United Nations Greening Program

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How do you implement sustainability goals globally? That’s the question a team of students has set out to answer during the Mountaintop Experience. The team includes Lehigh undergraduates Kevin Mittal and Mikayla Cleary- Hammarstedt and is being advised by Delicia Nahman, Lehigh’s Sustainability Officer, and Bill Hunter, the Director of Fellowship Advising and UN Programs at Lehigh.  During the summer and now continuing into the fall and spring semesters, the team will be working on a tool that enables select New York City-based Missions to the United Nations to align the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals with their facilities and operations. The students are working across disciplines and are being challenged to increase their capacities for independent inquiry in order to answer this question.  As Dr. Khanjan Mehta states, “the most impactful innovations that transform our lives and our world often start with simple questions posted by curious minds.”

During the summer, the team worked on a manual to assist United Nations Missions in internalizing the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals to green their facilities and operations in New York City.  In order to create this manual, the students completed an intensive literature review of peer programs around the country.  The literature review contained information from 25 universities, 2 cities, 15 major international companies, and 5 non profit organizations. They also gathered information from 66 Sustainability UN sources in order to gain a foundation in what environmental reporting entails. From the literature review, they successfully completed an initial draft of the manual.  The manual currently includes 112 questions.  These questions help the students get a baseline understanding of a particular Mission’s environmental efforts.

During the fall semester, the students will begin to test and refine the manual in at least 2 Missions. They also plan to highlight a few of the Missions who make a large impact in reducing their environmental footprints at the Environmental Management Group Conference in September.  “The conference will serve as an excellent opportunity to witness how the United Nations works at the highest levels and see one of the world's leading organizations take broad steps towards a more sustainable future. It will be very rewarding to be involved with such steps due to Lehigh's strong relationship with the United Nations and know that we're helping encourage sustainability worldwide,” said Mikayla.

Stay tuned to hear how this project continues to unfold!