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July 5, 2018
This paid piece is sponsored by Augustana University.
It’s among the most common questions prospective students ask when touring Augustana University:
“What is Augie doing around sustainability?”
The answer: A lot and even more to come.
Augustana is in the first year of a three-year $375,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, a nonprofit dedicated to helping society, the arts and the environment.
“This is really going to help take us to the next level in sustainability,” said Pam Miller, director of sustainability and special assistant to the president.
Helping guide the effort are two students: Incoming senior Hatem Khalfaoui, a native of Tunisia studying business and computer information systems, and pre-law student Anna Steinwand, who grew up learning from her father, who is co-chair of the environmental studies program at Concordia College.
“I would like to get into the culture of Augustana and make it more sustainable,” Steinwand said. “If we are truly committed to making students more prepared to positively impact the world, we must include a more prominent element of sustainability.”
The university has started to make that culture shift in several ways and has more changes planned thanks to the major grant.
It surveyed students about their sustainability literacy earlier this year and plans to resurvey to measure the grant’s effectiveness.
To “have a high response rate to our survey was very rewarding,” Khalfaoui said. “It showed us the level of students’ engagement and interest in sustainability. A significant number of people who took the survey also took the time to share their ideas and recommendations for sustainability efforts on campus.”
Here’s a look at some of Augustana’s early sustainability successes and a peek at the “green” game plan going forward.
Augustana founded a bike club and bike shop in 2013, allowing students to rent bikes and have a way to maintain their bikes.
The campus began a collaboration with Sioux Area Metro in 2014 that allowed students and staff with an ID card to ride city buses for free.
“These initiatives are successfully promoting alternative transportation and creating a greener campus,” Miller said.
The new Froiland Science Complex truly sets a gold standard for sustainability at Augustana. It’s certified LEED Gold thanks to its use of regional materials, responsible indoor water use and utilization of materials with low environmental impacts and high efficiency. That makes it one of 15 South Dakota buildings to achieve such a high designation.
“It contains showers and bike facilities to encourage students and faculty members to ride their bicycles to class,” said architect and Augustana alum Chase Kramer of TSP, which designed the project. “Recycled and regional materials were used. The mechanical systems are extremely efficient and optimized, achieving a significant number of points under that category.”
Sustainable dining, drinking
Augustana’s Ordal Dining Room has taken steps in the past couple of years to introduce trayless dining. It also has made efforts to reduce food waste, energy and water.
In 2013, automated stations for filling water bottles were installed across campus, encouraging the use of reusable bottles instead of disposable plastic ones.
And this year, the campus garden has been significantly expanded.
“Everything they grow there is served in the campus dining area,” Miller said. “Before, we were limited because of space and budget, and now we’ve got a beautiful garden.”
Another idea is to sample food in the dining room to reduce food waste, Khalfaoui added.
Augustana gave students a fun and visible look at its commitment to sustainability this past Earth Day.
“It was so much fun to come outside on a beautiful day and plant flowers and vegetables in biodegradable newspaper pots that they then got to keep,” Steinwand said. “Everyone had so much fun, and we had a great turnout. Hopefully, their plants will continue to grow and will remind them about the impact they have on the earth.”
Augustana also has installed meters on its dorms so that students can compete this fall around conservation efforts.
“At some point, we’re hoping to have a sustainability dashboard on our website, so people can see in real time that their efforts are paying off,” Miller said.
By the end of the three-year grant, the hope is to have an academic major or minor around environmental studies.
“That’s really exciting to me,” Miller said. “It will help with recruitment and achieve cost savings.”
Other classes already weave in elements of sustainability – from science courses to literature and journalism.
“We know students are passionate about the topic and enjoy integrating it into many areas of study,” Miller said. “We’re hopeful we can tweak the curriculum a little and easily develop that major or minor.”
It’s a lot of green to help the Augustana University go even greener. Here’s a look at what has been done already and what’s ahead thanks to a major grant.