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University prizes green initiatives

Mel Flanagan | Monday, September 10, 2012

The Office of Sustainability has opened the school year with several initiatives, some new and some continued from last year, to keep Notre Dame on track to become a more sustainable university.

Rachel Novick, education and outreach program manager for the office, said the group is promoting recycling on football weekends again this year. Through the program, groups of student volunteers distribute recycling bags to tailgaters.

Novick said the people at tailgates enjoy the game day recycling program immensely.

“They’re really excited for students to come around,” she said. “Tailgaters look for their blue bags. They love seeing that students are excited about this.”

The initiative also serves as a fundraiser for student groups on campus, Novick said. Students volunteer on behalf of a club or residence hall, and the group earns money based on the number of students who assist.

Student body president Brett Rocheleau said the program has been a huge success in past years.

“If you ever walked by the recycling bins on game days last year, they were filled to the brim,” he said.

The Office of Sustainability is also expanding on its dorm energy competitions this year, Novick said.

The office is utilizing a dashboard system on a website where students can track their dorm’s electricity usage and check how their residence hall ranks compared to others.

“The system is going to automate our competition and make it easier and more engaging for students,” Novick said.

There will be four competitions this year, each lasting between one and three weeks. Novick said the first contest would begin Sept. 23.

One of the office’s new initiatives is the Green Event Certification. Through this program, anyone who is running a University event can apply for his or her event to be certified as sustainable.

In order to qualify as sustainable, Novick said the group must complete an easy checklist that can be found on the Office of Sustainability website.

“You go through and check off things, and you need a certain number of points [to qualify],” she said. “Then you get to display the green certification logo on your event materials.”

Some items on the checklist include minimizing paper use and avoiding bottled water, Novick said.

The program also has an education component. Rocheleau said the checklist would teach students small, easy ways to become more “green”.

“I know there are people who are very sustainable-conscious, while there are others who just don’t have the knowledge of what being sustainable would entail,” he said.

Another new project this year was the installation of hydration stations in each of the dorms over the summer.

Novick said her office subsidized custom stainless steel water bottles for each dorm that expressed an interest in them.

“They designed a dorm logo for one side and on the other it says ‘Office of Sustainability,'” she said. “That’s really helping to get students excited about using reusable bottles and using the water bottle filling stations, not bottled water.”

Rocheleau said student government hopes to install hydration stations in more campus buildings, such as DeBartolo Hall, O’Shaugnessey Hall and the two campus fitness centers.

“[The fitness centers] are on board and they’re willing to fund it,” he said. “Nothing is signed, but I don’t see anything stopping that from happening. It could be as quickly as fall break, or it could be somewhere around Christmas break.”

These initiatives and others all contribute to bring Notre Dame closer to its goals of lessoning its carbon footprint.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction toward our two-year sustainable strategy,” Rocheleau said. “Having initiatives like this is the first step I think, and knowledge and awareness of the student body [are others].”