The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND develops strategies to achieve sustainability

John Tierney and Aaron Steiner | Friday, September 26, 2008

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a multi-part series examining sustainability at Notre Dame.

To make the goal of sustainability a reality for Notre Dame, the University must pay careful attention to both economic and environmental factors, according to the Director of the Office of Sustainability Jim Mazurek.

“[We want to] balance environmental and economic parts as well as the short-term and long-term goals of the University,” Mazurek said.

According to Mazurek, the campaign for sustainable energy is not solely an environmental movement. He said the University’s motivations are far more strategic than to base to their policy on “doing things because they’re environmentally friendly.”

GreeND president Lourdes Long agrees that the Office of Sustainability, where she serves as a student intern, needs to make sure that they balance the checkbook with their concern for the environment. “There’s a tension, but there needs to be an awareness,” Long said.

She stressed the overlap between the two concerns – economic and environmental – of sustainable policies. “You can make a financial argument for a lot of these investments,” she said. “The payback is staggering.”

Georges Enderle, a professor of Business Ethics, says that being on the right side of moral issues often coincides with making a profit when it comes to sustainability. He pointed to General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffery Immelt’s comment at Wednesday’s Notre Dame Forum on Sustainable Energy that he justified launching Ecomagination, a GE division focused on developing green technologies, with two reasons – an expectation of profitability and because “it’s the right thing to do.”

“You need to argue on both sides,” Enderle said.

University Vice President of Business Operations Jim Lyphout said that whichever motivation for sustainability might be cited, the financial and environmental benefits come hand-in-hand.

“I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” he said. “Because you do it for one reason doesn’t mean you can’t do it for the other.”

Lyphout added that however one might justify the move towards sustainability, the University has an ethical obligation to act in environmentally friendly ways.

“We have a moral and an ethical reason to conserve our resources,” Lyphout said, regardless if it is done for economic or environmental reasons.

Theology Professor Margaret Pfeil said Notre Dame’s obligation is also influenced by the University’s unique Catholic character.

“I think a commitment to sustainable living flows from the whole Catholic social tradition,” she said, noting that the tension between economic and environmental motives is also affected by Notre Dame’s Catholic mission.

“Moving the University toward greater environmental sustainability may make good economic sense, but as a Catholic university, we can offer a much deeper moral and theological rationale for a ‘green’ ND,” she said.

The one piece of rationale Mazurek rejects is the notion that Notre Dame is moving to sustainability purely based on improving its “image.”

“It’s a valid point,” he said of the criticism, but he points to the quantifiable goals his office has set, and added that the University intends to be completely transparent about achieving those goals.

Mazurek conceded that he was a bit “surprised” at how eager University officials were to being so transparent, which should go a long way in proving their actions are not motivated by improving Notre Dame’s image, he said.

“It’s important to be transparent along the way, even about missteps and negative things,” he said. “If we have a dip in recycling, because it’s February and people aren’t recycling as much, we’re going to be transparent about it.”


The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND develops strategies to achieve sustainability

Aaron Steiner and John Tierney | Friday, September 26, 2008

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a multi-part series examining sustainability at Notre Dame.

As the General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said at Wednesday’s Forum on Sustainable Energy, “to do something, you have to do something.” So how is Notre Dame becoming more sustainable?

According to Tracy Jennings, co-president of Students for Environment Action, achieving true sustainability requires making people feel uncomfortable.

“It’s going to take a lot of change that necessarily won’t be welcome,” she said. It will take “a change in attitudes about what’s necessary.”

On campus, Jennings said there are many difficult decisions to be made.

“Should we build another building, or should we make another building energy efficient? It’s so wasteful to build a whole new building when … the heating systems in a lot of the old dorms are so inefficient,” she said.

Sustainability is about much more than choosing between economics and the environment on energy decisions, Jennings said.

“It’s about not being wasteful,” she said. “That’s reusing coffee mugs, using reusable Grab-and-Go bags …

“It means realizing how your role, however insignificant, does play a part in the larger environment.”

Students can realize their role by taking the small steps, Jennings said.

“Every student should have the goal of taking out their recycling more often than their trash can,” she said. “It’s really the small changes – I can bike to Turtle Creek, I can walk to Meijer. Since the Transpo’s free, why do I have to drive to the mall?”

Jennings urged students to see the economic impact in their own lives of taking these small steps. “You can see the economic and environmental goals become one and the same,” she said. “Transpo’s free and you save on gas, so why not take the bus?”

For the Notre Dame community, sustainability relates to the University’s emphasis on “tradition,” according to GreeND president Lourdes Long. “The goal is to sustain the University for as long as it’s been in existence,” she said.

“We can think about it in terms of our kids, our grandkids going here,” she said. “We can think about a University that has enough money to pay for [their] scholarships.”

According to Jennings, taking action on behalf of the environment is about thinking in a new way. “The neat thing about the environmental movement is that it doesn’t take much more than a changed mindset,” she said.

Such a need for a changed mindset was echoed by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter in his closing remarks at the forum Wednesday.

“We have to think differently,” he said.

For the University, despite Wednesday’s announcement of a B- grade for sustainability after earning a D- two years ago, there are still more steps to take, according to Georges Enderle, a professor of Business Ethics.

“I think there is a kind of awakening out here in Notre Dame,” he said. “Those sustainability issues are very important and I’m very happy about that. But I don’t know how far that reaches to faculty, students, and staff.

“I’m happy that something got started, but I think we can and should do much more.”

Adopting, enacting sustainable practices

The Office of Sustainability is trying to do more about sustainability, having completed Director Jim Mazurek’s 100-day plan, something he enacted upon his installment as director of the office in May.

One of the plan’s goals was to begin the process of developing a set of baseline data to judge Notre Dame’s environmental impact – including the recently calculated carbon footprint – and the plan also required that the Office of Sustainability begin to develop a set of quantifiable performance targets based on that data.

With those targets – and their recently developed mission and vision statements – the Office will begin to guide specific initiatives within seven core areas: energy, water, design and construction, waste, procurement, food services and transportation.

Already, the University’s emphasis on sustainability is showing results in many of these areas.

For example, Senior Associate Director of Food Services Jim Yarbrough said Food Services worked to increase the amount of locally sourced food from 26 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2007. Any state that borders Indiana is considered local, he said.

Yarbrough said he is working with the Office of Sustainability on another promising initiative, composting.

“We want to divert all the waste we possibly can from the landfills,” he said.

In improving the design and construction component of Notre Dame’s ecological impact, University Architect Doug Marsh said his office is incorporating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards into all new construction. In fact, Stinson-Remick Hall, the engineering building under construction, and Ryan Hall, the women’s residence hall under construction, will be LEED certified, he said.

Mazurek pointed out that Notre Dame is leading the state in LEED certified design.

“There are only 19 LEED certified buildings in the state of Indiana [right now],” Mazurek said, and Notre Dame is planning to add five buildings to that list in the next few years.

“We are really one of the driving forces here,” he said.

In existing buildings, Paul Kempf, director of Utilities, said that the University is working to improve energy efficiency within 25 campus facilities.

“We are implementing either HVAC improvements … or retrofitting lighting to newer, more efficient light sources,” Kempf said.

Facilities Operations Central Receiving Manager Pat O’Hara praised the University community’s growing commitment to recycling, which has already made a noticeable impact this year, he said.

“Everyone is totally on board,” O’Hara said.

One particular recycling initiative, the Game Day Recycling, has already proven successful, according to the Office of Sustainability.

The office reports that the weekend of Sept. 5-7, fans recycled over seven tons of waste, and during the weekend of Sept. 12-14, that number jumped to over eight tons.

In making sense of all the individual initiatives and specific targets the Office of Sustainability sets, Mazurek said his office will begin to develop a “multi-year roadmap for sustainability.”

Already, though, he said he’s seen success on campus and the community is on board, from students to top University officials.

“It’s been 100 percent positive,” he said, which is good, since sustainability is here at Notre Dame to stay.