The University of New Mexico received a prestigious award for sustainable business at the second annual Sustainable Business Summit presented by Albuquerque Business First and the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. More than 200 people attended the awards luncheon where 14 companies and leaders were acknowledged for their sustainable achievements.

Nominations for the awards had been solicited from the public in five categories: building, business, leadership, product/service, workplace. A panel of experts evaluated the applicants on their commitment to sustainability and the impact of their efforts.

UNM was nominated and selected for this award because of its long history and continued dedication to sustainable practices. The university began its recycling program in the early 1990s and became a signatory of the American College University President’s Climate Commitment in 2006.

UNM has one of the first Sustainability Studies programs in the country where students are able to minor in sustainable practices and theories. The benefit of this education is future engineers, architects, accountants, and artists, to name a few, are readied for “green” practices within their field upon graduation.

UNM faculty continuously conduct research in renewable energy, sustainable building design and construction, and building controls systems, while the UNM Physical Plant Department tirelessly works to conserve energy and resources in the maintenance of the buildings and campus landscaping. The School of Engineering has three National Science Foundation engineering research centers: Smart Lighting, Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies, and Biorenewable Chemicals.

Finally, the UNM Purchasing department has developed a green purchasing procedure where buyers evaluate vendors based on the principles of the “triple bottom line”: people, planet, profit, and performance.  All of these efforts make UNM a “sustainable business” and collectively work to achieve UNM’s attainable goal of becoming 100 percent climate neutral by the year 2050.

According to Rachel Sam, managing editor of Albuquerque Business First, “Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword or a way for companies to pay lip service to the idea of going green.  It’s a concept that touches on a wide array of issues, from environmental stewardship to social responsibility.” 

Before awards were presented, all the chosen nominees from each category were given the opportunity to speak about their organization/company.  UNM Sustainability Manager, Mary Clark, showed a video about Lobo Gardens, a campus community garden project maintained by student volunteers, which provides fresh, organic produce to Chartwell’s, UNM’s dining services vendor.  Clark told the attendees, “Our students want sustainable practices and classes, and their enthusiasm and commitment inspires us to do our best every day.”