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An aggregated and dynamic analysis of innovations in campus sustainability

Camille Washington-Ottombre (Environmental Science and Policy Program, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA)
Siiri Bigalke (Environmental Science and Policy Program, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 15 January 2018

Issue publication date: 18 January 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to compose a systematic understanding of campus sustainability innovations and unpack the complex drivers behind the elaboration of specific innovations. More precisely, the authors ask two fundamental questions: What are the topics and modes of implementation of campus sustainability innovations? What are the external and internal factors that drive the development of specific innovations?

Design/methodology/approach

The authors code and analyze 454 innovations reported within the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), the campus sustainability assessment tool of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Using descriptive statistics and illustrations, the paper assesses the state of environmental innovations (EIs) within STARS. Then, to evaluate the role of internal and external drivers in shaping EIs, the authors have produced classification and regression tree models.

Findings

The authors’ analysis shows that external and internal factors provide incentives and a favorable context for the implementation of given EIs. External drivers such as climatic zones, local income and poverty rate drive the development of several EIs. Internal drivers beyond the role of the agent of change, often primarily emphasized by past literature, significantly impact the implementation of given EIs. The authors’ work also reveals that EIs often move beyond traditional mitigation approaches and the boundaries of campus. EIs create new dynamics of innovation that echo and reinforce the culture of a higher education institution.

Originality/value

This work provides the first aggregated picture of EIs in the USA and Canada. It produces a new and integrated understanding of the dynamics of campus sustainability that complexifies narratives and contextualizes the role of change agents.

Keywords

Citation

Washington-Ottombre, C. and Bigalke, S. (2018), "An aggregated and dynamic analysis of innovations in campus sustainability", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 353-375. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-05-2017-0071

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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