Loyola’s heart has been colored green
By Kevin Bautista
The Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (or CUERP) is the heart of Loyola’s green initiative. Believe it or not, many things happen behind the scenes at CUERP. They fuel the drive for sustainability at the university, and that drive helped us earn an A- grade on our 2011 “green” report card.
Gina Lettiere, Loyola’s Sustainability Specialist, says that the mission of CUERP is ”to advance our understanding of our connection to the natural environment in an urban setting and how that natural environment responds to our actions.”
The center fosters the development of the Biodiesel Program, Loyola Farmers’ Market, Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) courses, Artificial Stream Lab, and a handful of sustainability research projects and initiatives that push Loyola to be as green as it can be.
Lane Vail, Research Associate and STEP Program Coordinator, summarizes CUERP: “CUERP is a place (one of the driving forces) of environmental action and sustainability at Loyola. Students can come and get involved through fellowships or volunteering on projects that promote environmental awareness, research, and outreach… and I think we’re a cool bunch of people.”
The center entered the university in a contest called RecycleMania, a contest that pits participating universities against each other to see which one can collect the most recyclables. The contest decides on a winner based on the total weight of recyclables collected throughout a ten-week period. This contest not only poses as an incentive for students to recycle, but also to recycle smartly.
Pretty much every trash and recycling receptacle on campus features an accompanying “Pitch In” sign that tells people what they can recycle and what they can’t. This, ideally, reduces mix-ups in the collection process.
RecycleMania and the “Pitch In” signs represent CUERP’s most direct form of engaging students to think and act with an environmentally conscious mindset.
Of course, the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra applies. However, Loyola reminds us that “Reduce” should always come first; we wouldn’t have nearly as much of a need to recycle if there wasn’t any waste to recycle.
Zach Waickman, Biodiesel Lab Manager, says, “‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is in that order for a reason,” further enforcing that idea. “Reduce” doesn’t exclusively apply to recyclables, however.
Loyola challenges its students to take on less-wasteful habits and practices, such as turning lights off when leaving a room unattended.
“Reuse” both subtly and assertively presents itself on Loyola’s campus through bottle refill stations. Alongside the recent refill station additions, students assert their concerns with plastic bottles to the Unified Student Government Association (USGA).
Many students, staff, and faculty members endorse a water bottle-less campus and encourage others to use bottle refill stations to get water.
Finally, labeled recycling bins and litter bins cover the “Recycle” part of the mantra.
Sustainable practices exist not only on campus, but in the office, as well. Lettiere says she challenges herself and her officemates to fit all of their trash in a fairly small vase located in her office. It’s pretty comical, but I think it’s an interesting way of getting others to reduce the amount of trash they procure.
CUERP offers students ways to get involved with sustainability practices, whether through student-led organizations like the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA) or Growers’ Guild, fellowships, research internships, volunteer opportunities, or even the new lineup of STEP courses, as well as general signage around campus to get them thinking in a more sustainable mindset.
The center previously offered the STEP course as a class about biodiesel and then food systems. This year, the class teaches students about water conservation issues, water policy, contaminants, and history of water, to name a few.
Essentially, STEP provides students with an opportunity to learn about and tackle real-life environmental issues through “education… hands-on labs, and projects.”
From the straightforward practice of reducing, reusing, and recycling to the involved programs that CUERP offers, the university puts out a solid effort to make as small of an impact on the environment as possible.
On the university level, CUERP encourages students to take sustainable practices with them everywhere they go, whether it be as simple as recycling a plastic bottle or as involved as continuing the biodiesel legacy; Loyola is the first university in the nation to have a license to sell biodiesel fuel.
Loyola still doesn’t require bathrooms to have high-efficiency water fixtures (think sensor-activated, time-based faucets and water-sipping toilets). Also, there are definitely places where we can add or incorporate “green” elements, such as adding more water bottle refill stations.
Kevin Bautista is the photo editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.