Mission & History

Our Mission

The mission of the Office of Sustainability is to accelerate institutional sustainability and climate action through the collaborative pursuit of student-centered interdisciplinary solutions that are environmentally sound, socially just, and economically viable.

Sustainability is the practice of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability asserts that resources are finite and should be used conservatively and respectfully, with long-term consequences in mind.

The environment is the primary but not the only consideration within sustainability; it is of course vitally important to consider human welfare as well. Sustainable practices generally support social, environmental, and economic health equally - or, the triple bottom line of “people, planet, profit.” These are broadly recognized as the three pillars of sustainability. A sustainable society is therefore one that protects natural resources while ensuring social justice and economic benefit for all.

Environmentally Sound

Each of our programs, initiatives, and projects aims to directly or indirectly reduce harm to the environment.

Socially Just

Our work supports universal human rights, equity, diversity, justice, access, and participation.

Economically Viable

Our projects provide value while remaining fiscally feasible and responsible.

Our Early History

In 2011, the Office of Sustainability was created primarily as a response to University students and stakeholders who urged University administrators to create a framework for the advancement of sustainability on campus. The Office was originally housed within the Division of Student Affairs (now Campus Life), and its primary focus was to engage students in sustainability activities on campus. The Office coordinated student outreach efforts and experiential learning opportunities, particularly those addressing waste diversion on campus. The Office also led a five- to ten-member student Green Team, which assisted other campus groups in making select Arizona Athletics games and other large events on campus, including Spring Fling and residence hall move-outs, as environmentally friendly as possible through waste diversion efforts.

At the time of its creation, one of the Office’s initial and most important tasks was to manage the University of Arizona Green Fund, a student-directed tuition carve-out dedicated to providing seed funding for environmental and social justice projects proposed by campus members. The Office oversaw all Green Fund grant accounts, and Office staff served in a very involved, advisory and managerial capacity to the Fund. Financial support for the Green Team, several Office of Sustainability initiatives, and many campus environmental projects came from the Green Fund.

The Office of Sustainability and the Green Fund split in July 2018 when the Office transitioned into the Division of Business Affairs (more below). We continued to serve as advisors to the Green Fund Committee from 2018 through the Spring of 2020. 

Our More Recent History

In July 2018, the Office of Sustainability underwent a series of transitions, altering our scope of work and leadership considerably. During this transition, the Office welcomed a new Director and Sustainability Program Manager and made an organizational move into the Division of Business Affairs. This move greatly enhanced the Office’s sphere of influence, visibility, and impact, and allowed much more interaction and collaboration with multiple departments and stakeholders across campus and in the community. The Office now reports directly to the Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President for Business Affairs.

During our transition, the Division of Student Affairs retained the University of Arizona Green Fund, ultimately resting with the Dean of Students Office.

In December 2018, the Compost Cats program, formerly housed within the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Cooperative Extension, transitioned into the Office of Sustainability. In July 2019, we hired a new Program Manager for Compost Cats, and under their management, Compost Cats was effectively re-envisioned and better aligned with the University’s strengths in education, outreach, and research. More information on Compost Cats can be found in our Projects & Initiatives.

In September 2019, the Office of Sustainability welcomed the Greening the Game program, formerly housed within Students for Sustainability. In January 2020, we onboarded a new Sustainability Project Coordinator to build out student and campus engagement in various capacities. In Spring 2020, Greening the Game along with Facilities Management’s Green Team program were both absorbed into the Office of Sustainability’s ongoing projects and programming. This move has reduced redundancies and is increasing efficiencies across campus sustainability.

In Fall 2019, the Office of Sustainability began to support the University of Arizona Community Garden more comprehensively, launching a revitalization of the Garden that significantly improved the infrastructure throughout the Garden. In Fall 2020 the Garden came under the operational and financial management of the Office of Sustainability with support from the Garden Committee of Students for Sustainability. More information on the Community Garden can be found in our Projects & Initiatives.

In July 2021, the Green Fund was welcomed back into the Office of Sustainability and was re-envisioned under the name of the Campus Sustainability Fund or CSF. The CSF was established to provide funding support for large- and small-scale sustainability projects that build a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient future for the University of Arizona and the Tucson communities. In October 2021, we hired a Coordinator for the new CSF and under their management, the CSF is now firmly aligned with institutional sustainability priorities and has a solid foundation to actively support funded projects and improve accountability to ensure each project is as successful as it can possibly be. More information on the CSF can be found in our Projects & Initiatives. 

During Summer 2023, Students for Sustainability (SFS) joined the Office of Sustainability under a joint-support model in collaboration with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA). Following nearly a year of conversations with leadership across all three organizations, it was jointly decided that the Office of Sustainability was best suited to provide SFS with the appropriate specialized support and expertise it requires to ensure student and project success and to best align the program with the University’s sustainability and climate objectives. At the same time, ASUA still provides critical connections to other programs and services of the undergraduate student body and can help elevate certain sustainability issues to University leadership through a different lens.

As part of this reorganization, the Community Garden was fully separated from SFS and turned into a fully-fledged, stand-alone program within the Office, allowing it to expand its mission and opportunities for student and community member engagement with the space. 

As we continue to grow, we look forward to expanding our capacity for student, staff, and stakeholder involvement further. We are eager to build on the new foundation that has been laid since our 2018 transition and to enhance the University’s operational and extracurricular programs that increase environmental awareness and improve environmental stewardship.