60°F & Clear 7 day forecast Monday, September 22, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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GVSU named a 'Green College'

For the fifth year in a row, Grand Valley State University has been named one of the most environmentally friendly universities in the country, according to “Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges,” a yearly publication that recognizes excellence in sustainability in institutions of higher education.

For the 2014 edition, GVSU had to compete against a pool of more than 830 schools to be included in the guide.

“It’s a major reflection on the work that everyone is doing at the university,” said Kimberly Schoetzow, a graduate assistant for the Sustainable Community Development Initiative.

Schoetzow said it is important for GVSU to stress the importance of sustainable practices “because we are in a position to enact change.”

Change, Schoetzow said, does not come from any one person. Due to the dedication of students and faculty, GVSU has been included in the “Princeton Review’s Guide” every year it has been published.

“We are consistent year after year, that’s a critical part,” said Norman Christopher, the executive director of the SCDI.

As important as consistency is, he stressed that sustainability is all about constant improvement, and that requires changing behaviors. Currently, GVSU has a 50 percent recycling rate on campus.

“It can be higher if we can change our behaviors. Ten years ago that would have been a significant goal to reach,” Christopher said.

To facilitate this, GVSU has more than a dozen sustainability-related clubs on campus, including the Student Environmental Coalition, Farm Club, the Green Team and the Waste Sorting Club.

Last year, more than 30,000 pizza boxes from on-campus housing were composted, with some of the compost coming back to GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project. Waste sorting stations can be found all over campus and at sporting events. Dining locations on campus use only compostable utensils and cups.

In addition to reducing physical waste, the GVSU bike rental program allows students to rent abandoned and refurbished bikes to cut down on vehicle emissions. Furthermore, water bottle refilling stations can be found all over campus.

“As Grand Valley gets bigger, our footprint on the earth is actually getting smaller,” Schoetzow said. “Students see all these buildings going up and expansion, but in reality our resource use is going down.”

While the sustainability measures reach all over campus, they are not always visibly apparent. To combat this, the Sustainability Initiative has information tables at all student orientations to ask incoming students questions about sustainability and inform them of the many opportunities available at GVSU to get involved.

“A lot of students don’t know we offer money for sustainability projects,” Christopher said.

He added that he wants to better leverage student interest in sustainability by connecting the various clubs on campus. An event is planned in the fall to do just that. By improving sustainability activities and raising awareness, GVSU plans to continue to be among the greenest universities in the nation for years to come.

demery@lanthorn.com



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