Sustainability groups strive to make SIU more green

By Brandi Courtois, Staff Reporter

More than $2 million has been awarded to green projects at the university ranging from energy to waste management under the green fund by the Sustainability Council.

Some of the more noticed projects on campus include the 27 Elkay refillable water stations installed since 2016, the big belly solar trash compactors or the new “Water Dawg” stations which serve as a water refill stations at campus events.

“People think of sustainability [is] just sort of the natural environment alone, but really it’s not that,” said Leslie Duram, director of the Environmental Studies program.

The university currently boasts several awards related to sustainability –  a bronze rating as a bicycle friendly campus, recognition as a “Tree Campus USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation and has been featured on the Sierra Club “Cool Schools” list.

Southern also has a silver STAR rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

(See more: The university ranks silver in 2017 campus index sustainability index)

Karen Schauwecker, sustainability program coordinator, said the campus sustainability initiative started in 2008 when a group of students called the Eco-Dawgs began looking at other universities and how they handle sustainability.

The Eco-Dawgs found many other universities had instituted a green fee, Schauwecker said.

SIU’s green fee was implemented in 2009 and is collected every semester as a part of a student’s mandatory fees. The money from the fee goes to the Green Fund, which is used to fund sustainability projects on campus.

Duram said sustainability affects all the components of life on campus.

“It’s very [much] human interactions with the environment and helping humans have healthy lives through environmental conservation and environmental sustainability,” Duram said.

She said she thinks students have been very effective at pushing the issue of sustainability on campus.

“Even at times when we have terrible budget cuts and no state budgets and all these crises that we’ve been through – I think that students have been effective. Students and others have been very effective at keeping the issue out and in the limelight,” Duram said.

The Office of Sustainability currently has two full time staff members so the office has developed an initiative called a ‘working group,’ according to Schauwecker.

“The idea is that people that have expertise or interest in these certain areas can get together and think about solutions or policies and procedures that they would like to see on campus,” Schauwecker said.

Anyone at the university can join a working group and theidae is for satellite groups to work through the office and finding ways of helping the different areas be more sustainable, Schauwecker said.

Areas currently focused on by working groups include air, energy, transportation and climate.

Southern also has Eco Reps – student representatives in the residence halls who try to encourage their peers to be more sustainable, according to Schauwecker.

Schauwecker said the Eco Reps are working on a purchasing guide for resident assistants to help them choose products for floor events that are more compostable or are made with recycled materials.

The Office of Sustainability is currently in the process of submitting another STARS application.

Staff Reporter Brandi Courtois can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @CourtoisBrandi.

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