By Madelyn Olsen
Sustainability at Roosevelt University is a rooftop garden, in the midst of a concrete jungle. It is rows upon rows of planters filled with recycled compost, buds of plants peaking through the dirt in spring.
“Sustainability endeavors at the university demonstrate our core commitment to social justice,” said Mary Beth Radeck, chief sustainability writer and garden manager for the Office of Environmental Sustainability. “A commitment to sustainability is a commitment to social justice; they are one and the same.”
The university has been awarded the Bronze Sustainability Award, Gold LEED certification for the Wabash Building and Silver LEED certification for the Goodman Center.
What are the bases for these achievements?
The Bronze Sustainability Award is given to only 10 universities or colleges in Illinois for sustainability achievement. The Gold LEED certification was granted by the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. in recognition of the university’s strong commitment to the environment and its leadership in sustainability from start to finish in construction of the Wabash Building.
As it turns out, going green saves green. The Wabash Building marked the beginning of its third year in March, and it has already received $280,000 in rebates, grants and studies. It is also exceeding its estimated energy savings by 10.1 percent, which means that annual energy savings go from $238,635 to $262,976, reducing the approximate 10-year payback for the energy efficient and/or renewable features to 8.9 years.
One of the Wabash Building’s green design features is the vegetated green grid system covering 51 percent of its five roofs. These are located on floors 32, 31, 16, six and five. The vegetated roof on the fifth floor is set to be turned into a vegetable garden on Friday. It will contain a variety of vegetables, including, but not limited to, kale, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, bean, lettuce, okra, onion, pea, pepper, spinach and tomato.
In October 2013, the Schaumburg Campus sent excess food grown from its gardens to Hanover Township’s food banks, equating to 175 pounds of fresh produce. Food2You, the food service at Schaumburg, also used the produce grown out of the gardens in the cafe.
“We’re not just doing this because we want to do it, but also, we’re educating people at the same time, as we grow things, and we’re working as a community,” said Paul Matthews, assistant vice president of Campus Planning and Operations.
The Schaumburg Campus can also boast about its National Arbor Foundation and State of Illinois Department of Natural Resources recognition as a Tree Campus USA. Tree Campus USA is a rigorous certificate and has been given to only 11 higher education institutions in the state.
According to the National Arbor Foundation, to obtain this distinction, the university met the five core standards for sustainable campus forestry required by Tree Campus USA, including establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.
In addition to campus centered efforts, the university is participating in several city-wide initiatives to make Chicago a greener city. One of these efforts is Bike2Campus week.
According to an official press release, “Bike2Campus is a five-day alternative transit challenge to get Chicagoland university and college students on their bicycles.”
Students who participate in Bike2Campus during Earth Week and show their bicycle helmets to staff in the Wabash Building dining hall receive half off some fair trade coffee.
The university also participated in Retrofit Chicago on April 4, an initiative to make Chicago affordable and sustainable.
According to the city of Chicago’s website, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel has identified energy efficiency as a priority for strengthening Chicago — helping Chicago to be the most affordable, competitive, attractive, livable and sustainable city of the 21st century.”
President Charles Middleton signed the university’s commitment to the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative for the Auditorium Building, which states to “achieve a 20 percent energy reduction in five years.”
Sustainability at the university is a daily commitment with many systems engineered for efficiency. Some of these systems include efficient heating and coolings; efficient water usage with low-flow pumping; use of natural lighting and lighting-control; significant reduction in electrical load through the use of renewable energy credits; renewable and recycled flooring throughout the building; a tri-sorter recycling chute system; an exterior glass pattern deterring bird collisions; and green building signage.
In part, the university measures its sustainability by its diversion rate, which refers to the diverting of waste materials from landfills. Currently, the Chicago Campus diversion rate is at 44 percent, but the goal is to get to 50 percent.
Even with tremendous efforts and progress there is still more that can be done. The university continues its daily efforts to achieve a greener campus, to involve itself in city and statewide efforts and to establish itself as a university committed to a greener, more sustainable future.
Earth Week events at Roosevelt are as follows:
Monday, April 21-Friday, April 24 marks Earth Week/Bike2Campus Week. There will be an EWaste container on the 14th floor all week, and all week long, students are encouraged to bike to campus.
Monday, April 21: Alternative Transportation Day, Wabash Lobby, 2-5 p.m.
Tuesday, April 22: Rooftop Garden Planting Day, 5th floor (meet by workout facility), 2-5 p.m. Also, Earth Day Dinner in the Wabash Cafeteria this day, so enjoy some delicious, locally sourced food.
Wednesday, April 23: EWaste event/donations, 14th floor of Wabash, 2-3:30 p.m. and also, Get Out and Often: Safe + Fun Tips For City Biking, 916 S. Wabash Ave., Room 150.
Thursday, April 24: Rooftop Garden Planting Day, 5th floor (meet by workout facility), 2-5 p.m.