University making strides towards environmental sustainability

Kaitlyn Jorgensen
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, March 20, the MNSU Environmental Committee hosted a series of speakers in celebration of the strides MNSU is making towards sustainability.

The event, which took place in Ostrander Auditorium from 7-8:30 p.m., began with Dr. Paul Prew, associate professor of Sociology and co-chair of the Environmental Committee, who gave a brief introduction, and the honored guest speaker, James Jacquart, an MNSU alumni, who hosted an interactive speech entitled “Maverick Sustainability: Where Do We Go from Here?”

Karen Anderson, head coordinator of the Community Engagement Committee worked together with Dr. Prew and the Emeritus Louis Schwartzkopf to bring Jacquart to MNSU for this event. Jacquart has a B.A. in history from MNSU and a master’s in Counseling and Student Personnel from Western Illinois University. He became head of the Office of Campus Sustainability and Residential Initiatives at UMass Dartmouth in 2012.

Jacquart’s office has achieved the following distinctions for University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth: named a “Leading by Example” institution by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2008—the only public higher education institution of 29 in Massachusetts to receive this honor—and again in 2014 and 2015, with the help of his colleagues from the UMass system. Umass has also been listed in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges for the past five years.

The Minnesota State University, Mankato Climate Action Plan (MSU-CAP), an initiative of the Environmental Committee with consultant Sebesta and in partnership with the Urban and Regional Studies Institute, was developed during the 2014-2015 academic year. The MSU-CAP is a collective effort made many groups on campus to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and to make the university more sustainable.

Some of the unsung heroes to be recognized are Cynthia Janney (director of Residential Life), Richard Wheeler (assistant director of Residential Life) and David Cowan (director of Facilities Services), along with many others who have worked hard to make the changes necessary to make MNSU a green campus.

The university is making large strides towards its goals and some of its achievements include the Environmental Committee demonstrating that the university has reduced its carbon footprint by 6.8 percent over a four-year period. Facilities Management brought the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program to campus, which will reduce the carbon footprint by an additional 9 percent, while at the same time reducing energy use and saving the university money over the long run.

Along with reducing greenhouse gases, bus ridership in Mankato has nearly doubled on the university routes as a result of the Green Transportation Fee, allowing students to use their university ID to board city buses.

The new Clinical Sciences Building incorporate many state-of-the-art sustainability features including all new LED and motion sensor activated lights. The new University Dining Center has begun food waste collection for composting at the new dining hall and has also begun to implement a program where they collect unwanted food from restaurants to make into meals for people facing food insecurity. They have found that 30 percent of students at MNSU face food insecurity, and last year alone they managed to reuse 8 tons of food.

Jacquart spoke about his experiences driving sustainability initiatives at the University of Massachusett-Dartmouth and what we can be doing in Mankato to further our sustainability initiatives. Some initiatives to take as a student are as simple as turning off lights and unplugging electronics when leaving a room.

Some other suggestions Jacquart offered were continuing to advance our “Bee Friendly Campus” projects, taking advantage of the various water bottle refill stations on campus, continuing to be a bike-friendly campus, striving to become a zero-waste campus, and, for students, to lobby for 100 percent renewable energy and demand all buildings become NetZero.

Students can have an impact on the campus’ carbon footprint. They’re the ones paying to live on campus and the changes MNSU is implementing will lower the cost of living and increase the quality of the environment around it.

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