North Central College - Naperville, IL

Be Cardinal Green

Students crossing campus on Cardinal red bicycles. Quick-rental cars and refillable plastic bottles. Campus-wide recycling and underground stormwater management.

The common thread is sustainability, and these initiatives are all part of how North Central College is incorporating sustainable techniques and technologies into physical campus development, along with business and work environment practices that can be replicated by other businesses and colleges.

Promoting and practicing sustainability is an important element of the College’s Strategic Plan, says President Harold R. Wilde. “This value—this philosophy—has in a sense been a part of the College since our founding in 1861, only then it was stated waste not, want not,” he says.

“Today, sustainability has taken on a new urgency,” Wilde says. “We have all become more aware of global warming and of our responsibility, as individuals and institutions, to help sustain the planet. As a teaching institution, we have a special responsibility to witness for the values we espouse…by recycling, by ‘building green,’ by reducing waste and energy consumption in every way possible.”

In October, Wilde appointed an interdisciplinary committee of faculty, staff and students to help integrate College environmental initiatives, addressing energy efficiency, waste reduction and recycling.

Chaired by Assistant Professor of History William Barnett, the new committee is developing approaches to educate the campus community about sustainability actions and developing recommendations for campus resource conservation. It also encourages faculty to integrate sustainability within their courses and promotes undergraduate research on sustainability issues.

Also in October, adding a dimension of fun to campus sustainability, the College and Student Government Association established an eco-friendly Cardinal Community Bike Program. Red bikes at racks across campus and at the downtown Naper Place residence are available for faculty, staff and students to pedal to their destinations.

Not just a convenience for users, the program is an experiment in changing behaviors by encouraging people to bike or walk instead of taking cars across campus. “With the availability of new racks, we’ve also seen more bike use overall as more people are bringing and riding their own bikes on campus,” says Laurie Hamen, vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs.

The College also distributed red refillable North Central College bottles to students, faculty and staff as part of its new refillable beverage bottle program. The College worked with its on-campus food and beverage vendor to offer a special price for soda refills using the red bottles—seeking to reduce plastic foam cup waste.

In January, the College expanded its recycling program to standardize recycling bins throughout campus and enable collection of co-mingled recyclable paper, aluminum, plastic and glass. Co-mingling means that recyclable materials don’t have to be separated for recycling, thus making it much easier and more likely that recycling takes place.

In the works is a new quick-rental car program to provide two cars on campus for short-term use by students, staff and faculty. Offering the option to rent cars as needed by the hour, the program is expected to help reduce the number of cars brought to and parked on campus.

Meanwhile, new environmental technologies and amenities are continually implemented throughout the College as part of its land use and resource development. For example, extra trees were incorporated into landscaping for Meiley-Swallow Hall.

Students have also recently revitalized their environmental organization and renamed themselves “Green Scene.” Working with faculty adviser Barnett and under the leadership of president Ryan Nalley ’10 and vice president Jenny Baker ’11, Green Scene is focusing first on increasing awareness about campus recycling and daily ways to support the environment.

“It is exciting how the entire North Central community is coming together to promote healthy, safe and environmentally conscious behavior among students, faculty and staff,” Hamen says. “Everyone who is a part of it is truly setting the standard of leadership and values that North Central stands for.”

North Central NOW Winter 2008