April 25, 2013

SIU again earns ‘Green College’ recognition

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s commitment to sustainability and green initiatives has drawn national recognition.

“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges:  2013 Edition” features SIU.  The book, the fourth annual publication from The Princeton Review and the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Center for Green Schools, recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate “a strong commitment to the environment and to sustainability,” according to the email SIU received about the honor.

“We appreciate this recognition of the emphasis we place on sustainability,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “We have a responsibility to leave our campus -- and our world -- in better shape for those who follow us, and I appreciate the ongoing efforts of our students, faculty and staff.”

This is SIU’s second appearance in the green colleges guide.  Selections are based on surveys of hundreds of colleges across the U.S. and Canada using a scoring system utilizing answers to 50 questions about each institution’s sustainability polices, practices and programs.  A school had to earn a ranking of 83 or above for inclusion in the guide.  The school scores and rankings are not reported. 

The University’s profile in the green guide touts SIU as “professional when it comes to going green.”

The report highlights a variety of initiatives on campus including the vermicomposting facility heated by a clean-burning oil furnace that uses campus vehicle motor oil and is insulated with soy-based foam product. The report also notes that SIU offers free bicycle rentals for students, and composts food waste from campus dining halls for use in soil for fertility research on fruit and vegetable crops in campus gardens. 

Another big plus for SIU, according to the report, is the student-initiated Green Fee, with $10 per semester from each student helping to fund sustainability projects, many of which heavily involve students. Since the fee was enacted in the fall 2009 semester, it has generated $1.2 million in sustainability support for dozens of projects.

The profile notes that Salukis can take sustainability-related courses and/or earn degrees in more than 20 academic areas, too.  It also recognizes the new Transportation Education Center as certified under the USGBC’s LEED NC 2.2 rating system and notes SIU is a signatory for the Talloiries Declaration (a sustainability pact that SIU became the first Illinois school to sign in 1999), and the Illinois Sustainable University Compact, a pledge made in 2007. 

“I am very pleased we were included in the ‘Guide to Green Colleges.’  With more students factoring in a school’s sustainability commitment when they are deciding where to attend, it is very important that it be known how much positive work is happening here, especially owing to the student-initiated Green Fund,” Kris Schachel, sustainability coordinator, said. 

According to Robert Franek, Princeton Review senior vice president/publisher, the company recently surveyed 9,955 college applicants in the 2013 “College Hopes & Worries Survey” and found that 62 percent of the respondents said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision about applying to or attending a school.

Schachel said data from the 2011-2012 academic year was used in determining SIU’s spot in the green guide.  She said sustainability work is constantly evolving and expanding on campus.  Many new recycling bins have been added across campus, a green roof and new indoor vertical garden grace the Agriculture Building, there is a student Local Organic Garden Initiative on Pleasant Hill Road producing food for campus dining halls, and much more.

This spring, as part of the positive waste avoidance trend, Schachel and her team will be helping coordinate an organized spring move-out collection. Plans also call for expanding food composting on campus later this year. 

SIU also recently earned additional sustainability recognition in the Recyclemania competition as it came out on top among participating Missouri Valley Conference schools.  The University’s average weekly waste diversion/recycling rate during the eight-week competition was 27.39 percent. 

Schachel said that, “According to the U.S. EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), we achieved a cumulative greenhouse gas reduction equivalent to 329 metric tons of CO2.  During the same time period last year, our recycle rate was 21 percent.”