University symposium seeks to improve campus sustainabilty

People from all over the state flocked to Champaign this Friday for the 5th Annual Sustainable University Symposium at the I-Hotel, 1900 S. 1st St., Champaign.

About 400 people attended the event, which included speakers such as Gov. Pat Quinn, Robert Easter and Michael J. Hogan.

William Kelleher, senior in Engineering, spoke on student led campus biodiesel production for carbon reduction because he has had experience in that field.

“I was in charge of a group that turns our campus dining hall waste vegetable oil into fuel for university vehicles,” he said.

This campus is an especially sustainably oriented, Kelleher said.

“We have the student sustainability committee with the billion dollar annual budget now, so that’s really significant. We have the student farm, the student biodiesel movement, and Student for Environmental concerns,” he said. “They all do a lot of really great things.”

Other student speakers included Suhail Barot, graduate student and SECS member, spoke on campus climate action plans and how to effectively leverage students

He said not many students attended the event because many had class while it was scheduled, which was disappointing.

Barot’s favorite part of the day, he said, was hearing Leigh Sharp from the Illinois Green Economy Network speak about the different steps and amount of work it takes to get an environmental plan in action.

Connie Churchill professor at Oakton Community College and co-chair of the Green Committee, has attended the event for the past few years.

“I very much enjoyed the speakers this morning, including the governor, ” she said. “Everything was worthwhile.”

Churchill said she plans on implementing things from the symposium to improve sustainability on her campus.