Sustaining a sustainable campus

This weekend’s downpour was a breath of fresh air – or more like a splash of much-needed water – but we all know the drought is far from over. Each day, as growing climate change threatens the human population and its home planet’s existence, it becomes even more important for us to remain conscious and mindful of our environmental impact.

So, as students of a small campus constantly commended for sustainable practices, what are we doing to sustain our environment and ourselves?

In addition to our array of environmental studies programs, our beautiful nature Preserves sites, environmentally-conscious JUMP volunteers, the campus garden, the WATERS Collaborative and the past few Theatre Arts and Dance shows that clearly celebrated nature, the university just appointed its first Director of Sustainability, Paul Draper, who will also chair the newly created Sustainability Executive Committee. Featured in issue two of this publication, Draper expressed his interest and intent to work with the rest of the campus to continue a community-wide desire for sustainability.

And of course, there’s the Campus Recreation Center: a state-of-the-art facility that was specifically designed with sustainability in mind. For water conservation alone, the Rec Center plants native drought-resistant plants, uses low flow faucets that cut water consumption by as much as 40 percent, and was one of the first buildings in Sonoma County to use reclaimed water in its restrooms. 

The rest of the building flaunts sustainable features such as solar panels, thermal bricks that keep both natural heat and cold air inside the building, and massive skylights designed for natural light. Its flooring and much of its furniture is made from recycled material.

Former Director of Campus Rec Pam Su, a staff member constantly applauded for her contributions and efforts, is attributed for essentially building the award-winning Rec Center – one of the first sustainable buildings of its kind in the country – from scratch in 2004. 

Ten years later, the Rec Center remains one of the most popular, well-designed buildings on this campus that was clearly ahead of its time. So it stands to reason that the Student Center, similarly built with student fees, would have used the Rec Center as a model to continue this mission of sustainability. Right?

Maybe not. Yes, the Student Center’s beautiful bathrooms use reclaimed water as well. The center also boasts water bottle refill stations, and some of its lights are censor-operated. And fortunately, students and employees of Culinary Services are working hard to minimize waste and maximize sustainable products in the Student Center – and around campus – as much as possible (see page 4).

But unlike the Rec Center, whose mission statement states “through the design and operation of our facility, Campus Rec demonstrates a profound commitment to a sustainable society in hopes that we can help pioneer a vision for conservation and energy efficiency,” the Student Center mission statement has no similar sentiments.

We’re a little disappointed that the building’s masterminds and architects didn’t make sustainability a priority like the Rec Center did. We know what world we’re living in, and we know that if we’re going to build something brand new we might as well build it right. To create a longstanding, $12 million building without sustainability as a major priority isn’t just ignorant – it’s literally wasteful.

But enough harping on the Student Center. For the most part it looks like they’re doing well with the resources they have (though we have to admit, we sure do miss Seawolf Sundaes). And the efforts made by rest of the campus more than make up for what the Student Center is lacking – at least, we hope they do. 

But as we temporarily put our umbrellas and rainboots in the closet until the next rainy day (if the next one ever comes), let’s continue to perpetuate this effort to sustain our environment and conserve water, energy and gas as much as possible. Let’s show our appreciation for the large efforts of our campus and community in the best way possible – by reciprocating it.

And hey, anything’s better than that yellow sh*t in Sochi right now.