Compact sets environmental goals for schools

By Melissa Silverberg

Across Illinois, 35 colleges and universities signed the Sustainable Universities Compact from the Lieutenant Governor’s office, agreeing to accomplish environmental goals by 2010. However, the University is not among those that signed the compact.

The compact, which began in 2006, has a list of 12 goals that include developing environmental transportation options, implementing green building practices and incorporating sustainable dining practices in school cafeterias.

There is also a separate compact available for Illinois high schools to sign.

The compact is being promoted through the Lt. Gov.’s Web site, as well as at other events across the state, said Jamie Caston, an environmental policy adviser for the Lt. Gov.’s office.

“It’s an agreement between our office and a university or community college,” Caston said. “We take their word for what they say they are going to achieve.”

Northwestern University signed the compact.

Illinois State University signed the compact.

Southern Illinois University signed the compact.

Kankakee Community College recently signed the compact.

The University of Illinois at Chicago signed the compact.

Illinois College, a school of a little more than 1,000 students in Jacksonville, Ill., also signed the compact.

Illinois College has a campuswide recycling program and recently built a new residence hall on campus that was certified as a green building, said Stephanie Dugan, assistant director of student activities.

“It’s not just important to us but to the world,” Dugan said.

Programs such as recycling are very important for colleges because of the paper and waste that build up daily, Dugan added.

“We are just making sure our campus is doing as much as possible to save the earth,” Dugan said.

Some of the goals require the school to purchase renewable resources, install different light bulbs or build (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, all of which can take time and money, Caston said.

“Some universities wait to sign the compact to make sure these goals are something they can successfully attain,” Caston said.

The University passed a new energy bill in the fall that will transform the way it deals with energy and take steps toward conservation, said William Sullivan, director of the University’s Environmental Council.

While Sullivan said the University used to have a sustainability coordinator, the position is empty.

“We need to take some substantial steps to take leadership position on this issue,” Sullivan said. He also called the University’s work on the environment very “middle of the road” when compared to other schools nationwide.

Although the University has not signed the Lt. Gov.’s compact, Chancellor Richard Herman recently signed the President’s Commitment on Climate Change, pledging the University to reduce its carbon footprint by 80 percent in 2015.

“We have the capacity and the skill to put our minds together,” Sullivan said. “This is a great institution, and we need to be grappling with that challenge.”

He added that he hopes the University will sign the Sustainable Universities compact because it is something we ought to do.

An official from University administration was not able to be reached for comment.

“There is an evolution taking place, and we need to educate students about a greener future,” Dugan said.