University scores points for environmentally friendly views
May 5, 2010 1:18 PM
The Princeton Review, an education services and test-prep company known for its annual college listings, ranked SF State as one of the top 286 environmentally responsible colleges and universities in the nation.
Colleges were examined using the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) green building certification program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The Princeton Review collaborated with LEED in order to identify and measure which campuses are excelling in their environmental efforts.
"Across the board, you guys are knocking off some of the highest categories," said Kristin Simmons, the higher education sector associate of LEED. "You guys really stand out."
According to Simmons, SF State is on the right path to helping make huge improvements to the environment by promoting campus-wide composting and recycling, using 60 percent local organic foods, offering a wide variety of classes relating to sustainability and making an effective effort to reduce CO2 levels.
SF State sends 72 percent of its waste to be recycled, composted or reused, as opposed to being dumped in landfills. Simmons said this diversion rate is unheard-of in colleges.
These accomplishments come from the University's overall effort to promote sustainability within organizations, curriculum and the campus community.
"Many colleges and universities are including sustainability into their academics, initiatives, events and research," said Caitlin Steele, sustainability programs manager. "Since we are a university committed to social justice, I think sustainability is a key aspect of that."
The Campus Sustainability Committee was founded in fall 2008 and has since been working to educate and integrate sustainability on campus.
As huge advocates of the environment, the Committee hopes that by 2020 the University will be a worldwide model of sustainability among public education institutions.
In efforts to increase the educational element of sustainability and continue its presence on campus, the Academic Senate passed a bill on May 4 that will require everyone from the University to acquire basic learning objectives geared towards sustainability in at least one of their classes.
"We believe quite strongly that everybody should be able to graduate with a basic understanding in environmental sustainability," said Associate Professor of Apparel Design and Merchandising Connie Ulasewicz. "This should be an integral part of the SFSU Baccalaureate Degree."
Ulasewicz, who attended the Senate's meeting, has also been recognized as being a leader in the sustainable fashion movement. She integrates sustainability within her courses by having her students participate in projects that serve the community and promote a responsible and sustainable fashion industry.
According to Ulasewicz, the bill will not require students to take any additional courses. Instead, it will mean specific classes will incorporate sustainability within their curriculum.
"SF State believes that it is our obligation to be engaging students in outcomes of environmental sustainability across all disciplines," Ulasewicz said.
Students are also involved in the efforts to help make SF State an environmentally friendly campus.
Environmental studies major Allison Schentrup currently serves as the administrative coordinator for ECO Students, an organization dedicated to making SF State a better school and workplace for everyone.
Schentrup said that it is extremely important to work towards making the campus as sustainable as possible for the entire community.
"Campuses are like miniature towns that serve a wide variety of people," Schentrup said.
Although the organization was the driving force behind the compost bins throughout campus, Schentrup believes that without education, their efforts are lost.
"Education is totally key," Schentrup said. "I don't want to disregard the importance of institutionalizing something like compost bins, but if students don't have a sign in front of them telling them what goes in what bin, then they won't know."
The overall purpose of the programs, organizations and curriculum is to help improve college campuses and the education students gain about sustainability.
It is the new trend for campuses to go green. With innovative ideas emerging all over the nation, more and more colleges are being recognized for their efforts in helping preserve the environment.
Simmons said that 68 percent of prospective college students take sustainability into account when looking at campuses.
That number helped inspire the Princeton Review to come up with the "Guide to 286 Green Colleges" for the first time in 2008.
"Colleges are really competitive with each other, and so the list is going to keep raising the bar, and I think that it's raising the bar in the right way," Simmons said.
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