Members of Grassroots’ Executive Board presented their vision for a College-wide sustainability policy to a group of UR faculty and administrators, on Jan. 24.

“We’re talking about something more than material. It’s about curriculum,” one of the presenters for Grassroots and junior Andrew Hall said.

“Are we preparing our students to understand what it means to be a member of the community? To be an environmental steward. We consider sustainability fundamental,” he said.

Hall, along with junior Nils Klinkenberg and senior Nils Klinkenberg and Senior Rebecca Neville, also members of Grassroots’ Executive Board, outlined their Sustainable Campuses Initiative to an invited group of about 30 in a third floor conference room of Rush Rhees library with the hope of creating a dialogue and gathering support for a policy.

According to Grassroots, sustainability means, “to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet its own needs. It is responsibility to a triple bottom line of social, economic, and environmental stability.”

Currently, UR does not have a sustainability policy, although Grassroots is hopeful about the future. “University support has been quite good,” said Klinkenberg. In upcoming weeks, Grassroots hopes to make a formal presentation to the University President and Provost.

“We have a responsibility to equip students with knowledge and awareness as well as a responsibility to become a living example of what it means to address sustainability,” Hall said.

“We need to consider three areas. One, our proactive message; the one we verbally and actively give our students and the world. Two, our subliminal message; the one we give by example here on campus. Three, our internal operations; the things we do that few people know about, but are just the right thing to do. The path to accomplishing these goals is to do so organically. We’re not talking micro-management, but a broad set of guidelines and a reporting system that awards those who are excelling and have excelled in the past.” Hall said.

According to Hall, over 100 universities have sustainability policies. However, Grassroots hopes to make UR’s policy both effective and unique. “There are plenty of university policies addressing the environment, or purchasing, or local community, but we want to be one of the first saying all three of these components must come together. That means the cogeneration project that’s digging up our campus. That means Wilson Days and the RED program, and that means responsible finance and investment,” Hall said.

After the presentation of Grassroots’ ideas, University Architect Paul Tankel addressed the crowd. “Talking with these folks [Grassroots] for several months, I can tell you they have great ideas,” Tankel said.

Tankel discussed the steps already being undertaken by Facilities towards sustainability such as new building projects and Cogeneration. “The BME/Optics building will be a sustainable building,” Tankel said. He added that the choices made concerning disposal of construction waste, ventilation, furnishings, irrigation, and energy are some of the factors that contribute to a building’s sustainability. The BME/Optics building, for example, will employ motion sensors to trigger circulation and lighting systems and will use bamboo in the interior, which has a much faster growth cycle than most wood.

Tankel believes that sustainability “is an opportunity for us to be a leader in the community…This isn’t a mild shift, this is a paradigm shift. It should be University wide,” Tankel said.

However, “So much of this policy is about the teaching piece,” Tankel said.

The presentation was followed by an open dialogue, as the purpose of the meeting was to gather support and assistance from UR faculty and administrators. “We are now looking to you for not only your support, but also your wisdom,” Neville said.

During the dialogue, some concerns about the implementation of a sustainability policy were voiced by Political Science department chair Professor Gerald Gamm, ” How do we take this very broad language and make it relevant to the History Department…I can see what it means for Facilities and for Dining…but what does it mean for the rest of us?”

Making the policy tangible for all areas of the College was also a concern of Dean of Students Jody Asbury. “I hope that they [Grassroots] won’t be shy about laying out concrete things organizations can do,” Asbury said.



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