Commitment to Sustainable Practices Secures Green Ranking
- LUCAS ADAMS
Southwestern University is featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 353 Green Colleges: 2015 Edition. The free 218-page guide profiles colleges with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability based on their academic offerings and career preparation for students, campus policies, initiatives, and activities.
The Princeton Review gave Southwestern a “Green Rating” of 93/99. The ranking list using data from its institutional survey for its Green Rating and its surveys of students attending the colleges. Data from the student survey included student ratings of how sustainability issues influenced their education and life on campus; administration and student support for environmental awareness and conservation efforts; and the visibility and impact of student environmental groups.
Southwestern’s commitment to sustainability launched into high gear in 2007, when then President Jake Schrum signed the Talloires (“Tal-wahr”) Declaration, making the University the second in Texas to commit to programs and practices that make the world more sustainable. Shortly after, the Environmental Studies Program received a boost from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, allowing Southwestern to expand its commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
In the following two years, Southwestern signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and an agreement to get all of its energy from wind power for the next 18 years. The city of Georgetown recently followed suit and announced that its municipal electric utility will move to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2017.
Today, sustainability efforts can be found across campus. Most recently, a student initiative lead to the creation of the Green Fund. Beginning in the fall of 2015, all students will pay an annual $___ fee that will provide a fund to support campus projects that promote the environmental, social and financial sustainability of the Southwestern community. These projects can be proposed by students, faculty and staff, with priority given to student proposals. Ideas range from renewable energy or water conservation programs to initiatives that support social justice, diversity and the health/well-being of the campus community.
The Green Fund is not Southwestern’s only student-lead sustainability effort. According to Joshua Long, assistant professor of environmental studies, the majority of the University’s sustainability efforts have begun with students and are encouraged by Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK), the Environmental Studies GIS and capstone courses.
This year, students are not only working on a five-year plan to establish an Office of Sustainability at the University, but they are also overseeing individual projects. Senior Brandee Knight has made it the focal point of her individual capstone project to chronicle and map all of the sustainability initiatives on campus. Senior Travis Kurtz is creating a plan to install solar panels to offset energy use of the Community Garden Greenhouse. Other projects include reducing the carbon footprint of Southwestern Study Abroad programs, improving food sourcing in campus dining services, renovating the Robertson Center to improve energy efficiency, and researching ways to reduce waste from resident halls through freecycling and donations.
Keegan Taylor, president of SEAK, is impressed with the administration’s willingness to work with students on policy changes. He says, “Southwestern puts an emphasis on helping students realize their projects. As someone who has been working directly with getting Southwestern recognized for it’s green initiatives through STARS (the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), I am extremely excited we got on the list.”