New role for Sustainability Council, new opportunities to get involved

October 6, 2011

Because of the groundbreaking work of a group of students, faculty and staff, the University's sustainability program continues to grow and evolve in leaps and bounds. This year we will see an expansion of our bike share program, more sustainable food options in dining, green janitorial services and office supplies, and a new tracking program to demonstrate the real impact these changes are having on the campus footprint. Another eagerly anticipated change is a revamped Sustainability Council. A committee of faculty, staff, and students will have an expanded role that includes advising the Office of Sustainability on strategic sustainability initiatives, programs, and policies. By bringing together these three constituencies, the Council will not only provide valuable guidance on environmental initiatives but also help to advance sustainable policies at the University.

Initially launched in 2004 by the Green Campus Initiative (GCI) in coordination with staff and faculty, the Sustainability Council advocated for and managed an array of sustainable campus initiatives. In its early years, Council projects included campus recycling and dormitory energy competitions, as well as workshops that promoted sustainability at the University. The Council also presented a formal sustainability report to the University administration. According to Julie Huang, GCI member and 2010-2011 Sustainability Council Co-chair, "what began as a student-led, grass roots initiative has developed into a much more widely institutionalized campus movement toward sustainability."

As a result of the Council's leadership and visibility, the University established the Office of Sustainability in Fall 2008. Since that time, the Council has worked closely with the Office, forming committees each year around specific areas of interest to introduce and encourage sustainable practices on campus. Most recently, the Campaigns Committee worked to reduce bottled water use on campus and introduce composting at student events, while the SWAP Committee coordinated an end of the year collection for students in residence halls to swap or donate unwanted items. The Council has also successfully coordinated numerous sustainability related events, including the annual Earth Week celebration. Hannah Radner, Outreach Committee Co-chair and Earth Week Committee member, has been happily spreading awareness about sustainability on campus while working alongside University neighbors. "Our Outreach Committee coordinated a student volunteer opportunity with local community gardens, and when organizing Earth Fest, we worked closely with local, sustainable nonprofits and businesses," she reported. "Despite the extremely hot weather when volunteering in the community gardens and the unusually cold weather for Earth Fest, we had great turnout at both events!"

With the University's sustainability program quickly progressing, and to effectively address issues of sustainability on campus, an advisory body with a broad reach and a bird's eye view will ensure that diverse perspectives, concerns, and ideas are considered and integrated. To do this work, the Council will be composed of a limited number of positions for students, faculty, and staff. Membership is for the academic year and Council meetings will be scheduled once a quarter for 90 minutes. Students interested in joining the Council must submit an application (PDF) for consideration. Faculty and staff interested in joining the committee, please email Katie. For more information on Sustainability Council member role and responsibilities, click here.

With the Council's support and guidance, the University will continue to make great strides in the area of sustainability. "The Sustainability Council, in all of its iterations, has played an integral role in building awareness on campus of what it means to be truly sustainable" reports Ilsa Flanagan, Sustainability Director for the University, "the University should be proud of, and encouraged by, the progress it has made in such a short time."