Defining the Finish Line: What a Circular Economy for Universities Should Look Like

Eric Corey Freed Presenter
Adjunct Professor
Boston Architectural College
Kyle Ritchie Co-Presenter
Sustainable Design Coordinator
Ayers Saint Gross
Sun, 10/27: 8:30 AM  - 12:00 PM 
Half-Day Workshop 
AM Pre-Conference Workshop 
Room: 202B - Transportation 
Over the last few decades, we recognize the dire threat of climate change and created an agreed upon understanding of the risks buildings pose to student learning, health and performance. We have green rating systems for the building, for the interiors, for the wellness of the occupants, and for the materials themselves. We even have a list of 17 Sustainable Development Gals establish by the United Nations for all countries to follow, and yet, the majority of buildings are still harmful to the environment and human health, and most campuses have no pathway to carbon neutrality, all while carbon levels keep increasing, now over 410 parts per million. 

In the next decade, more than 5,000 universities and colleges around the country will have to do something that has eluded humanity for 150 years: reduce their carbon emissions. But at our rate of urbanization, we're building the equivalent of a city the size of New York every five weeks, and student enrollment will hit an all-time high by 2030.

One can't win a game if you don't know what winning looks like. In this talk, we'll explore the innovation landscape in our built environment, and share all of the disconnected, emerging trends going on. Using this, we'll work with the audience in a collective impact discussion of how to stack these trends and define what winning in the circular economy should look like. When it's presented, the circular economy "roadmap" should be something extracted from nature and represented/illustrated accordingly. See the graphic below.

Using this collective roadmap, we'll show the audience how to set specific objectives, goals and targets to reach this new finish line.  Using audience polling and interactive round table discussions, we'll create a report that we will share with the AASHE community (for publication) and will invite revisions over the following year.  Our hope is that this initial report leads to a series of mutually agreed to university targets.

Audience Empowerment

In this workshop, we'll facilitate a lively discussion using the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework, while leading the group through breakout sessions to develop a clear roadmap for universities to adopt and follow. This has never been done before, so we're using the model of collective impact and active listening to engage everyone in the room to participate. This will be a fun but mentally active day! 

Primary Topic Area


Secondary Topic Areas

Air & Climate

Session Level

Advanced Level

Intended Audience

Graduate Students or Above
Other Staff
Sustainability Staff