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“Walking the Sustainability Talk:” Loyola business professor discusses personal sustainability

| By Andrew Aldrich
Patricia Kanashiro, Ph.D., associate professor, co-edited

Patricia Kanashiro, Ph.D., associate professor of international business in the Sellinger School of Business and Management, co-edited Personal Sustainability Practices: Faculty Approaches to Walking the Sustainability Talk and Living the UN SDGs, which consists of essays and interviews with 36 faculty members, including Bernadette Roche, Ph.D., and Billy Friebele, MFA, at Loyola. The collection represents institutions in seven countries.  

Kanashiro, who teaches in Loyola’s BBA in Sustainability Management, shares her expertise in sustainability in a Q&A: 

What is personal sustainability, and why is it important? 

Personal sustainability is about our commitment to care for society and the natural environment. Practicing sustainability at a personal level means adopting sustainability practices in everyday life at home, at work, and in the community. The challenges posed by sustainability can be daunting: Stop global warming! End poverty and hunger! Individuals may feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But every individual, even with very small actions, is part of the sustainability solution.  

Sustainability is important because it relates to our own existence and the existence of future generations. The Earth has a limited capacity to regenerate. We cannot continue depleting nonrenewable resources (e.g., fossil fuels), contaminating the air with toxic emissions, polluting the water with plastic, or polluting the landfill. Resources are finite and should be used conservatively and carefully to ensure that there is enough for future generations. 

What are the most important personal sustainability practices? 

Start small but start now! None of us will ever perfectly adopt sustainability practices as faculty, students, parents, employees, and any of the multiple roles we assume throughout our lives. Rather than seeking perfection, we should seek progression. None of us will always be consistent in practicing what we preach all the time. Instead, we should continuously explore opportunities to improve our everyday actions and engage others to do the same. 

I encourage everyone to check the United Nations’ “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World” with several suggestions that we can implement right away: from our couch (e.g., unplug appliances while not in use), at home (e.g., take five-minute showers), outside our house (e.g., shop local), and at work (e.g., speak up against any discrimination). 

What are some takeaways from the book, Personal Sustainability Practices: Faculty Approaches to Walking the Sustainability Talk and Living the UN SDGs, that would be noteworthy for the Loyola community? 
 
In this book project, Mark Starik (co-editor) and I had the privilege to work with faculty from various disciplines, including economics, biology, management, fine arts, physics, and finance. The first takeaway is that faculty’s personal sustainability practices lend credibility to the topic and potentially inspire others to engage in sustainability. For example, I often illustrate sustainability concepts with personal examples in my classroom, and I find that students enjoy learning about our personal lives and seek opportunities to relate to faculty as human beings. Second, as teachers and researchers, we are privileged with the possibility of influencing a wider audience because we are seen as experts in the field. Sustainability is an urgent topic, and it is important that faculty engage with stakeholders beyond academia. The third takeaway is that faculty can serve as role models in the classroom and beyond, including throughout students’ careers. At Loyola, walking the sustainability talk is an opportunity for the faculty to embrace our Jesuit values by working together to protect the Earth and caring for the lives in our community. 

What is Loyola doing to promote sustainability? 

Loyola is a leader in sustainability as demonstrated by the University’s actions and commitments. In fall 2021, Loyola joined the first cohort of universities enrolled as a Laudato Sí University with the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. Loyola’s commitment builds on our commitment to environmental sustainability, one of the University’s top priorities, as determined during a recent Mission Priority Examen. Loyola offers a minor in environmental studies and sustainability, a business major in sustainability management, and a major in global studies and sustainable development. We built the new, green Miguel B. Fernandez Family Center for Innovation and Collaborative Learning and plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. We maintain and grow an accredited arboretum and partner with neighbors and farmers markets to support local development. 

How can students practice personal sustainability? 

I am deeply inspired by several of our Loyola students who are personally committed to practicing sustainability actions in their everyday lives. Some of the tips that students share with me are: 

  • Adopt the sustainability principle of “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle” in everyday purchasing decisions. Consider borrowing or renting textbooks, clothing, and electronics. 
  • Eat less meat and adopt a plant-based diet.  
  • Ditch bottled water and disposable coffee cups. Instead, use a refillable water bottle and coffee mug. 
  • Everyday dining: use cloth napkins, reusable (or compostable) cutlery, and dishes (instead of plastic). 
  • If needed, buy local and reusable items: a kit to start an indoor herb garden, for example, a house plant, or a beautiful piece of art. 
  • If online shopping is the most viable option, ditch the same-day or next-day delivery options. Instead, choose the no-rush delivery option to combine your orders into one shipment, meaning less packaging and less miles traveling. On Amazon, you can choose frustration-free packaging that uses 100% recyclable paper.
  • If traveling, consider driving or, even better, consider using public transportation (train and buses). Air travel represents a considerable chunk of an individual carbon footprint, but if necessary, consider compensating for your flight by buying a carbon offset. 

How can students get involved on campus? 
 
There are several opportunities for students at Loyola to join sustainability-related clubs, including the Environmental Action Club and the Sustainability Management Club, which I helped found and now serve as the club moderator. The club has more than 150 students and is led by Michael D’Onofrio (mjdonofrio@loyola.edu) and other outstanding Loyola students. The club’s mission is to provide students with a greater understanding of sustainability management and networking opportunities. 

Everyone in the Loyola community can do their part to protect the planet and our people. The University invites students and faculty, administrators, and staff to get involved in the community and its many green opportunities. 

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