Council works to improve campus environmentally

A group on campus is working to get students to think about sustainability.

The Sustainability Council, a group on campus that helps improve SIU’s environmental impact and initiatives, is working to introduce more students to the concept of sustainability on campus. The council has worked to establish its first paid position and a required textbook for freshmen, and it has started to look for its latest project.

The paid position belongs to Kris Schachel, sustainability coordinator. The job operates on a two-year contract and is paid for with 50 percent of the Green Fee fund, which is a $10 fee all students pay with their tuition. The fee was approved in May 2009.

“My position was created so someone could be devoted to this type of work that is not with a volunteer capacity,” she said. “Sustainability is not just a concept that exists only on college campuses.”

The nine Sustainability Council members are all volunteers and leads all the work on campus sustainability, said Makayla Bonney, a graduate student in geography and environment resources and chairperson of the Sustainability Council. Schachel said she can serve as the go-to person for all sustainability-related activities and initiative information since the council members are students who all have additional priorities.

She said one main thing she works on is a sustainability network, which will serve as a hub for students and faculty who seek advice for service projects of other research related to sustainability.

Another new initiative started by the council is a required textbook for new students.

“Reclaiming Our Food,” by Tanya Denckla Cobb, is required reading for University College 101 students, Bonney said, and introduces new students to the sustainability movement. Walter Metz, a UCOL101 instructor, said the book includes information about the grassroots food movement.

Southern Illinois emphasises sustainability  to make a positive impression on campus by helping to make it more efficient and less wasteful, Bonney said.

“Universities play a crucial role in society … Traditionally, they have been leaders of innovation, research and change,” she said. “Thus, we on the council believe that institutes of higher education such as SIU are responsible for leading the way toward a more sustainable world, toward efficiency without compromise.”

A focus on sustainability will give students a chance to make innovative ideas a reality, Bonney said.

She said the council has also started the Sustainable Saluki Pledge, which is a pledge that requires students to give out their contact information and choose three ways to commit his or herself to areas including energy conservation and waste reduction.

Schachel said that more than 350 students have already taken the pledge, but she hopes to see 1,000 pledges by the end.  Students who take the pledge are given a free reusable water bottle.

The Green Fund Project is also something the council organizes, Bonney said, and any student can propose an idea for a project that can improve the campus by making it more environmentally sustainable. The idea must include a budget of the project’s cost, an educational component and a goal that will make a social and economic lasting impact at SIU.

The Sustainability Council funds for the project stem from the Green Fee, Bonney said.

Besides funding projects, the Green Fee also pays for a student travel scholarship, she said. Students can apply for the scholarship and even have student paid internships, where they work alongside members of the Sustainability Council.

The Green Fund Committee, which is a Sustainability Council subcommittee, grades the Green Fund Project proposals on environmental outreach and social engagement, Bonney said. Project proposals are voted on by the committee.

Past projects implemented on campus include turning dining halls’ vegetable grease into biodiesel; the Elkay water bottle filling stations that can be found in buildings such as Lawson, the Student Center and the Recreation Center; LED lighting in the University Museum and Theater department; the green roof on the agriculture building; and a bicycle path that connects downtown Carbondale to campus, Bonney said.

The deadline for the Green Fund Project Proposal for this fall is Oct. 24, Bonney said, and applications can be found at Workshops on how to complete or compose a proposal will be offered Sept. 26 and Oct.11.


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