Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Council takes stock of the year in sustainability

From blue bins to green parking to putting it all in black and white, DU’s Sustainability Council in May wrapped up a year of new initiatives and environmental thinking.

The council, comprised of students, faculty and staffers, spent the year writing an all-encompassing sustainability plan as part of DU’s participation in the College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. The comprehensive proposal now awaits review by the University’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership. When it’s complete, the plan will help guide DU toward a more environmentally sustainable future.

The plan was one component of an academic year that saw DU conduct an inventory of greenhouse gasses and embark on a host of environmental initiatives.

Sturm College of Law Professor Fred Cheever served as chairman during the committee’s first academic year. He’s stepping down this summer to handle new challenges but says he’ll stay involved and supportive.

“It’s been a great experience, and we’ve been making steady progress,” Cheever said. “There’s a lot to do—our future is tied to sustainability—but it’s been rewarding to see how we’ve worked not only on campus, but also with the city and the state and the country.”

Here are some of the year’s accomplishments:

  • A campus-wide recycling program that saw some 3,000 blue recycling bins rolled out, all offering “single-stream” recycling that doesn’t require participants to sort plastics, paper and cans. Everything goes in one bin to make things easy.
  • The “Get Caught Green-Handed” recycling campaign doubled the amount of materials recycled each month. And council members are pushing for more, including the addition of recycling bins located outside on campus, while seeking to include information about recycling in first-year student orientation.
  • DU saw the addition of an environmentally friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station to supply the campus’ growing fleet of vehicles that use the cleaner-burning fuel.
  • A pilot program offering premium parking spots for certified “green” commuter vehicles has proven popular, with most spots in the Evans parking garage filled with approved “green” cars.
  • DU is opening its first community garden, joining the campus community and neighbors together with plots along High Street where gardeners can grow their own organic vegetables.
  • DU will continue its commitment to purchasing wind energy as well as campus conservation methods such as the use of more efficient lighting.
  • Next fall, the campus hopes to create a pilot program for a “bicycle library” that will allow DU community members to borrow a bicycle. The program would eventually become part of a planned citywide bike-sharing program Denver officials say will launch next spring with 600 bikes.

As they reviewed accomplishments at a May 7 meeting, committee members began discussing plans for next year that could include solar-powered electric car chargers, more use of locally grown organic foods in campus dining halls, composting, a new Web site and academic programs aimed at sustainability.

“We’ve had a good start and we’re moving forward,” Cheever says. “It’s really wonderful how many members of the DU community have invested their time and thinking into this program, and it has really energized a lot of people in a lot of different ways.”

For more info, please visit the Sustainability Council Web site.

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