ERC taking charge of sustainability efforts

By Raisa Benusa

Lumen Reporter

There have been many conversa­tions about sustainability at Viterbo over the past few years, but up-front costs are prohibiting major actions that would make Viterbo more sus­tainable. In the absence of these ma­jor projects, individual departments are taking the initiative to imple­ment smaller projects.

Sustainability is defined as meet­ing the needs of the present with­out compromising the ability of fu­ture generations to meet their own needs, according to the Department of Energy website.

One of Viterbo’s programs is the Environmental Responsibility Com­mittee (ERC).

“The ERC’s mission is to find ways to help the university be more en­vironmentally responsible,” Vickie Unferth, director of Residence Life and a member of the ERC, told Lu­men. “Whether it is coming up with policy suggestions, ways to educate faculty and student, or encourage people on campus to make respon­sible choices when it comes to the environment.”

One of the events that the com­mittee sponsored last semester was “No Impact Week” featuring the movie “The No Impact Project.”

“‘No Impact Man’ had an impact on the people who heard him,” Un­ferth said. “There were specific stu­dents who went and for whom the presentation made a difference for, such as becoming more environ­mentally aware.”

The ERC’s website promotes cam­pus initiatives, such as having 15 bike racks on campus and a recy­cling program.

The website also contains infor­mation on the Sustainability Track­ing Assessment and Rating System known as S.T.A.R.S.

“Our extent with S.T.A.R.S has been limited,” Unferth said. The committee hopes to adopt more of the processes of S.T.A.R.S in the fu­ture but right now, they are using S.T.A.R.S. as a guide in choosing sustainable methods.

“The changes we have made have saved us money,” Raintry Salk, as­sistant professor, sustainable man­agement program coordinator and director of the ERC told Lumen. “We have low flow showers in the residence halls, have a green clean­ing policy, and have recycle bins across campus.”

“Other steps could be taken to make the residence halls become more environmentally friendly, but they have costs to them,” Unferth said. “What we need to do is teach students more about how they can be environmentally friendly, such as turning off air conditioners when they are not in their apartments and not having windows open when the heating is on.”

“These simple modifications in be­havior can result in huge savings,” Salk told Lumen. “Other steps that can be taken in campus academic buildings is to shut storm windows during the winter, turning off com­puters when they are not in use, and closing drapes when people leave for the night.”

“We have had a lot of conversa­tions, but not many new actions have been taking place,” Salk said.

“I think more action is needed instead of just talking,” said Saman­tha Bodden, a senior biology major and the ERC student representative from Algonquin, Ill. “It is important to talk it out, but we need action.”

Tim Metzler, a junior English ma­jor from Onalaska, Wis., and a resi­dent assistant on the Residence Life sustainability committee, feels that part of Viterbo becoming more envi­ronmentally aware and sustainable is part of the students’ responsibil­ity.

The only way we are going to be­come more sustainable as a commu­nity is if the students care,” Metzler said. “There are a few people who care right now, but not enough to make an impact.”

“I’m shocked by the complacency of students on this campus because it is their future they are affecting,” Salk said.

On Viterbo’s campus, there are groups of students who are taking action. A theme house is devoted to the environment, and many clubs, such as the BioChem/Environmen­tal Club and the Garden Club, try to promote environmental awareness.

“We have a mixed group of stu­dents who care and don’t care about conserving energy,” Unferth told Lumen.

“I’ve seen students use the recycle bins we have around campus who throw their garbage away in the garbage bins,” Bodden said. “From what I have seen, students are tak­ing an interest.”

Students can find out more on how to be more environmentally aware by going to the ERC’s website at http://www.viterbo.edu/environment/. The website has a tab on how to save energy on campus with mak­ing sure to close windows and doors when heating and cooling systems are on, turning off lights when stu­dents leave their rooms, and making computers more energy efficient.

The website also provides infor­mation on where students and fac­ulty can take their recyclable items. These items include used motor oil, batteries, cell phones, and Styro­foam.

“I think in order for Viterbo to change, there needs to be a move­ment within the student body,” Metzler said. “Only when the ad­ministration sees students caring will they truly start to take action.”

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