Roosevelt wins awards in sustainability due to green, recycling initiatives
By Tom Cicero
The Illinois Sustainability Compact Program for Higher Education recently awarded Roosevelt University silver-level recognition in campus sustainability.
This award is given to universities that implement environmentally friendly initiatives and try to reduce their carbon footprints. The sustainability studies program at Roosevelt has various programs and projects under its belt.
The university was also awarded SERF certification by the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities. In order to be SERF-certified, a SERF professional has to assess the facility. This includes checking how energy is used and how much is used, how water usage is being cut and how much material is being recycled from the building.
One of the many workers who helped make these awards possible is Tom Shelton, sustainability coordinator of the Physical Resources department.
Of Shelton’s many projects in motion right now, trying to increase the university’s recycling diversion rate is at the top of his list.
Companies’ recycling diversion rate is what they are able to recycle instead of throw away.
In Chicago, there is a 44 percent diversion rate, which Shelton said is good, but could be better. One of the problems prohibiting this rate from being higher is lack of awareness and knowledge about recycling.
“The old Auditorium Building has a higher diversion rate than the new Wabash Building,” Shelton said. “One of the reasons for that is that when the new students move in, they just don’t get the concept. I was up there giving a tour, and a girl walked in on her cell phone as I was showing a group one of the trash rooms. The cell phone was in the crook of her arm, and she was about to throw her garbage into the recycling bin. I think some people don’t grow up in communities where there is recycling. It’s kind of a new concept for some people.”
In order to encourage students to recycle, signs are located around the university stating what should be recycled and what should be thrown away.
Shelton said he felt that the signs were helpful but that they don’t eliminate the problem.
Paul Matthews, assistance vice president of Campus Planning/Operations, felt that another way to educate people about recycling was to do just that, educate them.
“We try to do it through education; there’s the pamphlets throughout the school for students to read,” said Matthews. “We need to start empowering our students to want to take a lead in doing these types of things. We’re one of very few universities that has a major in sustainability studies.”
Corresponding with increasing the diversion rate is a new program which will incorporate Resident Assistants. They will be eco-representatives of their floors, with Shelton being the person they go to with their questions.
These eco-representatives will help students with any questions they have about recycling and will encourage students to recycle.
Matthews said he had plans to encourage students to recycle, such as holding competitions on each floor of the Wabash Building to see who can recycle the most content each month.
All of this work equates to each individual’s carbon footprint being reduced.
Shelton said while we may not feel the immediate benefit, it’s important for the future of our planet.
“There’s a lot of little things that make a big difference, and that’s what I want students to take away from [this],” Shelton said. “A lot of little steps, little actions, make a big difference. The benefit may not be realized by them personally, but in the long run and when they’re older and they have kids and their grandkids, they don’t have to deal with the demons of our previous generation.”
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