The word “sustainability” has become much more than an abstract concept around the campus of North Central College. Managing resources in a more responsible way in a global environment is a practice that has become entrenched in the operation of the institution.
Today, sustainability impacts the campus in dozens of ways, embodying a commitment in the College’s Strategic Plan for 2007-2012 to review new construction, renovations, equipment upgrades, programs and day-to-day operations for sustainability. It spans the implementation of office recycling bins, put in place several years ago, to offering remote parking to reducing energy costs to cultivating a lush vegetable garden to supply fresh produce for Kaufman Dining Hall, new in 2010.
The garden and other programs are under the guidance of the College’s new sustainability coordinator, Abby Hahne, hired to oversee efforts to reduce the College’s carbon footprint and develop alternative energy sources. “Sustainability impacts all corners of the College,” says Hahne.
The College in recent years established the Cardinal Red Bike program, which allows students to rent a bike for an annual fee, and implemented shuttles to remote parking lots and to popular shopping and entertainment destinations. Two Zipcars are available that students, faculty and staff can use for a small fee if they don’t have cars on campus.
The Res/Rec Center represents the College’s first effort to construct a large-scale green building with cutting edge technology. It consumes 17.5 percent less energy compared to traditional construction. The building is being considered for silver standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Eliminating food trays from Kaufman Dining Hall has reduced food waste and conserved water used for washing. As a result, the College saved 181,350 gallons of water and 1,674 pounds of chemicals this past year. Students were asked to recycle their discarded room carpets as they moved out, and the Class of 2010 graduated in gowns made of recycled plastics. After Commencement, bottles and water left behind were recycled.
Sustainability took on a new incarnation with the planting of a vegetable garden on Loomis Street in spring. Hahne, along with Kris Bagamery-Warren, campus gardener, recruited volunteers to help. They started harvesting tomatoes, peas, zucchini, salad greens and other vegetables in July.
“We’re all becoming more aware of the emphasis on eating locally grown food because it reduces transportation costs, carbon emissions and other wastes,” says Hahne. “Chartwells has been featuring items from the garden and we can educate our students about the impact of locally grown foods.” Hahne points out that rainwater barrels are used for watering the plot and a compost pile is in place.
Hahne successfully submitted an application to the City of Naperville’s Greener Business Program for a $30,000 matching grant to replace windows in Student Village and to install motion detectors over the summer in Old Main, Harold and Eva White Activities Center, Carnegie Hall, Kroehler Science Center and Goldspohn Hall. The detectors automatically shut off the lights in halls and offices when there is no motion for 30 minutes. This follows a campus-wide installation of T8 energy-efficient fluorescent lighting.
“Sustainability is such a global concept, it goes way beyond recycling to looking at smart choices for our future,” says Mike Hudson, assistant vice president for business operations. “It’s reducing the waste of resources and looking at smart ways to incorporate new technologies as we replace and upgrade our facilities and systems.”
On the academic side, the College created an interdisciplinary minor in environmental studies in 2007 and certain study abroad experiences have emphasized environmental awareness. Both Hahne and Hudson want to recruit more campus participation as Hahne co-chairs the campus sustainability committee with Jeffrey Anstine, associate professor of management. They hope to team up with Student Governing Association to improve residence hall recycling and introduce other initiatives. Hahne would like to recycle packing materials that result from students moving to campus with new flat screen televisions and appliances.
Adds Hahne: “Our goal is to make sustainability a culture on campus that starts with communicating through orientation materials for new students and goes through graduation with gowns of recycled plastic.”
North Central NOW Fall 2010