The Green Effect
Sarah Davis '08 / Photo by Dean Groover
Community. Commitment. Change.
By Mandy Seaman
The state of sustainability at Drury is strong. Look around, and you'll see evidence of it everywhere, from the recycling bins across campus to the paper this magazine is printed on.
But that's today. Five years ago, sustainability at Drury looked and felt a bit different than it does now. Even then, the concept of sustainability was an idea that many members of the campus community were committed to, but lacked real direction for change. In short, the Drury community talked the talk but didn't walk the walk. A sore point: there was little recycling on campus even though many in the campus community had discussed the issue for 30 years.
Then, something began to change. A slow rumble started on campus with the 2005-06 convocation series devoted to sustainability. Students, faculty and staff began more discussion about the impact that changes on campus could have on the environment.
The rumble continued.
Then, as that year went on, it built to a roar, and it did so largely at the persistence of one student.
Sarah Davis, a 2008 Drury graduate, got the university off the dime. She began a personal crusade that by the end of 2006 would eventually involve the entire university and kick-start what is now a campus-wide recycling program. She secured four competitive grants to purchase recycling bins, obtain large dumpsters, print promotional materials and fund paid student staff positions to take care of the growing recycling program. She recruited other students to get involved. She got the word out through campus publications, websites and community organizations.
She sparked change.
And by the time Sarah graduated in 2008, the campus recycling program was a full-fledged endeavor managed by facilities services. Recycling bins are located in or near every building on campus, and an on-site collection center makes for an efficient system. Recycling is just as ingrained into the daily operations of the university as trash collection, and students continue Sarah's vision of leading by example when it comes to conserving and reusing on campus.
Perhaps just as important, recycling - and other means of sustainability such as trayless dining in the Commons to conserve water, high efficiency lighting in campus buildings and the use of recycled materials across campus — are now part of the culture of sustainability at Drury.
The Faces of Sustainability
Drury is proud to put its identity as a green college front and center. In fact, one quadrant of the university's logo features an oak leaf and acorn that together represent leadership and the institution's commitment to sustainability. Former President John Sellars and President Todd Parnell have both signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. Our administration includes a director of sustainability. In April 2010, Drury was named in The Princeton Review's Guide to 286 Green Colleges, earning a spot as the only school in Missouri to be recognized in the publication.
But behind all of the environmental accolades and awards are the people that fulfill Drury's sustainable commitment. These are the faces of sustainability at Drury, and they include every student, faculty and staff member on campus.
The faces of sustainability include members of the administration, who operate the university with environmental sustainability at the forefront of decisionmaking. Leave the administrative offices of Burnham Hall and walk next door to Pearsons—or any other academic building on campus—and you're likely to find faculty who are incorporating sustainability into all facets of learning. From psychology to architecture, faculty throughout the university are teaching students to think green.
And speaking of Think Green!, Drury's prominent environmental student group, it is students who make up most of the university's faces of sustainability. Students helped make recycling a part of the culture. They bike to class, live in sustainable housing and lead others by example throughout the community.
In recent years, Drury has made great strides in ramping up its commitment to sustainable practices. According to Pete Radecki, vice president for campus operations and sustainability, there have been three major steps leading to the university's most recent triumphs in the area of sustainability.
"An important step took place when our president signed the College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment to reduce our carbon footprint," Radecki says. "He followed this action by appointing Dr. Wendy Anderson, professor of biology, as sustainability director.
"The third fundamental step was President Parnell's decision to link sustainability with campus operations," Radecki adds. "Taken together, these three steps convey a message that sustainable practices are valued here, and we as an educational institution desire to teach, discover and practice the minimization of our environmental impact."
According to Radecki, the administration's goal is to integrate sustainability into every operations decision that is made, with attention paid to design, available funds and time. Whenever those three factors allow for it, the more sustainable options are often the ones Drury chooses.
Take the O'Reilly Family Event Center, which is seeking LEED Gold certification. The new center was built top to bottom with sustainable features that include high efficiency lighting, cooling and heating, and a white roof designed to reduce the strain on its cooling system. Low-flow water fixtures inside the center and drought-tolerant vegetation outside help reduce the amount of water used daily. The concession stands will serve drinks and food in compostable cups and plates. The paint and adhesives used in construction and design meet the stringent limits for volatile organic compound emissions. The list of sustainable features goes on and on.
In some cases, though, Drury has found ways to be sustainable even when working with decades-old facilities and operational decisions. After a complete efficiency audit of campus systems, the university determined that the Breech School of Business Administration housed one of the most inefficient heating and cooling systems at the university. However, the financial investment that would have been required to replace the chillers and boilers in the building was simply not possible. The university found itself facing a difficult dilemma: continue operating an inefficient, unsustainainable system or find an alternative without the financial means to do so.
Fortunately, Drury's innovative nature came through, and a solution was discovered in the construction of the O'Reilly Center. According to Radecki, a common challenge facing event center construction is the knowledge that while an event center of that size must be built with the ability to effectively cool for a capacity crowd, the downtime when the event center is not at capacity is much greater.
"For over 99 percent of the time, the cooling system has considerable excess capacity," Radecki says of the event center's system. "Knowing that we had a problem in the Breech chiller, this gave us the opportunity to tap that excess capacity by laying a piping loop between the buildings and pumping chiller water from the new high-efficiency O'Reilly chillers to Breech. Instead of buying a new stand-alone chiller for Breech, we were able to not only build the chiller loop, but also improve some of the building controls and replace the aging Breech boiler."
These major facilities decisions aren't the only places where Drury's administration is showing its commitment to sustainability. In fact, it's getting more and more difficult to find areas where these decisions haven't made an impact. New to campus this summer were a handful of park benches made out of scrap tires. A new countertop for the Welcome Center at Bay Hall is made out of recycled glass and concrete. Two of the recycling bins on campus outside of Breech and the Findlay Student Center are made from recycled milk jugs. Many of the golf carts on campus are now electric, with much of the gas-powered fleet retired. Like the list of sustainable features at the new event center, the list of small but influential environmentally friendly features across campus goes on and on.
Jonna Shepardson, purchasing coordinator for Facilities Services, says that sustainable alternatives are always on the forefront of purchasing decisions.
"When making purchases, we'll gather bids on many alternatives, and we take into account the quality and value of Community and Academic Commitment all items, as well as the sustainability aspect," Shepardson says. "We are always including sustainable products in our bid process."
Those products include the certified Green Seal chemicals that Drury's custodians use in their daily work.
"Sustainability is becoming more and more a natural part of our upgrade designs," Radecki says. "Doing so requires continually keeping up with technological advances, and more important, showing that we value those who take the time to try to buy something greener."
Community & Academic Commitment
The green streak at Drury proudly continues outside campus operations, into the classroom, and out into the community. Sustainable learning is tied to the curriculum to give students a richer in-class and out-of-class experience.
Classes in Drury's GP21 program, for instance, often include course projects that revolve around green thinking. In the last academic year, Associate Professor Patrick Moser's Alpha class worked closely with Ozark Greenways to repair trails and to secure a grant for even more improvements. Students involved in Think Green! took the university's sustainability commitment off-campus, working with students at Boyd Elementary to expand the school's recycling program. A complete overhaul of the environmental programs degree offerings gives Drury students more options for careers in sustainability.
And, according to Wendy Anderson, one of the houses at Summit Park Leadership Community began this school year with a strong environmental focus. The student teams that applied to live there for the current academic year were asked to address how their community service projects and their lifestyles would integrate with environmental sustainability. The strongest applicants were selected and will be competing with one another to see which of two groups of residents can alter their lifestyles to conserve and reduce the most energy.
Living. Learning. Changing the way we think. Yes, sustainability at Drury is not a vague concept. It's not a noun.
It's action, it's thriving and it's the way we operate.