Sustainability at Elmhurst College

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Elmhurst College Sustainability Plan

The Sustainability Plan operates within the umbrella of the College’s Strategic Plan 2014–2020: Leading with Values: A Vision for Elmhurst College in 2020. It supports the Strategic Plan by specifically addressing the overall use of physical resources in College operations; by encouraging meaningful sustainability contributions from the offices, departments, the faculty, staff and students comprising the College community; and above all, by instilling sustainability as a value in our students. It operates, in general, within the same timeframe as the Strategic Plan; currently 2014–2020. It also provides a record of established and modified goals and achievements met along the way.

Sustainability as a value and a practice supports the aims of the Strategic Plan in several ways. Initially, the plan assists in the pursuit of those innovations here at the College which respect the physical environment and foster sustainability in the management of our resources (Core Value of Stewardship). Secondly, sustainability practices are strong and visible endorsements of the College’s commitment to the Core Value of Social Responsibility. Preserving today’s resources and improving tomorrow’s environment are recognized as critical and moral imperatives. Thirdly, projects and changes undertaken under this plan often contribute to the more efficient use of resources and consequently produce cost savings to the institution. Lastly, the Sustainability Plan contains the germs for establishing sustainable practices and sustainability scholarship into the lives of our students.  

College and Sustainability Plan Goals

  • Develop base information from professional sources and from the College Community itself in order to provide direction and priorities for the College’s sustainability efforts.
  • Make the document become a 5-year outline for identifying and measuring progress
  • Improve awareness and understanding of environmental issues
  • Encourage faculty, students and staff to participate in the sustainability efforts of the College
  • Improve College efforts to support green sustainable practices
  • Educate students through programs and curriculum regarding their environmental responsibilities as members of a multicultural global society
  • Engage in higher education, the local community, and national organizations involved in sustainability

Major Areas of Concentration

Area 1: Energy and Natural Resources

Continue to seek cost effective ways to minimize the use of fossil fuel energy sources and finite natural resources by enhancing energy conservation in existing buildings and striving toward sustainable energy practices in the renovation of current buildings and construction of new buildings.

Strategies

 1.1—GHG Surveys: Conduct updated greenhouse gas inventories every 3d year to measure progress and to identify new methods to reduce the carbon footprint and energy use in general.  Seek a 2.5% reduction every three years beginning in 2010. (For the Record: The College conducted greenhouse gas inventories in 2010 and again in 2013. Using the indicators measured in 2010, the College experienced a reduction of 12% in greenhouse gas emission.) 

1.2LEED Standards: As funds permit, commit to meet LEED standards for construction of new buildings on campus and, where feasible, LEED certification for renovations in existing buildings. (For the Record: West Hall was LEED certified Gold in 2009. Environs include prairie plantings, paver block parking lot with water collection feature and roof solar panels augmenting building power.)

1.3—Natural Gas Use: This multipronged strategy consists of 1) using vendor surveys, grants and inspections on a continuing basis to identify efficiencies; 2) installing a new boiler in 2010; 3) placing energy flow monitors on gas lines (2013); and 4) rehabilitating buildings for energy efficiency (e.g. new windows (2009 to ongoing), continued installation of better controls, automated energy tracking (2009). (For the Record: With all actions considered, natural gas costs have been reduced by $27,000 annually between 2009 and 2013.)

1.4—Electricity Use: This multipronged strategy consists of 1) continuing installation of motion sensor controls to turn off lights in office, conference room, classrooms and bathrooms on campus, 2) sending periodic reminders to the College community to turn off lights and equipment; 5) creation and reissue of signs posted in rooms, 4) installation of energy monitoring devices on energy flow lines to determine usage and seek efficiencies; and 6) a continuing and on-going retrofitting of light fixtures in high-use buildings to lower electricity use (five buildings done between 2009 and 2013). (For the Record: Between the 2010 and 2013 GHG surveys, electricity use was reduced by 2.9%. Furthermore, the above measures, taken to date, have resulted in a reduction of maximum electrical demand from 1900KW to 1700KW and a cost savings of $1,500/mo. between 2012 and mid-2014.)

1.5—Water consumption: The strategy in the water consumption area includes 1) continuing and on-going installation of faucet sensors, auto flush/low flow/dual flush toilets in high use buildings and residence hall rooms; 2) periodic reminders to the College community to be water use conscious.  An annual reduction of 5% is targeted from base year 2009. (For the Record: As retrofitting occurred, water consumption on annual basis has been reduced by 3.3 million gallons – a 14.3% annual reduction between 2009 and 2013.)

1.6—Paper Use: The College has implemented and has planned the following actions to reduce copier and printer paper use on campus by 5% per year through 2017: 1) an on-going program to replace outdated copiers/printers with fewer, more efficient, centralized machines was begun in 2013; 2) reduction in the use of desk side printers; 3) implementation of a system for paper use charges for students and visitors; 4) reminders to personnel of paper costs and paper waste issues on campus; 5) record and track paper use on campus. (For the Record: Between FYs 2012 to 2014, paper use reduction of 22.7% has been achieved: 2012, 6,990,000 sheets used; 2013, 5,800,000 sheets used; and 2014, 5,400,000 sheets used.)

Overall Assessment: The efforts undertaken in this area are subject to evaluation via the Green House Gas Surveys mentioned above. Our 2012 Green House Gas Inventory shows a 12% reduction in our carbon footprint over the first study of its type done in 2009.

Area 2: Arboretum and Landscape

Continue to develop, enhance and better manage the College Arboretum. Similarly, introduce practices that preserve to environment in the College’s grounds maintenance program.

Strategies

2.1—Arboretum Management: Over the period 2010 to 2014, develop methods to better manage the arboretum to include: 1) developing an electronic database for managing arboretum’s trees and encompassing green space; 2) utilize a GIS web-based program to identify tree location and condition; 3) link above records to the College website for public use; 4) maintain the systems established. (For the Record: Above items established in 2010 and 2011.)

2.2—Tree Campus, USA: Obtain and annually attain Tree Campus, USA, status for the campus grounds. (For the Record: Status achieved and maintained in 2011, 2012, 2013.)

2.3—Arbor Day Ceremony: Establish an Arbor Day Tree Planting Ceremony as a recurring event on campus. (For the Record: Achieved in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.)

2.4—Landscape Management: Introduce and use routinely environmentally safe fertilizers, insecticides, ice melters on campus and other products for use on campus. (For the Record: As a matter of policy, turf fertilizers used contain 40% organic material. In regard to insecticide use, such products are only used when necessary and the health or appearance of the plant is in jeopardy. The use of beet juice and Magic Salt ice products begun in 2010.)

2.4a—Composting: Compost and use composted landscape waste from ground’s operations. (For the Record: Established as policy in 2010.)

2.4b—Native Habitat: Wherever possible establish and maintain areas of native habitat on campus.  (For the Record: The USG Prairie Garden near West Hall was established in 2008 and the butterfly garden in 2013.)

Area 3: Parking, Transportation and Vehicle Use

Continue to research and support program initiatives designed to restrain and minimize campus parking in order to reduce further the College’s carbon footprint. Also, find ways to reduce fuel use in transportation and travel policies.

Strategies

3.1—Reduction of the number of vehicles on campus: This strategy requires actions in several fronts to reduce the number of cars on campus, these are 1) banning of vehicles on campus by freshman students, 2) setting parking fees for student use of College lots; 3) subsidizing public transportation costs for employees and 4) establishing liberal four-day work week policy for employees. (For the Record: All of the above were achieved by 2010.)

3.2—Support bicycle use as an alternative means of transport: After experimenting with a bicycle give-away program, the College provides free loaner bikes to students on short term loans (started in 2014). The College seeks to maintain and look at expanding this program between 2014 and 2020.

3.3—Establish and enforce a “No Idling Policy” for all vehicles: (For the Record: Appropriate policy statements and instructions were promulgated in 2010.)

3.4—Phase out gasoline powered vehicles for Facilities operations: Continue ongoing efforts as funds are available. (For the Record: Between 2010 and 2014, two gasoline powered vehicles have been replaced with electric golf cart type vehicles.)

Area 4: Recycling and Waste

Continue to analyze campus activities and programs that generate waste with the goal of minimizing such waste by reducing, reusing and recycling and communicate this philosophy to the campus at large.

4.1—Provide useable and attractive recycling containers on campus: As the starting point for the campus provide and keep fresh recycling containers, actions include: 1) providing personal containers to administrative workers and 2) placing recycling containers throughout campus.  Continue to review condition and use of containers as well as instructional signage. (For the Record: These were initially done between 2009 and 2011, inspection and replacement of containers is ongoing.)

4.2—Reduce the number of plastic water bottles by installing water bottle refill stations: Install new ones as funds are available. (For the Record: Between 2012 and 2011, five such stations were installed in high use buildings resulting in an estimated reduction of plastic bottle use by 77,000 as of early-2014.)

4.3—Recycle and reuse office supplies as a matter of policy and habit: The strategy here is to recycle and reuse wherever possible by: 1) recycling toner and ink cartridges, 2) Recycling outdated office and electronic equipment and 3) conducting periodic “office supply swaps” that encourage redistribution of unneeded office supplies.

4.4—Keep meaningful data on the amount material recycled annually e.g., single-steam versus landfill waste, food scrap composted, office supplies recycled, paper use: Establish formats and requirements for periodic reporting by 2015.

4.5—Expand disposal of industrial-type waste on campus: The strategy requires attention to developments in the field and be attentive and flexible in response. (For the Record: Such waste includes: hazardous chemical waste (first started in 1992), 2) use of low VOC paints and finishes as well as cleaning products; 3) carpets (2013), 4) florescent bulbs (2009), 5) dry erase markers (2010), 6) all metal and glass, 7) batteries and mercury reclamation (2014).)

4.5—Contribute to various charity programs by conducting special collection campaigns:
Encourage students and employees to conduct and contribute to various collection efforts often sponsored by local charities. From 2009 to 2014, these have included plastic bags, batteries, cloth shopping bags, gym shoes, bottle caps and clothing.

4.6—Establish and maintain a food scrap composting program in the cafeteria: This program has been recognized as innovative and in establishing it, the College has 1) found a suitable vendor for scrap removal, 2) developed signs and instructions to assist cafeteria patrons, 3) established the Living Green Team to assist cafeteria patrons in sorting waste, 4) obtained a State of Illinois grant for a compost grinder, 5) worked with Chartwells to obtain compostable plates, cups, tableware, etc. Set a goal of composting 90% of food scraps by the end of school year 2013–2014. The College will maintain the existing program and look into expanding it to other locations on campus to increase composting amounts by 2% per year through 2020. (For the Record: Operations begun in September 2013 with the initial goal met by June 2014.)

4.7—Continue to reduce amount of waste going into landfill: The College is committed and will attempt to reduce the amount of landfill trash by increasing the amount of recyclables by 2% per year through 2020 using 2009 as a base year.

Area 5: Education and Campus Participation

Develop methods to increase campus awareness and understanding of the value and societal role of sustainability in modern life. This can be done through a variety of means to include the content of classes, creation of student organizations, and use of a wide range of communication channels. As an important and growing function in public life, explore and encourage sustainability as a field of study and potential career path for students.

Strategies

5.1—Course development: Continue to develop and offer a range of courses that have a sustainability focus.  Supportive actions include: 1) providing faculty development funds to assist faculty in developing expertise in the area of sustainability, and 2) assisting faculty in making connections with organizations and persons that deal with issues of sustainability in order to foster professional knowledge.

5.2—Support and assist students who express an interest in sustainability: Direct support to students can best come through the work of the sustainability committee and certain actions can include: 1) inclusion of students as members of the sustainability committee; 2) providing interested students with access to sustainability related publications, persons and events;  3) continuing to offer a cash award to the student presentation at the Annual May Student Showcase which best advances the study of sustainability issues; and 4) working with and encouraging the CPE to seek sustainability related opportunities for EC students. (For the Record: Although much of the strategy involves continuous attention, the Sustainability Committee made its first Student Showcase cash awards in 2014.)

5.2—Student organizations: Encourage and assist student leaders in key organizations such as the Greenjays and the Living Green Team by including group leaders in the sustainability committee, mentoring them, as required and including them in College and regional events.

5.3—Communicate the sustainability message across campus: This is another multi-pronged effort to both inform and keep the sustainability program visible.  Actions in this strategy include 1) maintaining a sustainability website with key information to include this plan; 2) publishing four times per year a Sustainability Newsletter to the entire campus community; 3) sponsoring programs and speakers; 4) publishing periodic reminders via email, posters and memos to the College Community; 5) seeking The Leader staff to publicize sustainability related news and achievements; 6) seek and develop ways to make the sustainability program better known on campus. (For the Record: Each of the above strategies is a continuing and ongoing one. Of significance was the introduction of a “No-Waste Luncheon” and Freshman Orientation in 2014.)

5.4—Cafeteria operations: The College cafeteria is a key component in campus life and major contributor to the sustainability program. The strategy in the area looks at 1) ensuring waste from operations is recyclable; 2) having menu offerings that support healthy lifestyles as well as options for special diets; 3) purchase of food from vendors who support local/regional farmers and organic farming methods; and exploring the possibility of on campus gardens being used by the cafeteria. (For the Record: The College’s vendor has purchased tableware, plates, cups, etc. that are compostable and does purchase food items through a supplier that supports “green” farming methods.)

5.5—College Heritage Garden: In an effort to provide an opportunity for student participation, a Three Sisters Garden was set up by the Sustainability Committee in 2012. (For the Record: Since 2012, the garden has grown about four times in size, has gotten faculty participation and has been redesignated the Heritage Garden replicating the crops grown by early Elmhurst students in 1871.) 

Area 6: Community Participation and Outreach 

Recognizing the College’s role in the community and its ability to support and assist local organizations and communities, this strategy of participation and outreach is consistent with the College’s role and enhances the College’s reputation locally and regionally.

Strategy

6.1—Involvement in civic organizations in Elmhurst and DuPage County: This strategy consists of participation, activity, and support in that the College through the sustainability committee will 1) Be an active participant in City and County Organizations; 2) sponsor and provide volunteers for civic activities; and 3) advise and assist such organizations in building sustainability programs. (For the Record: Since 2009, the College has hosted the Recycling Extravaganza for the City of Elmhurst and has opened its facilities for tours. Sustainability committee members participate in such civic groups as the Elmhurst Cool Cities Coalition, the Elmhurst Bike Task Force and the Sustainability Task Force.  Members have also advised area schools in their program development.)

Area 7: Administration and Evaluation

As sustainability is recognized and grows as a function existing in higher education, continue to build the base for an integrated and permanent function on campus. This includes building an administrative base locally and a record of participation at state and national levels.

Strategies

7.1—Build for a sustainability office at the College: The strategy is to build a structure to manage the sustainability function on campus. Actions include 1) develop and maintain records and a database concerning sustainability efforts at EC; 2) obtain funding for the program, initially through sale of recycled material, eventually as a functional area; 3) begin soliciting funds from donors both within and outside the Elmhurst College community who support the function, and 4) maintain, update and report out on the Sustainability Plan annually. (For the Record: Actions 1), 2) and 4) are ongoing, work with Development Office began in 2014.)

7.2—Participation in state and national sustainability organizations: In that sustainability is a nationwide activity in higher education, we plan to keep EC’s efforts visible and on course by 1) being active in AASHE (American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education) and using their STARS Survey as a program guide; 2) being active in the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact and obtaining Silver Level status in that program during School Year 2014–2015; and 3) being equally active in structures developed regionally by area schools. (For the Record: The College attained Bronze Level status in the Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact in 2012. Two College sustainability-related efforts will be presented at the 2014 AASHE Conference.)

Campus Sustainability Committee

The Elmhurst College Sustainability Committee, appointed by the President, consists of approximately 15 to 20 interested and knowledgeable faculty members, students and staff. Meeting monthly during the academic year, the Committee identifies, coordinates and promotes sustainability efforts across campus that bring the institution closer to the stated goals in this plan and those established in the Strategic Plan.

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