The Sustainability Planning Committee hosted a forum on Jan. 16, on the North Haven campus to discuss the university’s sustainability goals.
Students and faculty were invited to attend to discuss ideas about how Quinnipiac can be more sustainable.
“We’ve been asked to develop a vision and a goal for sustainability here at Quinnipiac,” Sean Duffy, co-chair of the committee, said. “We’ve been asked to identify aspirational models for sustainability from other kinds of institutions, not just academic institutions. We’ve been asked to identify strategies and opportunities for promoting sustainability, and we’ve been asked to develop metrics and benchmarks and things like that to measure our progress going forward.”
Duffy said that the committee was just going to focus on developing a vision and strategies for promoting sustainability for the beginning phase of planning. A statement of the vision for sustainability is due to the Board of Trustees by March 31.
“We have a relatively short timeline, so your feedback is greatly appreciated in this entire process,” Courtney McGinnis, co-chair of the committee, said.
The committee wants Quinnipiac to make sustainability central to the goals of the institution as a whole. Duffy used Wesleyan University as an example of a university that promotes sustainability in everything that it does, and expressed the committee’s desire to one day match Wesleyan’s accomplishments in the area of sustainable development.
“As a committee, in terms of being charged with coming up with a sustainability vision statement, I think we have an opportunity to be one of the first kind of organization where we can articulate the sustainability vision that is central to our mission as a university,” Duffy said. “But how we do that is where we would like your input.”
The main part of the forum was filled with questions and comments either from the people in attendance or from people who sent them via a site online.
“That’s what’s driving this initial discussion — what’s the vision?” McGinnis said. “What does sustainability look like at Quinnipiac? We’re happy to hear some of those ideas. We’re trying to frame it in the context of how that will fit our vision.”
Topics that were covered during the audience portion of the meeting included questions about the windmills on York Hill, energy conservation, reducing plastic and how to garner involvement across the whole university.
A concept that came up several times throughout the forum was the idea that publicly stating what the university has accomplished in regards to helping the environment could encourage students to become more engaged in helping further the goals.
“We have few things in the works,” said Leah Lavin, graduate student representative.. “Right now, the main one is this kind of display case that would be right in the student center. We want to have a screen where students can input feedback, so stuff like that is in the works.”
The Sustainability Planning Committee works with the Students for Environmental Action (SEA) to coordinate certain ideas and plans.
“We really want to get as many people involved as possible, so when we work with the sustainability committee, it’s to get as many students and faculty as possible,” said Isablla Vega, public relations and marketing officer for the SEA.. “I feel like that’s our main priority, also teaching everyone who wants to learn about sustainability what the different subjects there.”
For the SEA, the sustainable development is about slowly implementing changes across campus and making sure to bring awareness to the subject.
“Right now our biggest focus is Earth Day,” Vega said. “Along with that, we’re trying to get the composts on campus more recognized to help people understand more about waste. Little things, too, like changes in the dining hall and dorms. Like making recycling more available and having people understand what goes into the recycling.”
The board discussed what a potential vision statement might look like. They asked for the audience to react it by discussing what works and what needs to be improved upon.
After some comments and questions from people in the audience, they all had different opinions on the potential vision statements. However, one thing that they seemed to be united on was the idea that community involvement is the most important aspect of sustainability.
“We are our own community,” Duffy said. “If we can do this in a much more open and inclusive way, so that people are having their voices heard and can participate in forums like this. We need a community cultural change. That change will come from people understanding what we’re doing, and feeling like they’re being heard.”
There will be another forum open to the university community on Monday, Jan. 27 on the Mount Carmel campus in CCE 101 from 12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.