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Assessing sustainability: Part 2

Connor continues his long look at Concordia’s eco-initiatives

I wanted to write this article about the grass grown on campus and its effects on sustainability, but unfortunately, a source was unable to get back to me in time, so instead, I’ll be writing about some of the good things about Concordia’s sustainability programs. Before I dig into this week’s article, I want to take a moment to finish up the discussion from last week’s article on the barriers covering most of the cigarette disposals on campus. If you have yet to read it, go find an old paper, or look on the Concordian’s website.

Dr. Ken Foster, chair of the President’s Sustainability Council here at Concordia, took the time to inform me that the “national guidelines and best practices suggest that a campus that goes smoke-free should remove all ashtrays on campus. The decision to remove the ashtrays had nothing to do with sustainability or the people on campus who are involved with sustainability.”

He also told me that the choice to put environmentally-themed images on the barriers came from one of these discussion, without first consulting “sustainability-minded folks,” but when they brought the idea to him, “[he] was happy to see that regular staff members were asked for their ideas and [he] thought that it was a nice idea, better than simply covering over the ashtrays.”

Dr. Foster was also kind enough to share this semester’s Sustainability Update with me several days before it came out. This update is a little under six hundred words long, but it is full of all of the Concordia sustainability projects that are actually making a difference on campus. If you haven’t gotten the chance to read the email, be sure to do so as soon as possible.

The two things in the update that stand out to me first are the CobBikes (which were checked out over 820 times in their first two months) and ongoing landscaping at the EcoHouse. Both the Cobbikes and the EcoHouse were made possible through the efforts of 2014 graduate Kristina Kaupa – among others – and she really deserves much more credit for her work here at Concordia.

Another student-led project of note is the Sustainability Applied Research Program, which is probably one of the most interesting and impactful ways to get involved with sustainability on campus. The program is responsible for another item on the list, green roofing, the idea for which came from Nahaylem Ellis and Tanner Knutson, who made their proposal last year.

It’s projects like these that we need to see more of in the future: projects created and led by students. A lot of times it feels like the student body is cut off from any ability to actually enact policies regarding sustainability on campus. Often times it feels as though we just talk about it; I know I’m certainly more bark than bite on this issue. After the symposium this fall, I and many students I’ve spoken to have felt that we knew more about sustainability, but that there was nothing we could really do to affect change.

And that is the most important thing Concordia can do to really show that they mean business when it comes to sustainability: make it more accessible to average students. Options are certainly available to the intrepid souls among us: SEA is always open to new members, and anyone with an idea can apply to the Sustainability Applied Research Program, but these venues are often time-consuming or out of the way. I dream of a world where forums are held on the installation of high-tunnels, much like for calendar changes. One member of SEA I asked about the high-tunnel said that while they thought it was ultimately a good thing, the tunnel might distract from other problems with Concordia’s campus garden, e.g. did you know we have a garden?

At the very least, it would be nice to feel more informed about these projects on campus and what people think about them.

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