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Green Summit sparks new ideas

Aaron Steiner | Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making faculty pay for parking spots, creating a “cap and trade” system for print quotas and eliminating plastic bottles in Waddick’s were among the ideas suggested at Notre Dame’s second annual Green Summit Monday evening in McKenna Hall.

University administrators, faculty, staff and students attended the event, organized by various groups on campus including GreeND and the Office of Sustainability.

GreeND President and Office of Sustainability intern Colleen Kelly said the event drew a larger, different crowd this year.

“I think that the conversation was also different this year,” she said.

Kelly said themes like recycling, conservation and sustainability have gained a more “visible presence” on campus since last year, all of which has changed the direction of discussion.

Last year, the summit sparked some criticism and basic suggestions about greening Notre Dame’s campus, and this year’s discussion was “building on a base that we’ve created,” Kelly said.

“We’re able to go [further],” she said, going “out of the recycling box.”

The nearly 200 participants were divided up into 20 groups. Discussions at each table lasted for over an hour, with representatives from each group presenting a summary of suggestions and comments.

The Office of Sustainability will summarize the suggestions and comments generated at the summit, Kelly said. The information will then be communicated to the relevant departments, who will be charged with addressing each idea or criticism.

Kelly said she was especially struck by the repeated discussion about increased education and communication about sustainability on campus.

Other suggestions focused on printing and paper usage, simple ways to decrease energy consumption, and using competition as an incentive to adopt sustainable practices and decrease consumption of resources.

Many tables discussed the fact that it is difficult to track energy and other consumption because of the centralized nature of University operations. It’s currently not possible to know which departments, buildings or colleges are spending more, groups said.

“We need incentives, and I think the competition things are great … but in the end the thing that really makes a difference is money,” said Joan Brennecke, professor of engineering.

Brennecke said her table said that accounting for consumption of individual departments would “really make a difference.”

“I think in the end this is the main way we’re going to see real change here,” she said.

Amy Coughlin, director of project management for Business Operations, said her table focused on methods of changing behavior.

She suggested a few ways to change behavior regarding recycling.

“Instead of just putting out recycling bins … we would take away individual trash cans,” she said, and move them to a central location. At the least, she said, it would prove “an interesting experiment.”

Jim Mazurek, Director of the Office of Sustainability, said his table, made up of Office of Information Technology staff, decided that things that “hurt you financially” could also be incentives to change behavior.

Specifically, his table discussed implementing the Pharos printing system – which is a pay per use system – in all departments. Currently, only printers designated for student use make use of the pay per use system.

“Could you imagine that system rolled out for all of us across campus?” he asked.

Other suggestions included eliminating trays in the dining halls, working with vendors to monitor consumption, and increasing the number of courses related to sustainability and environmental concerns.

Kelly said that discussions were “collaborative,” and she hopes that groups from all areas and levels of the University will continue to work together.

“We’ve been really lucky to have established relationships with the administration from the beginning,” Kelly said. In addition, groups like GreeND have strong relationships with students, and the Office of Sustainability good relationships with faculty and staff, she said.

“That kind of collaboration has been the main reason we’ve been able to succeed,” Kelly said.

“I don’t think sustainability is going anywhere at Notre Dame but forward.”