April 17, 2015

University again earns recognition for ‘green’ efforts

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale has earned national recognition for its commitment to sustainability and green initiatives for the third year in a row and the fourth time in six years. 

“The Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges: 2015 Edition,” which was released on April 16, highlights SIU and other universities earning recognition on the basis of their 2014 “Green Rating” scores. The scores were calculated using data detailing school sustainability-related policies, practices and programs. Nearly 900 institutions were reviewed and those earning a score of 83 or above are included in the guide, published by “The Princeton Review” in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Center for Green Schools. 

SIU has put in place numerous “green” initiatives and activities to increase recycling and reusing and to enhance sustainability. The vermicomposting facility creates compost from campus dining food waste and a recent expansion involved building an aerated static pile (ASP) facility that will greatly increase the university’s composting capacity, Kris Schachel, SIU sustainability coordinator, said. 

The Agriculture Building boasts a green roof, a living wall and a rain garden that also offer excellent hands-on learning opportunities for students, she said. In addition, the new Transportation Education Center and the Student Health Center both incorporated green construction. Those are just a few of the “green” things happening at SIU. 

The annual Earth Day celebration, set for Wednesday, April 22, includes a variety of informative and fun activities each year. Also on tap for that day is the announcement of the newest winners of the Sustainability Council Green Fund awards. 

More than $1.6 million in funding has been allocated for 123 sustainability projects since the creation of a $10 per student, per semester fee during the fall 2009 semester as the result of a student-led initiative. The projects have included bike repair stations, recycling and hydration stations, sustainable vegetable gardens, composting commodes, energy-efficient lighting, a green wall, a hydroponic workshop, student sustainability research grants and a diverse assortment of initiatives. Check out all of the past awards and find more information at http://tinyurl.com/SIUpastGF

Schachel said it is “great news to receive national recognition this way.” 

“What is also very satisfying is the growing awareness on campus. For example, this spring we had by far the greatest number of Green Fund proposals and Sustainability Council applicants of any semester to date,” Schachel said. “Students are also anticipating and asking questions about recurring programs such as our Give and Go collaboration with University Housing. I hope we can keep the momentum going and growing because opportunities such as these will attract more students,” she added. 

A survey of nearly 10,000 teenagers participating in the “2015 College Hopes and Worries Survey” revealed that about 61 percent of those surveyed said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decisions about applying to or attending a college, according to Robert Franek, senior vice president-publisher for “The Princeton Review.” 

The publication considers a number of factors in determining the rankings including the waste-diversion rates, renewable source energy consumption, if buildings or major renovations are “green,” if there are bicycling or mass transit programs, if there is staff and/or committees dedicated to advancing sustainability on campus and the percentage of food expenditures going toward local, organic or similar food.  

SIU’s profile in the book recognizes the university for having a formal sustainability committee and sustainability officer, for the percentage of construction that is sustainability-focused, for offering a related degree and for the high percentage of graduates who take sustainability classes. 

The Princeton Review recognition is actually the second time in 2015 that SIU has earned a national honor for its commitment to sustainability. The university is a recipient of a Student Actions Award from myActions. SIU was among 87 school earning the honor this spring for efforts undertaken during the 2014 fall semester. The university claimed “Silver Level” recognition.  

myActions is a student-centered “college network for sharing sustainable and socially responsible actions,” according to network officials. They said the Student Action Awards celebrate student leadership, student activation, initiatives and impact and that through the network, 65,000 positive student actions were shared during the fall semester. 

Katie Billing, a recent SIU zoology graduate, got a job as a myActions program coordinator based in part on her activities and leadership on campus, Schachel notes. 

Find out more about SIU’s longtime and ongoing commitment to sustainability at www.sustainability.siu.edu