However, Dr. James Biardi, an assistant professor of biology and an active member of the Campus Sustainability Committee (CSC), believes that the success of this plan is partially reliant on student involvement.
“As we come up with a final draft, we are hoping to get input from many students … many come to Fairfield who were involved in [environmental issues] in high school or other community engagement efforts, and we’re hoping to capitalize on some of their stories to get new ideas,” he says.
As part of our commitment to becoming more environmentally friendly, Fr. Jeffrey von Arx S.J. signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2008. The website of this initiative states, “This pledge commits their institutions to neutralizing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating higher education’s research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.”
This resulted in the formation of a Campus Sustainability Plan, which is focused on setting and achieving certain goals across campus. Different subcommittees were formed to figure out ways that Fairfield can make changes in areas such as campus operations, energy, building design and construction, waste management, land and water management, education and engagement, finance and administration.
Although Fairfield did boast environmentally friendly features before von Arx signed this plan, Biardi says that one of the benefits of this formalized process is that it allows the school to “bring all these together and coalesce their efforts to make a university-wide initiative surrounding sustainability.”
Some of our already established efforts include the Jesuit Residence, which was built according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines. Other buildings on campus have also incorporated some of these features. The University Cogeneration Plant, which provides electricity across campus, has won EPA awards, and thanks to recent efforts, the University has been climbing in other environmental rankings.
A draft of the Administration section of the Campus Sustainability Plan states that: “There are no full-time positions entirely devoted to sustainability. Some sustainability functions are integrated into job descriptions, others depend on individual passions … advances have arisen from the dedication of students, staff, and faculty individual initiative.” However, the plan expresses the hope to hire a full-time Campus Sustainability Coordinator in the next two to five years.
Currently, faculty and staff participation is varied and includes Biology professors such as Biardi to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Jim Fitzpatrick and Director for Residence Life, Ophelie Rowe-Allen. However, student involvement has primarily arisen from groups such as LEAF and FUSA.
Sophomore Arturo Jaras Watts, a member of LEAF who has become involved in the student engagement and waste subcommittees of the Campus Sustainability Committee, believes that increased student involvement is essential to the success of this program.
“I think these attempts to become more environmentally friendly are very important, and that F.U. should, in some ways, lead its students by setting a fantastic and sustainable example. Still, F.U. is composed of and for its students and the students will also need to increase their own efforts and interest in sustainability for F.U. to become a truly sustainable place,” he said.
Jaras Watts’ subcommittees, in particular, are dependent on student awareness of and dedication to environmental issues. The waste subcommittee strives to bring attention to the amount of waste produced by students and to encourage recycling.
The sustainability efforts emphasized by the student engagement subcommittee include the “aim to educate students to motivate them to take shorter showers, avoid driving when possible, reduce the use of electricity, heating and cooling energy and pursue various other sustainable behaviors.”
Biardi agrees that student participation is necessary for the continued development of the Campus Sustainability Plan, as they work on completing a final draft for next year. The faculty or staff in charge of each subcommittee is “open to receiving input on what we can do better. These meetings are open to all of the campus community, and we’re happy to have people come and participate.”