LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is one of the 353 most environmentally responsible colleges according to the Princeton Review. The education services company known for its college rankings features KU in the 2015 edition of its Guide to 353 Green Colleges, published April 16.
The University’s online profile highlights key waste reduction efforts that contribute to this recognition. KU Recycling plays an important role in that effort by providing more than 1,000 recycling bins throughout campus and collecting more than 600 tons of recycled material each year. Its Rock Chalk Recycle program, a partnership with KU Athletics, has also reduced waste at sporting events by educating fans about recycling and composting.
The program expects an upcoming transition to single-stream recycling to collect even more recyclables.
“With the move to a single-stream system, the university is looking forward to making it easier than ever for students, faculty and staff to make the right choice when it comes to what they throw away,” said Eric Nelson, waste reduction manager.
Waste reduction efforts in KU Dining Services have also diverted significant amounts of food waste from the landfill. Removing trays from residence hall dining facilities discourages diners from taking more than they can eat, and the composting program collects any food that is wasted. In FY 2014, more than 480 tons of food waste was sent to a composting facility. KU Dining Services also donates used cooking oil to the KU Biodiesel Initiative, which converts it to fuel that is used in campus lawn care equipment.
Meanwhile, the campus landscape is being enhanced through the Replant Mount Oread initiative, a donor-funded program that involves students in planting trees on campus. Trees are also being planted as part of the reconstruction of Jayhawk Boulevard, a project that includes green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff.
“Implementing our campus sustainability plan, Building Sustainability Traditions, has lead to significant improvements in campus operations,” said Jeff Severin, director of KU’s Center for Sustainability, “as well as the development of new programs that support sustainability in education and foster student leadership.”
The Oread Project, a workshop to assist faculty with integrating sustainability in the classroom, is now in its third year at the university. Its participants include faculty from diverse fields, including engineering, English, law and the arts, who have updated or created new courses to integrate key concepts in sustainability.
First-year students can further enhance these educational experiences by participating in the KU Stewards program. Through this yearlong experience, students receive a basic introduction to campus sustainability and student leadership, then implement their own campus project. The Center for Sustainability is also proposing a Sustainability Certificate program that would include a series of three sustainability-related courses and an experiential component such as undergraduate research or internships.
The profiles in The Princeton Review's Guide to 353 Green Colleges include "Green Facts" about the schools with details on the availability of transportation alternatives and the percentage of the school food budgets spent on local and organic food. The "Campus Life" section of the online profile posts the school's 2014 Princeton Review Green Rating score and a more detailed "Green Highlights" narrative.
The Princeton Review chose the schools for this sixth-annual edition of its "green guide" based on data from the company's 2014 survey of hundreds of four-year colleges concerning the schools' commitments to the environment and sustainability. Their free guide can be downloaded here.