Across the U.S: Sustainability on Campus

One week in campus sustainability. Infographic by Tina Casagrand
One week in campus sustainability. Infographic by Tina Casagrand
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education is, in fact, a thing.

I have a confession: The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is a thing, and until very recently, I had never even known it existed.

As something of a journalism student and a big fan of student sustainability, my complete lack of knowledge when it came to AASHE and their growing network of higher education-based sustainability initiatives was admittedly embarrassing, but it wasn’t without the silver lining of a newly informed quidnunc — that I can now relay AASHE’s existence and their most recent developments to the Footprint Magazine audience!

Conveniently enough, AASHE sent out its latest e-Newsletter just last week, which documents the newest sustainability initiatives on college campuses nationwide. Let’s take a gander at some of the highlights:

U Arizona Creates Bicycling and Pedestrian Committee

UANews, The University of Arizona’s primary news service, even has this spiffy logo for its sustainability section!

Yep, that’s right! The University of Arizona officially created its own Bicycling and Pedestrian Committee last week, hoping to represent everyone by consisting of faculty members, staff, students and members of the community. The overall goal of the committee is to further ensure cohesion between cyclists and pedestrians during their respective commutes.

Minnesota State U Debuts Student Recycling Program

Is this a sign that Recyclemania is catching on? Minnesota State University at Moorhead has an “Office of Campus Sustainability” (like ours!), and Joe Herbst, the university’s Sustainability Coordinator, is in the process of finding 20 dedicated students who are passionate about sustainability and recycling.

Each week, the students will be assigned to different buildings and will be responsible for collecting the recycling in that building. The students will receive a weekly stipend of $15 and have the opportunity to earn prizes, including an end-of-the-semester trip. Sounds like a pretty good gig to me — I bet there’s nothing like getting paid to do something that benefits your community and planet!

A wind farm in Ohio where OSU may or may not be purchasing their wind power from. Mysteries abound!

Ohio State U Signs 20 Year Agreement to Purchase Wind Power

Alright, this one is pretty remarkable. According to the article, Ohio State University signed a 20-year agreement in October to buy 50 megawatts of energy annually from Blue Creek Wind Farm, Ohio’s largest commercial wind farm.

But that’s not all, because OSU also expects to save $1 million per year with their wind power investment! Now, I’m not an expert in renewable energy or economics (shocking, I know), but $1 million per year in savings certainly says something about the economic benefits of renewable energy investment.

In any case, be sure to check out MU’s mighty one wind turbine, recently installed in 2012, and this is a relatively hopeful article regarding the most recent developments of wind power coming to Columbia.

U Iowa Turns Invasive Species-Infested Trees into Biofuel 

So, the University of Iowa is essentially killing two birds with one sustainability stone here (or should it be hawks?).

Bird one: UI’s surrounding area, Jefferson County, has 24 acres (!) of dead and dying invasive species-infested pine trees and little if any money to clear the environmental wasteland for productive use.

Bird two: UI’s Sustainability Office is well short of its goal to meet 40 percent of the institution’s energy needs through sustainable sources by 2020.

And the ever-dependable sustainability stone (which totally sounds like it should be an item in Pokémon): The UI is hiring a contractor to convert Johnson County’s invasive trees into biomass to be burned with coal in the university’s steam-generating boilers.

The final outcome: The university ups its sustainable energy quotient, while the conservation department replaces an environmental nightmare with prairie and oak savanna jewels. You go University of Iowa!

The Real Food, Real Jobs campaign doesn’t only fight for improved food and food service working conditions, but it also has a pretty simple, kickass logo.

American U Food Workers to Receive Sustainable Food Training

MU’s dining services do a lot for campus sustainability (see here and here), American University’s dining staff may have us one-upped on this one. In an groundbreaking move earlier this week, food service workers ratified a new contract with “sustainability language” that includes training and increased hours so they can cook from scratch with fresh, local ingredients—and a watchdog committee to hold their employer to it.

And as if that’s not enough, the four-year contract also gives workers the largest raise they have seen in the history of their union ($2 an hour over the four-year contract), protects them from subcontracting, and preserves their health care benefits and pensions.

The contract was part of a growing “Real Food, Real Jobs” campaign which, as the name suggests, aims to improve the quality of food service on college campuses nationwide, while also improving the the food workers’ labor conditions. Also according to the article, food service workers at the other six universities are either in bargaining or preparing for negotiations this spring.

The full e-Newsletter can be read here, subscribed to here, and archives (which you’ll probably want to visit, since this post may be a bit dated by now) can be viewed here.

By the way, a little secret: Try searching “Sustain Mizzou” on the AASHE website. You’ll be glad you did!