance from the Office of Communications, drafted a proposal for revisioning the University sustainability communication strategy, including a Web presence that incorporates tools such as databases, metric-gathering instruments and social media.

What's Next

  • Continue to document educationally valuable initiatives and community actions in sustainability to share with broader audiences.
  • Continue to use SECN to increase the engagement of the undergraduate population with sustainability issues.
  • Implement a new sustainability communication strategy, including Web-based tools such as databases, metric-gathering instruments and social media.
  • Continue to cultivate closer relations with external media on environmental issues, particularly national media.
  • Increase collaborations with outside organizations that have similar interests.

A story about a group of 20 cyclists riding new rental bicycles purchased by U-Bikes from the factory in Ozone Park, Queens, N.Y., to Princeton, was posted on the University home page last fall and distributed to media, resulting in a piece in The New York Times. Click to view larger image. Full story available on The Times website (subscription may be required).



Ben Barron '13 captures his brother Brooks Barron '11 explaining how to live green as a Princeton student for a Student Environmental Communication Network (SECN) video they are making on behalf of Greening Princeton. During the summer of 2010, three additional students were trained for the growing corps of 37 SECN producers. They made videos on UBikes and the CycLab, the value of open space, and green buildings as well as a podcast on green tips for Princeton freshmen.



This picture and a story highlighting students in the Summer Undergraduate Research Training Program, who were sampling and analyzing water from the Washington Road stream, were featured on the University home page in August. The piece described projects taking place on campus during summer 2010 to help the University meet its long-term sustainability goals.


Rouse and Schoettle

Among other sustainability-related stories posted on the University home page this past year was one about Professor Carolyn Rouse (left) on a school she founded in Oshiyie, Ghana. With a curriculum focusing on materials science, agriculture and engineering, the school emphasizes finding solutions to local problems, such as water scarcity, poor drainage, soil erosion and hunger. The project has involved several Princeton students, including Ashley Schoettle '10 (right), who accompanied Rouse on some of her interviews and planning meetings for the school.


Andlinger garden

The University's story announcing the proposed design for the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment in May 2010 emphasized the sustainable aspects of the facilities.