An initiative of the National Council for Workforce Education, the Sustainability Education and Economic Development Center (SEED) supports community colleges and their partners with curriculum and resources to transform educational programs for a sustainable future.

Protection of Natural Resources

Sustainability is the idea that humans must interact with the environment in a way that ensures there will be enough resources left for future generations. Experts often describe sustainability as having three dimensions (or pillars): environmental, economic, and social. In everyday use, sustainability often focuses on countering major environmental problems, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, land degradation, and air and water pollution.

Sustainable resources are resources that can be used indefinitely without causing damage or threatening the ability of future generations to use them. Sustainable natural resources include renewable energy sources, healthy soil, water, and forests. Together, natural resources make up a dense web of interdependence, forming ecosystems that also include humans.

The sustainable use of natural resources is a complex challenge that requires balancing the long-term use of resources while maximizing social benefits and minimizing environmental impacts It aims to provide resources for present generations without compromising the needs of future generations. To achieve sustainable utilization of natural resources, communities must develop judicious land-use practices for both conserving ecosystems while enhancing local economies as they maintain the equilibrium with the environment.

Forests are one natural resource that sustainability groups are focused on conserving. Forests make up about 30 percent of Earth’s land mass. The United Nationals Food and Agriculture Organization found that between 2015 to 2020, 420M hectacres of forest were cleared for lumber or agriculture leading to a depletion of a critical natural resource. Deforestation also destroys the habitat of other important organisms and increases soil erosion, limiting the productivity of tree growth. Thus, the goal of sustainable forestry is to preserve forest ecosystems.

Water Conservation
Water conservation includes all the policies, strategies, and activities to sustainably manage the natural resource of fresh water to meet current and future human demand. It is the practice of using water efficiently to avoid future water scarcity. Water efficiency focuses on reducing waste and the small behaviors consumers can make to reduce water wastage, and by choosing more water-efficient products.

Wastewater is water that has been used and contains various pollutants. The process of treating wastewater involves the removal of impurities to restore water quality. Wastewater reuse is the practice of using treated wastewater for beneficial purposes, such as irrigation, landscaping, or industrial cooling.

Community Colleges and Natural Resources

Light bulbs that grow, in the concept of energy in nature.Community colleges are working as part of the solution to sustaining and maintaining natural resources in their communities.

  • Use campus facilities as living laboratories to demonstrate innovative technology and best practices such as water-conserving irrigation, energy-efficient greenhouses, cold weather crops and permaculture.
  • Develop an E-Waste program to collect and recycle electronic devices utilized on campus and by students.
  • Initiate compost programs to reduce waste on college campuses.
  • Include local and sustainable foods in culinary arts curricula.
  • Colleges can conserve and protect water supplies by limiting water use by fixing leaky faucets, taking shorter showers, planting drought-resistant plants, and buying low-water-use appliances.