Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2016

Department 1

Environmental Studies


In recent decades, colleges and universities have taken a leadership role in developing institution-based Sustainability Action Plans (SAPs). A SAP includes a summation of past achievements, current initiatives, and the prioritized goals and implementation strategies for future action in terms of promoting environmental sustainability. These plans can also serve as pedagogical devices that teach students, staff and faculty important lessons of intentional living, global citizenship, and environmental responsibility. While many plans are adopted as top-down initiatives, there is great value in finding ways to engage the entire campus community in such endeavors at the grassroots level. This project documents a ground-up approach to developing a SAP at Gettysburg College, a liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania. Consisting of three phases, the project began with an assessment of current sustainability accomplishments as detailed in ASHE’s Sustainability Tracking and Rating System (STARS) data base. The second stage included an investigation of recent SAPs adopted by peer institutions and work by the college’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, President’s Office and student groups to develop and implement as campus survey on potential sustainability priorities. Finally, a series of focus groups consisting of various campus constituencies provided input for crafting a final draft SAP, which was then offered to the campus community for a second round of review. This bottom-up approach helped to cultivate grassroots ownership of the resulting SAP, leading to a greater likelihood of successful implementation. This project may serve as a useful model for other liberal arts institutions.


Environmental Studies Senior Honors Thesis

Click here to see the poster presented at the 2016 American Association of Geographers' Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA, March 29 - April 2, 2016.