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This guide explores sustainability resources and practices at UNH.


Welcome to the UNH Library Guide to Sustainability. "Sustainability is about making life better, while ensuring that what we do today does not reduce the options and opportunities for the generations that follow." 

The library actively participates in promoting and advancing sustainability through our efforts in research, education, open access to information and educational resources and the UNH Scholars' Repository.  We look forward to your questions and your suggestions!

What is Sustainability?

At the University of New Hampshire, the concept of sustainability is firmly rooted in our 150-year history. As a land-, sea-, and space-grant university, we use a community-based approach to learning and a systems approach to solving problems. This is evident in our longstanding dedication to the meaningful co-generation of knowledge and our shared investment in our accomplishments.

The 1992 Earth Summit was an unprecedented global gathering of heads of state and representatives from more than 170 governments, including the United States. The summit reoriented international development into a more holistic framework that integrated the principles of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic vitality to meet the needs of present and future generations. This approach guided initial efforts of the Sustainability Institute.

Today, we view sustainability as a collective commitment to human dignity for all people and ecological integrity in all places. It is built upon an intergenerational, ethical obligation that holds social justice, collaboration, and inclusive prosperity to be essential to fulfill diverse human potential and preserve the health of the planet upon which we all depend. At the University of New Hampshire, this manifests as an ethic that compels us to respond to urgent, complex challenges with transdisciplinary approaches that involve diverse partners, on campus and beyond.

A Brief History

1987 - Our Common Future -  "A global agenda for change" - this was what the World Commission on Environment and Development was asked to formulate. It was an urgent call by the General Assembly of the United Nations:

  • to propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond
  • to recommend ways concern for  the environment may be translated into greater co-operation among developing countries and between countries at different stages of economical and social development...
  • to consider ways and means by which the international community can deal more effectively with environment concerns
  • to help define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues and the appropriate efforts needed to deal successfully with the problems of protecting and enhancing the environment... 

1988 - World Decade for Cultural Development - The United National Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Decade for Cultural Development was initiated in 1988 in response to the “dual need for a radical review of conceptions of development and for a reshaping of practices” that had made the 1980s what many experts characterized as a “lost decade” for development.  One of the principle undertakings of the Decade initiative was the work of the World Commission on Culture and Development. 

1992 - The Earth Summit -  The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, informally called The Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June of 1992. The summit was unprecedented for a UN conference in terms of both its size, and its scope of concerns.  Those in attendance sought to help governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. 

2000 - The Millennium Development Goals - The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000 to reaffirm the collective faith in the United Nations and its charter as “indispensable foundations of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world.” The MDGs
present a series of quantifiable goals based on the same interdependent set of values of earlier agreements including freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility. 

2002 - World Summit on Sustainable Development - Johannesburg, South Africa, the World Summit on Sustainable Development brought together tens of thousands of participants to focus the world's attention and direct action toward meeting difficult challenges such as improving people's lives and conserving our natural resources. 

2015 - The Sustainability Development Goals - In September, 2016, world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at an historic UN Summit. The SDGs, also known as Global Goals, build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and aim to go further to end all forms of poverty.

This Digital Scholarship Resource Guide developed by Cheryl Wheelock is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License The guide is maintained by Eleta Exline.