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The university ranks silver in 2017 campus index sustainability index


For the second time since 2013, SIU placed in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2017 Sustainable Campus Index.

Geory Kurtzhals, the university’s sustainability coordinator, said the association is a higher education oversight group that creates a report of university environmental impacts every three years.

Kurtzhals said SIU was ranked on the higher end of the silver level. The index is on a five level ranking system: participant, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Kurzhals said she is hoping to reach gold in the 2019 report.

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According to association’s website, there were 129 reports submitted to the index.

Sustainability-focused universities are attracting more students than universities that aren’t, Kurtzhals said.  

“It’s a trend, not just within universities,” Kurtzhals said. “Corporations and organizations are looking for people who understand sustainability.”

Kurthalz said the university should want to be environmentally conscious in order to be prepared for potential employers who might be seeking graduates that understand sustainability.

“Sustainability is a movement that is not going away; it continues to grow and be important in higher education, business and corporations,” Kurtzhals said.

Most of the time, she said sustainable choices are smarter choices.

“Sustainability is about thinking about the health of the world you are living in and the decision we’re making on a daily basis,” Kurtzhals said. “Who doesn’t want a better world for their grandchildren?”

The university’s Sustainability Council, which Kurtzhals said is made up of three faculty members, three students and three staff members, is a body that helps make environmental decisions on campus.

A committee within the council, the Green Fund Committee, oversees the administration of the Green Fee to sustainability projects on campus. Kurtzhals said members on this committee oversee grant proposals to make the campus greener.

Currently, Kurtzhals said there are 169 sustainability projects being implemented.

One of the projects is being put together by the Saluki Green Action Team, a sustainability campaign on campus.

This group’s light switch project involves volunteers going to to key locations on campus and putting sticker reminders for the last person to leave a room to turn off the lights.

The project will commence at 2 p.m. on Dec.1, and volunteers can sign up at sustainability.siu.edu.

Kurtzhals said they are looking for about 20 to 30 volunteers.

“We know that when humans beings make a better decision and switch off lights, they’re going to save energy,” Kurtzhals said.

The light switch project is about creating a culture of personal responsibility, Kurtzhals said, that involves thinking about everyday actions and how they affect the earth. She said creating sustainable habits is something that everyone can do without disrupting their everyday routine.

“A light switch sticker is a sticker that is a reminder,” Kurtzhals said. “But people actually have to take the step to take the action. Every time that you take the time to make a smarter decision when it comes to energy usage or water usage you’re going to save the university, yourself or your home money.”

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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The student news site of Southern Illinois University