Interest and participation in sustainability is growing among Purdue’s various stakeholder groups with each passing year. As more members of the campus become involved, a sense of community is emerging as well. The development of the Sustainability Strategic Plan is a milestone in this process, as well as a vehicle for encouraging additional participation in the university’s sustainability programs.
Familiarity with sustainability on campus begins for students with freshmen orientation. From then on, students are regularly exposed to education and outreach efforts that emphasize the value in developing sustainable behaviors and consequently, a community of sustainability. Green Week, which takes place each fall semester, is designed to engage students, faculty and staff in conversations about major sustainability program areas like energy and water conservation, recycling, transportation, and environmental stewardship. Boiler Television, the campus’s closed-circuit cable system, airs public service announcements featuring Forest the Puppet, a sustainability mascot that encourages students to recycle. These types of ongoing education campaigns convey university support for sustainable behavior, and this institutional endorsement is an important foundation for a sustainable campus community.
The students themselves are taking action to foster a culture of sustainability on campus. Many environmentally focused student groups are working to engage and educate the student body, design and implement on-campus sustainability projects, and integrate sustainability principles into their diverse areas of study. The most visible of these groups include the Boiler Green Initiative; Environmental Science Club; Energy Club; Engineering for a Sustainable World; Pugwash, Net Impact Club, Purdue Green Build student chapter, and Purdue Solar Racing. In student government, a new Director of Green Initiatives works with student groups and university staff to implement green projects. The first initiative developed under the position, called "Greeks Going Green," is focused upon recycling efforts in fraternities and sororities.
Staff and faculty are also beginning to create sustainability networks and working groups. A high-level Sustainability Council Steering Committee was formally created in December 2009 to develop and shepherd new sustainability programs and policies. Members of the Steering Committee include representatives from different campus operational units, academics/research, fiscal affairs, the graduate and undergraduate student population, and Purdue’s regional campuses. Sustainability committees are forming at the departmental level as well. Forestry and Natural Resources has created one to develop and recommend sustainable guidelines for departmental operations like purchasing and recycling. The number of department-level committees on campus is expected to grow as Purdue’s sustainability program matures.
On-campus community is often shaped by the characteristics of nearby non-academic communities. The relationships between a university and the adjacent communities are typically decades in the making. Purdue and the City of West Lafayette have found opportunities to collaborate in several mutually beneficial programs directly related to sustainability. Project Move Out is an annual effort to divert gently used items from landfill disposal when students move out of the residence halls. In 2009, an estimated ten tons worth of repurposed materials benefitted 378 low-income households. These families are invited to take students╒ discarded household items and clothing at no cost. The university benefits by saving on labor and landfill tipping fees, in addition to the program’s less tangible rewards.
Another reciprocal community project is a waste-to-resource initiative between the West Lafayette Wastewater Treatment Utility and Purdue’s Dining Services. Instead of sending post-consumer food waste from the dining commons to a landfill, the material is pulped onsite and sent to the wastewater treatment facility to fuel an anaerobic digester, which generates electricity to run the treatment process. An average of twenty tons of food waste is diverted from landfill each month, saving Purdue almost ten thousand dollars annually.
Developing strong community relationships on and off campus is vital to the university’s sustainability program, since meeting its challenges requires a collective commitment from campus stakeholders. Perhaps equally important are the radial effects that community can generate. As individuals become involved with sustainability through Purdue, they may adopt these habits and values at home, or even spread them through their own social circles. Cultivating community around sustainability will enable Purdue to have a much greater social and environmental impact than what is reflected in its performance metrics.
Purdue will track the following metrics to assess its performance in building community relationships over time.
Campus city county partnerships: 2014 Short Term Goals
- Develop a community group listserv and send invitations to campus sustainability events. Develop partnerships with interested community groups to gain assistance and support for on/off campus sustainability projects and events.
Campus city county partnerships: 2025 Long Term Goals
- Reestablish the household hazardous waste program that accepts community-generated waste by developing a collaborative initiative between Purdue and the Wildcat Creek Solid Waste District.
- Increase intercommunity recycling by providing a recycling center /redistribution program.
- Create funded student internship positions that perform sustainability-related community outreach, and develop and implement community events and projects around sustainability topics. Indiana University has a program that may be a useful model for Purdue.
- Create a Purdue Cooperative Extension Service technical advisory group to develop strategic sustainability goals, including:
- Energy efficiency educational resources and programs for on-farm and residential stakeholders
- Development programs for utility-scale and small-scale wind energy systems
- Biomass energy educational programming and capacity building
Greening the on campus experience: 2014 Short Term Goals
- Launch an educational campaign that highlights sustainability projects around the campus grounds using consistent, unobtrusive signage. This goal will bring an educational component to Purdue’s Living Laboratories initiative.
Greening the on campus experience: 2025 Long Term Goals
- Create a green demonstration dormitory that showcases sustainable living to students.
- Encourage the creation of department level Sustainability Committees modeled after the existing Safety Committee structure or by creating a new system of committees at the department level.
Connecting with off campus students and alumni: 2014 Short Term Goals
- Enhance the sustainability website to better engage off-campus students and alumni.
- Consistently include sustainability-related projects and research in the alumni magazine and other alumni publications.
- Connect with alumni through sustainability outreach at sporting events. Purdue’s implementation of recycling at football games is an excellent case study.
- Investigate the potential to provide a direct link to the sustainability website on the Purdue University website homepage.
Greening the on campus experience: 2025 Long Term Goals
- Partner with local businesses surrounding the campus that are popular with students to develop green projects and outreach.
- Green major events that off-campus students attend (such as Boiler Gold Rush) and publicize the effort and opportunities for student involvement. This effort could also be initiated as part of Purdue’s Day on Campus program for new undergraduate students to introduce each new class to sustainability early in their university experience.