April 27, 2017

Energy, water conservation initiative unveiled

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. --  The Saluki Green Action Team, a new initiative geared toward promoting energy and water conservation at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, debuted at the campus Sustainability Celebration today (April 27.)

Students, faculty and staff are invited to become part of the team. The organization’s goal is to increase awareness of individual and collective sustainability actions and measurably reduce SIU’s carbon footprint, bringing attention to the need to strive for zero impact.

“SIU has long been a leader in pursuing sustainability. In the last year, we’ve felt an increasing interest and momentum. By establishing the Saluki Green Action Team, we hope to engage and empower individuals all over campus to get involved in the effort to help make our world more hospitable for our children, grandchildren and the generations that come after them,” Geory Kurtzhals, sustainability coordinator, said. “All of the little things we do or don’t do every day add up. Whether it’s turning off lights when we leave a room, drinking from reusable water bottles instead of disposable ones or turning off the faucet while we’re brushing our teeth, it makes a difference in the health and well-being of those around us and across the globe. We are all connected and small actions can make a big difference.”

The Saluki Green Action Team is an interactive group. Members can participate in awareness campaigns, special activities and social media happenings and also win prizes.

Kurtzhals noted research showing that about three-fourths of all plastic water bottles end up in landfills, where they can take up to 450 years or more to degrade. Getting the facts out and helping people consider their actions, in a fun way, is what the team is all about. Students and representatives from throughout campus have worked together to create the initiative.

To learn more about the Saluki Green Action Team, visit www.salukigreenactionteam.siu.edu, or find the Saluki Green Action Team on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Or, stop by the Hub on the north end of the Student Center or email greenaction@siu.edu.

The Sustainability Celebration also included the announcement of the 2017 Green Fund award recipients. Improving campus lake, promoting sustainable meals, creating biking and hiking paths and researching the repurposing of used motor oil into diesel fuel are just a few of the proposals that will benefit from the Green Fund.

The Sustainability Council approved a total of $103,620 in funding for 16 diverse projects this spring. The money for the grants comes from a $10 per-semester Green Fee, adopted as the result of a student-led initiative. Since its inception in 2009, more than $2.1 million in Green Fund awards have gone to 169 projects, including the newest recipients.  

Sustainability projects that were awarded funding this spring, along with a brief description of each project and the award amount rounded to the nearest dollar, include:

  • A cross-campus partnership Sustainable Eco-Recreation Project will receive $29,777. The funds will sponsor student teams to develop recreational projects to aerate and cool campus lake to improve the health of the lake while promoting its recreational use.
  • A graduate assistantship position will be funded at $14,000 for Touch of Nature Environmental Center to help manage the center’s K-12 outreach efforts, program support and promotion.
  • Touch of Nature Environmental Center, $11,615, to continue development of the Multi-use Trails Project to facilitate mountain biking and hiking on the grounds.
  • A project to purchase and install a water-powered chairlift for the Becker Pavilion boat dock to facilitate accessible recreation at campus lake will receive $7,700.
  • A prototype software that will evaluate printer use and total costs in terms of materials and energy consumption across campus will receive $7,500.
  • Replacing two existing water fountains in the Engineering Building with ADA compliant, bi-level Elkay water bottle filling stations will be funded at $6,500.
  • An agro-forestry project to map and rehabilitate the farm forestry demonstration area at SIU’s Tree Improvement Center will receive $6,000. This project will include removing invasive species and planting native fruit and nut trees.
  • A project researching methods of repurposing the university’s waste motor oil into diesel fuel will receive $4,904.
  • The student-run alt.news 26:46 will get $3,807 to purchase LED lights and a portable, solar-powered generator to reduce the studio’s carbon footprint.
  • The SIU Geographic Information System Club will get $3,700 to develop a comprehensive digital trail map of public, natural and urban areas in Southern Illinois to facilitate their use.
  • A sustainable meals project will receive $2,360 to create a series of multicultural cooking demonstrations to air on WSIU and then be available for viewing on multiple digital platforms to promote local food initiatives associated with SIU and its Sustainable Farm.
  • The student branch of the American Fisheries Society will use $2,070 to install native aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation in various areas around campus lake to improve water quality and habitat.
  • Green Dawgs Day will be funded receive $1,568. The monies will help develop and host a one-day event at Touch of Nature Environmental Center to educate students and their families about the range of environmental education and outdoor recreational opportunities in Southern Illinois.
  • An SCT motion sensing light switch will be installed in the Engineering Building A209 computer lab with $911 in funding to reduce energy consumption and raise awareness of energy use.
  • A new Elkay water fountain filling station will be purchased for the Student Center at a cost of $833 to encourage use of reusable water bottles.
  • Upgrading the existing bike fix-it stations around campus will be funded at $375.

SIU’s Environmental Ambassadors were also honored at the event. Students who donate 30 or more hours of their time and energy to benefit the planet during the past academic year earn this recognition.

The 2016-2017 Environmental Ambassadors, listed by hometown with their year and major, are:


  • Andrew Aaflaq, freshman, paralegal studies
  • Dylan John Gibson, senior, biological sciences


  • Julia Sanabria, master’s degree student, geography and environmental resources


  • Kaitlyn Novy, freshman, biology/pre-medicine major


  • Katelyn Toigo, sophomore, zoology and geography


  • Jatoya Hale, senior, geography and environmental resources/geographic information science

Oak Lawn

  • Celine Aguilar, senior, geographic and environmental resources with a minor in environmental studies and sustainability specialization

Palos Park

  • Elise Sawa, senior, forestry with specialization in forest resource management and a minor in environmental studies


  • Evan Krieg, junior, international relations



  • Anna Feliciano, junior, physiology


  • Jenna Parks, junior, forestry



  • Wei Li, junior, geography

Special recognition was also given to three campus collaborators who played an important role in enhancing SIU sustainability during the past year. Physical Plant Building Services collaborates regularly with the Sustainability Office, including assisting with the creation of waste stations in academic buildings, which pair recycling bins and trash bins while eliminating excess bins in order to encourage people to participate in recycling and make it easier for them to do so. This has led to an increase in the campus recycling rate. Accepting the award on behalf of the 68 full-time staff and 166 student employees were Marianne Wilson and Mike Brewer.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) student chapter, a design registered student organization, assisted in creating new recycling signage and labels, seen throughout campus and at the event. Austin Nunn, Pearl Franz, Brittany Hewerdine and Savannah Meyers accepted the award on behalf of the organization, of which Robert Lopez, design associate professor, is the adviser. 

A surprise award, the honorary Environmental Ambassador Award, went to Paul Restivo, director of the Center for Environmental Health and Safety. A longtime member of the Sustainability Council and adviser for the Beautify Southern Illinois Student Alliance, he has been a mentor for students and a “driver of sustainability” at SIU, Kurtzhals said.

SIU recently earned national recognition once again for its commitment to sustainability and that accomplishment was recognized at the Sustainability Celebration as well. For the second time, SIU earned a silver ranking from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The ranking is for three years and SIU improved its score significantly since first earning the silver ranking in 2013. Kurtzhals said the goal is achieve the gold ranking in 2019 and the Saluki Green Action Team can help SIU reach that goal. 

The Sustainability Celebration featured a variety of interactive sustainability games and activities along with information tables highlighting the Saluki Green Action Team, the Green Fund, campus recycling and sustainability myths and facts.