Campus sustainability proves to be top priority

By Christopher Blake
February 26, 2009

Megan Pellegrino

An online sustainability survey executed by 254 members of Cabrini’s faculty, staff and student body found that four out of five participants ranked sustainability as “very” or “extremely” important.

The survey was initiated in hopes of setting the college’s Sustainability Steering Committee, being considered by the President’s Office, in the right direction of gaining insight on what the campus community needs to improve in regards to sustainability.

“The survey is a part of a longer project that we’re working on to create a Sustainability Steering Committee on campus, so we thought one of the first things we should do was get a sense of what sustainability issues are most important to people on campus,” assistant professor of biology Dr. Caroline Nielsen said.

The survey was conducted online during the period of November 10-25, 2008. Overall, 53 faculty, 89 staff and 112 students, 87 on campus and 25 commuters, participated.

Recycling proved to be the campuses top concern as over 75 percent of the respondents expressed concern for the accessibility, effectiveness and overall level of knowledge of Cabrini’s current recycling program.

“I was really struck by people’s level of concern about the recycling program,” Nielsen said. “People think recycling is really important and they have concerns about the program on campus right now, so that was a useful result, because once this steering committee gets up and running that’s something we can work on right away.”

Green buildings and conserving electricity were chosen by nearly 50 percent of survey participants.

Several respondents even offered suggestions for electricity conservation measures. Some suggestions included adding a green roof to the Iadarola Center, coordinating the Cabrini shuttle more effectively with the R5 train and Route 100 trolley or adding solar panels to the Dixon Center.

“I remember reading through the suggestions and saying to myself, ‘oh that’s a great idea,’ we should come back to that,” associate professor of mathematics Dr. Ellen Panofsky said.

Transportation proved to be another issue the Cabrini community will need to address as faculty, staff and commuter students documented there average commute distances.

One way commutes averaged 15.4 miles for faculty with the shortest commute being one mile and longest 100 miles, staff averaged 12.4 miles with the longest commute 48 miles and commuter students 9.8 miles with the longest 30 miles.

“I think that we can have a lot of impact on transportation but it doesn’t look like it’s peoples number one priority at this point,” Nielsen said.

The Sustainability Steering Committee is being formed through the President’s Office but is still in the formation process.

The form it will take and who will have membership is still being discussed by the president and her cabinet.

“The original survey was aimed to find out what was happening on campus so that we could get back to Dr. George in hopes of getting the Sustainability Steering Committee going and I think once that’s up and going we can take more leads from the campus community,” Panofsky said.

Nielsen spoke about the relevance of the survey and how sustainability issues play vital roles, especially in the economic recession the United States faces.

“It’s nice to have some things we can work on in the short term and other things we can aim to change in the longer term,” Nielsen said.

Future surveys may be used in the future depending on what direction the Sustainability Steering Committee will take.

“We don’t need a huge project sometimes to make a little bit of difference,” Panofsky said. “Sometimes using education and telling people ‘turn off certain electronics when you’re not using them’ can make all the difference in the world and that’s what we are aiming to do.”

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Christopher Blake

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