Sustainable Campus Essay

Sustainable is an adjective that should describe every institution in this 21st century, but unfortunately, in an objective analysis of many institutions, it rarely does. The purpose of this paper is to provide a preliminary blue print, made for the University of IL at Chicago, which can be easily modified and applied to any urban academic campus. In today’s highly politicized world, there are many misconceptions about sustainability. For example, many believe that sustainability doesn’t consider human comfort or high cost for application.

However, sustainability is a conservative idea that not only saves the environment, but much too many administrations’ pleasure saves money. Sustainability also is based on the idea that by saving resources and decreasing the amount waste will increase not only current generations’ but also future generations’ standard of living. Just as the United Nations’ definition of sustainability states, “Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UN and Sustainibility ).

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There are five main principles behind the Idea: Respect life, Live within Limits, Value the local economy, Account for full costs, and Share Power (UN and Sustainibility ). In this proposal, the solutions incorporating these principles and their implementation processes will be stated. Problem: In recent years, UIC has opened the Office of Sustainability and has been taking steps to improve the conditions on campus, which can proved us with the foundations needed for the future actions.

While the office of sustainability at UIC has been working hard, based on the data collected by the Associate Chancellor of Sustainability, Cynthia Klein-Banai, the UIC has greenhouse gas emission of 300,000 Metric ton CO2 equivalents per year (Klain-Banai). Based on the Star rating system of 31 different four-year colleges, UIC has the rating of Bronze, with the Innovation rating of 0. UIC scored greatly below average in the fields of Education and Research, Operations, and Planning, Administration and Engagement, as well. The Lack of scores in these rating can be simplified for UIC in few basic categories. Buildings and Grounds: Weakness: Old Buildings and Infra-structure.

Most of the Land is occupied by the buildings and parking structures, leading to increase in the greenhouse gas emission by built on land. Solution: Several new buildings are planned for the campus in near future, including the major ones, such as, UIC, and even many old buildings can be modified with few green building techniques, such as green roof, solar panels and updated ventilation systems. * Dining services: Weakness: Many food products are not purchased locally; food waste is degraded at landfills.

Solution: local small businesses are contracted for raw food supply, increase the vegetarian and vegan diet to descend on the energy-food chain pyramid; and compost the food waste in order to create bio-gas and lessen the impact on the environment. * Energy: Energy is the most important component of analysis, considering that more than 70% of the greenhouse gas emission is a result of it. Weakness: The University has not signed the Presidents climate commitment, pledging to reduce the campus’ net greenhouse emission. Many places still use incandescent light bulbs.

Solution: Implement and sign Presidents climate commitment, change incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. Install solar panels and other environmentally friendly equipment, during renovation of all buildings and creation of the new ones. * Transportation: Weakness: Since UIC is an urban campus, majority of population at UIC commutes every day, leading to a large foot print. Lack of discount for trains from sub-urban areas leads to increase in use of private transportation, increasing not only greenhouse emission directly by fossil fuel but also by creating a necessity for large parking spaces.

Solution: Create a bargain deal with Metra-rail or similar services. Make biking to UIC more accessible for students, by creating a term-long bike renting facilities. Create a website similar to UIC off-campus housing to let students post advertisement for carpooling and other shared transportation programs. * Waste Management: Weakness: While there is a recycling program on campus, the recycling bins are not easily available on many places. The lawn-waste is not composted. There is also a lack of efficiency in the handling of the garbage pick-up routes.

Solution: Extend recycling program across campus. Install Smart garbage and recycling bins on campus to decrease unnecessary garbage pick-up runs. Create a small student run, work-study program to come up with new solution to this issue. Harvest rain water to decrease run-off water and recharge water-table. * Education and Research: Weakness: There is a lack of research projects on sustainability at UIC; as well as, number of courses required by the University for the students, in the field of environment and sustainability.

In the star rating report in 2010, UIC scored 38. 61% in the field of Education and research, which was among bottom10% of the participant universities. Solution: Create broad competitions that will reward students from any discipline in the University for coming up with an environmental innovation. Make it a University requirement to make students take at least one course on sustainability. Implementation (Framing the campaign) While Sustainability is the unifying theme of this paper, we should be careful while presenting this as a brand on campus.

In the book, “Main stream or forever niche? , Gordon asked in a survey, “How do people looked at the words like green and sustainable, as a brand? ” While many responses were positive, a huge minority did respond from “wacky, alternative, annoying, opinionated, virtuous and responsible” to “argumentative, militant and intolerant”. (UN and Sustainibility ) As a result, a great campaign is necessary to bring about the solutions, which were stated above. To avoid a political controversy, UIC can reform Office of Sustainability nto a unifying office that works on many campaigns, such as, “Focus UIC”: a campaign that can diversify into Focus on the Art, Focus on the Traditions. The Sustainability part of the campaign can be stated as “Focus on the Future”. The campaign can lead to unifying effort with Focus UIC office in creating a better campus all around with influencing sustainability in each aspect of campus life. Additionally, a human resource structure and written action plan will be required to achieve multiple short term and long term goals set-up over the years.

One form of a written structure is an Environmental Management Plan— a comprehensive plan which simultaneously defines goals and strategies, from both ecological and economic perspectives, and provides the means through which they can be implemented. Environmental Management Plans are endorsed by the college President and board of trustees before being implemented throughout the institution. A central component of an EMP is a comprehensive statement of policy, which is often incorporated into the Strategic Plan and/or Mission Statement of the institution.

A plan similar to the one stated above is already being created, which is called “UIC Climate Action plan”. (Klain-Banai). While this plan addresses many of the energy foot-print issues, little is stated on plans to improve the student involvement on campus and on creating a structure required achieve these goals. Successful sustainability programs also have well-organized human resources with high degrees of institutional authority. A combination of a staff member and a permanent council or committee can be an effective way to create and implement sustainability-related projects and to draft specific policies.

Committees, however, require a significant degree of commitment from their members and careful direction to ensure that they are productive rather than symbolic. The survey completed for this report shows that, overall, the UIC faculty and staff appear to be supportive of the idea of forming a sustainability committee. The majority of respondents were in favor of a permanent committee and a significant percent expressed interest in being personally involved. (UIC office of Sustainability) However, many people still have concerns regarding the council being created. For example, any feel that the committee will be just another group of “bureaucrats”, making decisions about others with whom they have not connection. Having a committee for sustainability shows institutional commitment to the issue. Also, a sustainability committee will be unique because they will be closely involved with academics, operations, and student life and will provide a direct connection between all members of the college community and the college president, since they will be handful of selected people from the different part of the community. There are also concerns regarding the salaries of people on the committee.

But this should not be a problem, since most of the positions will be occupied by current members of UIC staff and student and the positions that do require extra pay, can easily make up for that amount in the recovery they make in resources to the University. Budget: One of the biggest hurdles which sustainability initiatives must overcome is that the costs to sustainability are often perceived as outweighing the benefits. Members of the UIC community have expressed concern about financing sustainability but also are aware of potential long-term financial rewards resulting from a more sustainable campus.

Clearly, a commitment to sustainable practices at UIC, or anywhere, must be implemented in a manner that is both complete and realistic. UIC is not presently in a situation of financial strength, currently. However, sustainability should not be simply an additional expense. For example, the fact that UIC has many facilities which need to be upgraded and renovated is an opportunity to implement green building practices which will save money for the college; this opportunity would not exist if UIC were not already planning these construction and renovation projects.

Also, many sustainability initiatives, especially those which focus on waste reduction, will be able to save the college money, which can potentially be allocated to finance additional elements of the sustainability initiative. Sustainability initiatives save significant amounts of money; programs at numerous colleges and universities have achieved substantial cost savings which have more than compensated for the cost of the program itself. For example, Cornell University’s “Campus Sustainability in Higher Education” urvey of sustainability programs asked institutions to report the amount of money that their sustainability initiatives had saved. Amounts reported by ten universities were in range of millions to tens of millions of dollars. Although the survey referred was created for the large universities in non-urban setting, the most successful sustainability strategies are the same for all institutions; when modified for the setting, it is likely that UIC could save a great amount of money with amazing sustainability initiatives.

An example from Carleton College demonstrates that sustainability does not need to compete with already scarce funds. After an initial investment, many programs will be able to pay for themselves. (Office of Sustaiability, Carlton College) Moreover, a visible and comprehensive sustainability program can also be an indirect source of revenue as it may attract potential donors, prospective students, and even additional government grants.

Conclusion: In conclusion, UIC has been making many great strides in recent years, to increase sustainability, by decreasing their Carbon foot-print but their efforts have been undermined due to lack of HR structure and a good campaign, hopefully this proposal addresses the environmental problems, while also providing us with an idea for better movement structure and action plan. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Manthan Shah

Works Cited
Klain-Banai, Cynthia. “UIC State of Sustainibility.” February 2010. UIC, Office of Sustainability. Document. November 2012. Office of Sustaiability, Carlton College. Sustainability at Carleton. 2012. Website. 2012. UIC office of Sustainability. “UIC CLimate Action plan.” 2011. UIC, Office of Sustainability. November 2012. UN and Sustainibility . 2012. 2012.