Going Green: Southwestern University Joins Colleges Commited to Sustainable Living
The Southwestern University campus is looking much greener to Ben Johnson these days, but it’s not because the spring rains have left the lawns lush and green.
After nearly a year of effort, Johnson and other students on campus have succeeded in convincing the university to formally commit to a more sustainable, or “green” way of doing things.
That commitment will become official April 19 when University President Jake B. Schrum adds Southwestern to a growing list of colleges and universities around the world that have signed a treaty known as the Talloires (“Tal-wahr”) Declaration. The treaty takes its name from a town in France where the declaration was conceived at an international conference in 1990.
Schools that sign the declaration commit themselves to a 10-point plan that includes offering degree programs in environmental studies; teaching environmental literacy to all students; establishing partnerships with local primary and secondary schools to teach their students about the environment and sustainable development; working with national and international organizations to promote sustainability; and setting an example of environmental responsibility in areas such as energy use, recycling and waste reduction. Participating schools prepare an annual “environmental audit” detailing their activities.
So far, the declaration has been signed by 342 colleges in more than 40 countries around the world. Southwestern is only the second university in Texas to sign the declaration (Rice University was the first).
“I am very heartened by our students’ passion for sustainability,” Schrum said. “It seems only natural that given the initiatives already under way at Southwestern that we would be one of the first schools in this part of the country to sign this declaration.”
Sustainability initiatives already under way at Southwestern include the following:
• A new residential apartment complex opening in fall 2007 will have one building dedicated to students who want to live in a “Civic Engagement/Green Hall.” These students will work together to build a community dedicated to sustainable living. Fifteen students have signed up to live in this building.
• Graduating senior Ansa Copeland will stay on at Southwestern next year as the University’s first “Sustainability Coordinator.” In this position, she will work with the students in the new “Green Hall” as well as help implement a campuswide sustainability plan.
• For her capstone project in Environmental Studies, senior Aubrey Weeks has been writing a plan to develop a composting system for the Lord Center and other residential apartments on campus.
• The university has applied for a grant to purchase a compost bin for the cafeteria. Physical Plant staff also plans to start a compost pile for yard waste behind the greenhouse.
• Plans are under way to plant an organic garden behind the Studio Arts Building in the fall. Compost from the cafeteria and the Physical Plant can help fertilize this garden. Students also are planning smaller gardens for the Lord Center and behind the Korokuva Milk Bar.
• About 40 students hope to start an organic food co-op in the fall. Participating students will take turns preparing meals made from locally produced food. Some food may also be available for others on campus to purchase.
“Signing the Talloires Declaration will help bring some of these initiatives together,” said Jason Reitz, a staff member who supported the initiative. “Hopefully it will also encourage environmentally minded students to attend Southwestern.”
A committee comprised of faculty, staff members and students will work together to develop a plan for implementing the Talloires principles at Southwestern. Activities already being planned for next year, Reitz said, include a environmental summit for high school students.
For more information on the Talloires Delcaration, visit www.ulsf.org.