As an event coinciding with Earth Day, April 22 this year, PSU President Steve Scott announced numerous new advances in sustainability efforts planned for the coming school year.
“From my very first moments as president, I have worked to bring greater attention and focus to campus sustainability efforts,” Scott told University News. “While we have made significant progress in construction, operations, and curriculum, it feels like the right time to take an even more forceful step. I am excited about the new configuration and composition of our Sustainability Council, and with its new charge, I am anxious to see us elevate our work even further.”
The announced plans included the creation of the University Sustainability Council, a group whose primary purpose will be to help implement all the components of the university’s sustainability plan. Members of this group span across many different departments on campus including biology, graphics, psychology, recreation, and more.
The basis of the sustainability plan is derived from the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). STARS was originally developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Another important component in the renewed focus on sustainability is the addition of a new graduate assistantship centered around the STARS program. The graduate assistant will serve directly under Jon Bartlow, the chair of the University Sustainability Council, and Jim Triplett, the special assistant to President Scott on matters of sustainability.
For the 2021-2022 school year, the position is set to be filled by Emerson Tice. Tice will be a graduate student in the communications department.
“What I am most looking forward to in this position is that I’ve been given the opportunity to continue to learn while also continuing to build more connections,” Tice said. “Sustainability intertwines with my strategic communication major because I am able to effectively communicate Pitt State’s sustainability mission and initiatives to my colleagues and professors in a positive and professional manner. I am so excited to be working with such motivated and goal-driven individuals in efforts to reach the university’s sustainability goals and motives.”
PSU currently has several sustainability initiatives in place. Students for Sustainability (S4S) provides some of the largest student-led efforts across campus.
According to the organization’s Gorilla Engage page, “S4S has saved over 3,000 pounds of cardboard from the landfill as students move into their residence halls at PSU,” and is “developing a hydroponic/aquaponic project that will yield food and fish” largely due to a donation of a hydroponics system by Enactus.
Additionally, PSU offers a degree in Sustainability, Society & Resource Management, which is the only degree of its kind in the state of Kansas.
English graduate student Ellie Davis told the Collegio about some of the current sustainability practices that have impacted her during her time in Grubbs Hall.
“I have definitely seen the recycle bin on the fourth floor of Grubbs,” Davis said. “…That has helped me recycle a lot of paper that I would normally just throw away, same with plastic bottles. I believe I’ve also seen aluminum can receptacles on campus. It’s a good place to start, but I could see (the university) doing a bit more.”
The University Sustainability Council begins meeting next semester both as a whole and in subcommittees in an effort to encourage more conservatory practices across campus and provide the student body with more ways to be sustainable.