By Rae Jefferson
For the first time in Baylor’s history, university sustainability efforts have been recognized by the Sierra Club. Baylor was ranked 133 on the organization’s “Cool Schools 2013” list, which honored 162 four-year colleges and universities that offer exemplary environmental initiatives.
Schools featured on the list, which was released in August, were ranked based on the presence of campus sustainability resources.
Participating universities completed an extensive survey regarding student, staff and faculty access to green initiatives such as environmental organizations, campus-wide energy saving efforts and sustainability-oriented curriculums.
“It shows the hard work we’ve put into what we do and where we’ve come from,” Smith Getterman, assistant director of sustainability and special projects, said. “It’s a big deal.”
The Sierra Club ranked the schools according to surveys that were completed by the schools and submitted. The researchers at the Sierra Club then evaluated all of the surveys based on the school’s participation with sustainability programs on campus. Such programs include having a sustainability talk during orientation and hosting sustainability events throughout the school year.
Baylor was third among the four Texas universities that made the list. Texas A&M was ranked 93, Texas Tech was 128 and the University of Texas at Dallas was 161.
“It’s a rigorous list from a very environmentally minded organization, so it’s very exciting that Baylor is a part of that list,” he said.
According to a university press release, some of Baylor’s most successful sustainable initiatives include the operation of on-campus shuttles, establishment of a Styrofoam-free campus and record-setting numbers in recycling, with more than 400 tons recycled in 2012. Baylor Sustainability predicts these numbers will increase during 2013. Additionally, a newly installed irrigation system has resulted in 20 to 25 percent water conservation across one-third of campus.
A prominent effort in Baylor’s sustainability surrounds the green building certification of several on-campus structures. The U.S. Green Building Council administers Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications, which allows applicants to design environmentally conscientious buildings. According to the organization’s website, finished structures provide the opportunity for decreased operating costs, conservation of resources and safer building structure for occupants.
The presence of a student-led sustainability organization also helped solidify Baylor’s appearance on the list, according to the list of qualifying criteria presented by the Sierra Club. The Sustainability Student Advisory Board exists to provide current students with the opportunity to voice concerns about sustainability.
Rosenberg senior and board member Matthew Reid said he recognizes the importance of giving students a role in the university’s environmental efforts.
“We’re the student perspective of sustainability,” Reid said. “It’s us being allowed to speak for the whole student body.”
According to the Sustainability Student Advisory Board’s webpage, the board gives participating students the opportunity to share ideas about caring for the environment and campus resources. Getterman said board members meet with campus officials from the University Sustainability Committee (USC), which makes decisions regarding on-campus sustainability.
Reid said that he desires for other students to understand the effectiveness of the student board. He said the student board has had influence on decisions such as the installation of new on-campus sprinkler systems and the addition of bike lanes. Members have even begun to look at making changes in off-campus apartment campuses with high concentrations of Baylor students, he said.
“We get to see that what we’re doing is actually working,” Reid said.
Reid said his connections to the student board and USC have given him a way to seek out answers to the tough sustainability-related questions asked by his peers.
Students interested in joining the Sustainability Student Advisory Board or volunteering with Baylor Sustainability’s recycling efforts should visit www.baylor.edu/sustainability.