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Sustainability week at SLU

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Wednesday wrapped up the first ever Sustainability Week at Saint Louis University.  The events started on Oct. 24, aligning perfectly with the designated Campus Sustainability Day by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability.

The United Nations defines sustainability as, “meeting the needs of today’s generation without compromising the potential for future generations to do the same.”  The University’s strong partnership with Facilities Services began in 2009, when single-stream recycling was first instituted.  Since then, the collaboration has grown and rooted itself throughout the University, promoting awareness and fueling action within departments, organizations and students.

A large movement of the week has been the implementation of the new single-stream recycling program recently installed on campus, in the form of sister blue garbage cans next to the normal black ones.  These new cans hold paper products, metal, plastic and glass; trash in the form of food, liquid and Styrofoam is to be placed in the traditional cans.  Even pizza boxes caked in day-old melted cheese can be recycled.  This improvement to campus was only one of many steps for the betterment of the University’s environment.

Efforts are not going unnoticed, either.  In October 2011, SLU was awarded a bronze rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, an honor recognizing efforts in environmental, social and economic sustainability.  This trend won’t soon pass, with the first class from the master’s program in sustainability graduating this upcoming May – putting SLU alumni in careers that further develop sustainable efforts within government, business and education.

On Oct. 29 and 30, a sustainability conference was held here on campus.  The conference worked to restore areas struck by natural disasters, using sustainable, energy-saving practices.  Even Make a Difference Day (MADD) jumped on board, making the service day’s theme sustainability.  MADD promoted green practices by providing reusable water bottles to volunteers and using biodegradable bags for complimentary lunches.

There is even a solar-powered golf cart rolling around.  The cart was created and developed by a team of undergraduates in Parks College of Engineering, giving hands-on experience to the students and a new set of wheels for Facilities Services.  The speed of the cart has not been released but a video was leaked of a race between the normal cart and the solar cart.  The solar cart won.

All of these improvements are helping the environment but also deflating the bottom line.  Replacing one light bulb may not be that influential, but replacing all of the light bulbs on campus can make a huge difference.  At the SLU Medical Center, one switch of the lights has cut electricity by more than 370,000 kilowatt hours.  Annually, this adds up to nearly $25,000 saved.

Sustainability Week is over but that doesn’t mean efforts to educate and improve SLU have stopped.  Go green and throw it in the blue.

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