Climate change is becoming a more looming issue than ever in the minds of American citizens. According to YaleEnvironment360, 70 percent of Americans now believe in the concept of worldwide climate change. YaleEnvironment360 also found that 58 percent of those Americans believe that climate change is due to human cause.
Due to this, more and more cities are pushing to be greener, with cleaner energy sources, less waste and more natural heating and cooling. Chicago is no exception, as it became the seventh city in the world to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified in recent years.
This fact was not looked over by the creators of the Wabash Building, Power Construction, who created the design with a number of different technologies to keep the building sustainable and LEED Gold Certified.
Michael Bryson, a Roosevelt sustainability professor and chair of sociology, sustainability and community development, said that much of the school’s strengths in sustainability lies within its very architecture. He said he believes big cities, in many ways, have more access to sustainable technology, making them often more sustainable than smaller, spread-out towns.
“In some ways, Chicago has a great advantage,” Bryson said. “And the Wabash Building is a great example of that.” He cited several of the building’s green technologies: the vegetative rooftops where fresh produce has been grown for the cafeteria, the recycling bins on every single floor, the floor-to-ceiling windows that provide natural lighting and the very shape of the building itself.
Bryson explained that thousands of birds die from hitting Chicago skyscrapers every year. To aid the wildlife, the building was given its signature zig-zag patterning, creating, as Bryson put it, “visual noise” to warn the birds of its presence.
However, it is not only the initial construction that keeps Wabash green. Bryson said the student-led organizations, such as RU Green, keep the interest of sustainability alive within Roosevelt.
Samantha Schultz, a junior psychology major, is the president of RU Green, Roosevelt’s sustainability club. She and her Vice President, Sophia Gallo, a freshman sociology major, shared insights on RU Green’s mission and goals.
“RU Green’s mission is to spread awareness of ways to live more sustainably, and to take action in helping make Roosevelt and the Chicago community more green,” Gallo said. She explained that RU Green’s current projects revolve around recycling: clearing up the recycling, composting and trash systems of both the cafeteria and the Auditorium Building.
Another goal of the club is to eventually persuade the school to use glass dishes and metal forks and spoons, as opposed to the one-use containers and utensils. Although compostable, Schultz described the glass dishes to be more more efficient and more economical.
Schultz also noted some of the ways that Roosevelt provides small but effective ways to create a sustainable environment.
“We have filtered water fountains and we have a contract with Divvy Bikes, so people have that option. They get a discounted price for those, so they have that option for transportation,” Schultz said. With a combination of the Divvy bikes, the bike room, the L trains and the bus system, Roosevelt is considered very transportation-savvy, a trait often advertised to newcomers considering Wabash as a living space.
Both Schultz and Gallo said that recycling is the biggest issue at Roosevelt, and that students should be educated on proper recycling to help improve the school’s recycling rate.
“People are confused about how to recycle properly, or are just unmotivated to do it,” Gallo said. “If we had students informed, or following the ‘rules’, we could theoretically divert 90 percent of our waste from landfills, which is huge.”
Gallo said a more realistic number would be 50 percent, but that would still be a large leap from what waste is recycled from Roosevelt right now.
Schultz concluded by expressing her love of helping the school stay educated.
“I think it’s really cool to get people excited about getting involved in our community, and actually wanting to help the earth and make Roosevelt more sustainable,” Schultz said. Gallo agreed, saying that it was seeing the waste from the school’s cafeteria that piqued her concern enough to get her to join the club.
Bryson’s final advice, however, was that students didn’t have to necessarily join a club to help keep Roosevelt sustainable. He said that in many ways, every single person can take the step to create a sustainable environment wherever they go.
“Go to films about the environment. Volunteer at events. Take a sustainability class,” Bryson said. “Even if it isn’t your major. Don’t underestimate the power of students to make change.”