Sustainability Week aims to educate and motivate
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 17:10
Last week, Roosevelt University recognized Campus Sustainability Day, Oct. 24, by hosting sustainability-centered activities and events around campus Tuesday through Thursday.
The events included a virtual panel discussion hosted by the National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology program with Chicagoland college campuses regarding their efforts to go green, a sustainable living workshop, film screenings of sustainability-focused END:CIV and Waste Land, a lecture by author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen, a recycling fair and a stair marathon.
“Certainly, Roosevelt, as a campus, is trying to push forward in reference to green technology and a more sustainable way of doing things,” President of RU Green Troy Withers said.
Withers was involved in organizing the week, along with Assistant Vice President for Campus Planning and Operations Paul Matthews.
“We’re thinking about what Roosevelt in particular is doing and how that transforms to the community at large,” Matthews said. “This week is far more than what we’ve had before. It’s a good stepping point for these two terms coming up. It’s marvelous how Roosevelt has transformed itself and become more enlightened in sustainability over the last two years.”
According to Withers, the week was put together in very little time, but he was pleased with the level of promotion it had.
“Having Derrick Jensen here is really major,” Withers said. “To have him speak to us by Skype is a big deal. I’ve been a fan of his writing for some time now. The point of this week is just to bring awareness to the student population and the community around us.”
According to Matthews, the university has made a commitment to recycle 50 percent of its waste from the Wabash Building and is currently at 20 percent. Meeting the commitment will be its next endeavor in sustainability.
“Sustainability is every day, ongoing,” he said. “We’re getting the word out electronically, too. Students from a course on waste here are looking at the waste stream from the Wabash Building, and hopefully they’ll let us know how we’re doing and how to move forward. It’s not a herculean task, but it’s a task.”
“There’s going to be a major push, going forward,” Withers said. “I think Roosevelt does a good job with recycling access and all that. We’re going to be developing the green roofs for the next month or so and composting.”
Some of the Wabash Building’s green roofs will be used for agricultural plots in the spring. The produce from these plots will be used in the Wabash cafeteria. Waste from the Wabash cafeteria is composted and will be used for fertilizer at the Schaumburg Campus and on the green roofs come spring.
“It’s a matter of using these activities to augment the awareness push,” Withers said. “We’re in an academic setting, so it’s important that we have conversations and discussions that can promote sustainability. I’m a big proponent of truth. If people know better, they’ll do better.”
The Schaumburg Campus is in its second year of using native species of grasses, instead of turf grass, in its fields which cut maintenance costs in half. It has 13 agricultural plots, as well. Matthews said he is hoping to get a grant from Wells Fargo to turn a quad at the campus into an eco-space with a pond, fish, aquatic plants and a sitting area.
“Sustainability is not just recycling,” Matthews said. “It’s a whole philosophy. It’s about building construction, management, green cleaning, energy management. It’s also a behavioral change. Hopefully students, staff and faculty all over take part in this. Reduced energy costs reduce the overhead of the institution and can better be used for academic costs for students for a quality education.”
“To me, sustainability means to ensure to protect the systems, whether those are biological, ecological, social, cultural,” Withers said. “How can we use less of this or change this so we can maintain technological advances and civilization as we know it? It should be standard, and everything else we do needs to fit into those systems.”
Matthews said he hopes student residents in the Wabash Building become more responsive toward recycling efforts.
“We had a lack of understanding and education,” he said. “Hopefully through Sustainability Week and educational venues, people will become responsible. Being one of the richer societies, we have a responsibility to help others and the world. I hope students will want to do this. It’s about education, willingness and individual responsibility.”
Matthews said he will have a job opening for a student worker in the spring semester involving work with sustainability at both campuses.
“It’s the issue of our time,” Withers said. “No other issue is as important. We spend a lot of time on economics, politics, even race issues, but all of those are really subject and sub-string to sustainability. None of that will matter if we don’t have air to breathe. It has to be injected into the conversation, or we won’t be having many more conversations.”
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