Faculty, staff and students can have a significant impact on campus and in our community by making sustainable choices in their everyday activities. In order to create a sustainability-minded campus it is vital that these initiatives be undertaken hand-in-hand with our students. Students enthusiasm to think innovatively about their place in a rapidly changing world must be nurtured. The campus community needs resources and information to make informed sustainable choices. Campus services, student-led initiatives, and the campus culture are areas that display how sustainability is evident in our campus life.
- Our university currently recycles paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, tin cans, glass bottles and plastic bottles, ink and toner cartridges, E-waste (electronics, computers, monitors, etc), fluorescent light bulbs, scrap metals, batteries and many other types of material.
- The Food Services department has made a commitment of 1% of the meal plan revenue to go towards funding sustainable initiatives on campus. They also have an agreement in place to recycle fryer shortening with a local biofuels group.
- Food Services also is committed to adding locally produced products to their menu through a partnership with a local grower, Nevada Naturals.
- The Reno Bike Project and University Parking added two additional bike stations to campus. Residential Life and the ASUN Bookstore also collaborated with the Reno Bike Project and will now carry helpful bike supplies and repair instructions in the bookstore and dorms. The Reno Bike Project has also volunteered to hold bicycle repair classes on campus.
- Students are designing a Green Guide that will be distributed to all incoming freshman at orientation. This Green Guide will provide resources to students and will include details about current sustainability practices, community contacts, energy facts, and most important, a section devoted to what everyone on campus can do to make a difference.
Student grassroots initiatives have played a significant role in spreading the word about environmental awareness. By actively endorsing student-run energy awareness and peer education initiatives as part of a coherent, long-term energy conservation strategy, the university administration will gain access to a widespread and highly motivated labor supply dedicated to reducing the Universitys carbon footprint. The establishment of an environmentally savvy, or green culture on campus will not only improve the universitys energy efficiency and public image, it will impart graduating students with a personal commitment to adopting sustainable lifestyles they will carry with them throughout life. Here are a few examples of student led initiatives on campus:
- Three student groups (EnAct, Ecohydrology Club and SAIWI) are planning the first UNR Energy Wars in October 2009. Energy Wars is a competition between residence halls on campus to consume the least energy (natural gas, electricity, water).
- The EnAcT student group started an organic garden and composting system on campus, and has also sold their produce locally.
- A Student Sustainability Pledge was recently drafted (by students) to be added to new student packets.
- Our student-run newspaper, The Sagebrush, added a sustainability news column. A weekly or monthly sustainability column will engage a broader student and alumni interest in green initiatives both on campus and nationally.
The challenge of changing the culture of any university lies in increasing awareness and education of its students, faculty and staff. Faculty and staff participate and lead sustainability efforts in the classroom and in the operations of the campuswith much of the work happening behind the scenes. Students possess great enthusiasm and capability to think innovatively about their place in a rapidly changing world and are a significant part of the culture of any campus. While significant steps can be taken behind the scenes in terms of improved operations efficiencies, a large percentage must derive from personal commitment to change. A key part of this change is communication. The Sustainability Committee has done the following things to communicate with the campus and community about the current sustainability practices and information on campus:
- The University launched this sustainability website to highlight sustainability efforts on campus. This website also serves as a marketing tool for prospective students.
- The Campus Life working group designed a sustainability survey scheduled to be administered campus wide in the Fall of 2009. The results of this survey will be used to gather baseline data and educate the campus community.
The following actions, if adopted, could change the campus culture to a more environmentally sustainable one; however, they will require support from the entire university community:
- Establish an Eco-Rep program. Eco-Reps are students employed by a university to educate and encourage students about living sustainably. The focus of the Eco-Rep program would be to persuade students to recycle and engage them in energy awareness activities.
- Increase energy awareness by installing energy monitors in residence halls. The cost of installing these monitors and the real-time program software would be offset in a few years. In addition, campus energy awareness would increase significantly as a result.
- Engage non-sustainability oriented groups and disciplines in campus sustainability initiatives. The sustainability movement has spanned many different student groups on campus that might potentially contribute to improving campus energy use awareness. For instance, campus religious groups have recently been emphasizing environmental responsibility; the Arts and Music community also has the potential to produce a significant following. The administration is in a great position to encourage these groups to work together towards the energy conservation goals of the University as a whole.
- Create an Eco House residence hall - A dedicated residence hall would provide sustainable living options for energy conscious students on campus and allows motivated students to live sustainable lifestyles, and creates a model for sustainable living on campus to which other students might look for information and guidance.
- Establish a green fund. A green fund could be created by students from a small student fee. This fund would be collected and reserved for sustainable initiatives and available to students through an application process. These funds would provide the university the opportunity to showcase student activities and facilitate new initiatives.