Written by Sophia Anner, ESLLC 2016-2017
Every month, the Sustainability Council meets, at 8:30 am on a Thursday. Who knew? The Sustainability Council is sort of an in between of student efforts (or even just efforts that are really known about by sustainably-minded students) and what the administration is doing. The group consists of anyone who wants to attend a meeting that early with breakfast not included – I have been to two, March and April. If I remember correctly, the group hadn’t really met officially until the March meeting since October. Regardless, I first heard of and attended in March. Other attendees usually include: Fred Cheever, the head of the Council, Chad King, James Rosner (head of facilities), related faculty members (often in geography, environmental science, sustainability, or law), graduate leads working under Chad, concerned students (including a DU Divest representative), and curious parents and community members. The March meeting was especially interesting because Vice Chancellors attended and “sparred” slightly with an advocate of the sustainable food policy – a graduate student at the law school. They were not present at the April meeting.
Chad was also present, so after Fred led a round of introductions, he went over the outline of what has been happening at the Center for Sustainability. The Center moved to Towers, and hosted the Sustainability Summit this past weekend. The Zero Waste Team met hockey zero waste goals, and more initiatives in waste are being put into place, such as food waste measurements in dining halls and a zero waste event guide – for example, recently the debate national championships were held at DU and were a zero waste event. In terms of transportation, there are many updates: the ski bus was successful and will continue in future years, the bike shop did 85 free tune ups last quarter, three biking safety courses will be offered in May, and there is a petition through an outside group to get more funding for bike and pedestrian lanes. In addition, DU is a stakeholder in a mobility plan that is shaping up to look like a community plaza surrounding the University light rail station and a two-way bike lane separate from the car lanes on the south side of Buchtel that will extend relatively far in either direction. For the energy team, JMAC won the energy competition (look out for an ice cream party soon!) and the renter efficiency program is still running smoothly. In Food and Gardens, new garden are being planned for large expansions, and a new CSA was added to the two existing, Growhaus and Ela Family Farms. Finally, in terms of education, Campaign Fridays are still running and the team is working on how to embed sustainable practices into the incoming students.
More curiously, next was a facilities update from James Rosner. This is where the meeting becomes more about learning about inside knowledge that isn’t super accessible to most. Rosner updated four job descriptions to include that the employees must attend the Sustainability Council meetings to connect more to the public. There will be better reporting and communication from facilities in terms of allowing information to be available. In the LLC class, Tom McGee delivered the February greenhouse gas emissions report, which Rosner redelivered to the council.
Fred then moved onto the more complicated administrative portions. He explained that there would be a Board of Trustees meeting the next day (the one Divest tried to speak at unsuccessfully) and he was worried sustainability would not be discussed at the meeting. Fred asked for an update from Rosner and Chad after the June meeting about the green revolving fund, and implored people to talk to the administration about sustainability like we talk about inclusive excellence. Fred brought up that maybe emissions aren’t our priority because we’re doing so well (though it was not mentioned that next year’s numbers will be greatly different due to expansion of buildings, including the Engineering and Computer Science building that was not on the FY 2016 report). The Board reached out to Chad and Rosner April 9th about a resolution on climate change and sustainability, and they asked for feedback by April 11th, which was declined as it was not enough time to ask the council for feedback. There was an update on the green fund, which boils down to the idea that the people working with the budget moved money around and it disappeared, and so more transparency is necessary for the fund to continue to help the sustainable efforts on campus.
There was a quick update about the garden (Water is on! Bees are doing well! Things are sprouting! Teams have been set up!) and the sustainable food policy (next up is including dining, catering, and retail in AASHE reports, and how to confirm Sodexo will be able to meet our demands).
So why does this all matter? While waking up early on one of my sleep-in days is not preferable, I feel more involved in the bigger picture ideas, and I’m realizing how much work it is to really get things done on a bigger scale. There was a significant decrease in attendees from March to April, and I worry that as things become more administrative and harder for one person to fix, people will stop showing up. I think it is extremely important for more students to get involved, and so now that you’re caught up, show up next time!
*Pictured above is the DU Community Garden, which is soon to be bursting with life! The garden was one of the projects that was larger scale for the community, but relatively smaller scale compared to the main issues that the Council discusses. That said, the garden is still one of our most important sustainable features on campus as it brings together community and education along with food sustainability.