Columbia celebrates Earth with climate award

By Assistant Campus Editor

Columbia’s campus might currently be cold and dreary, but it has been selected as one of the leading green schools in the country.

Columbia has been named a finalist as one of 20 U.S. colleges for the 2014 Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature, an organization whose mission is to sustainably transform higher education.

Second Nature works with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an organization that encourages colleges to commit to a global climate responsibility. Colleges that sign ACUPCC’s pact are required to complete an emissions inventory, set a date for becoming climate neutral, take immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and integrate sustainability into the curriculum, according to ACUPCC’s website.

John Wawrzaszek, Columbia’s sustainability manager, said Columbia signed the ACUPCC pact in 2010.  

“We’ve done greenhouse gas inventories and we had to let ACUPCC know that we were committed [to] what we were doing to reduce energy usage in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” Wawrzaszek said.

Van Du, program manager at Second Nature, said there were more than 50 schools that entered, which makes it hard to select a winner for this year’s award.

“Columbia was selected based on the nominations [the college] submitted,” Du said. “The college definitely demonstrated the leadership in addressing sustainability both on campus and in the community. Based on that, our staff decided to move Columbia forward as a finalist.”

Wawrzaszek said the college’s most notable green project is the Papermaker’s Garden, 754 S. Wabash Ave., a garden created in 2013 that is used to make paper as an interdisciplinary class.

“Second Nature puts out a call to all the members who have signed up, and we were selected,” Wawrzaszek said. “One of our focuses for our engagement has been from the Papermaker’s Garden so that’s where our award stemmed from.”

April Sheridan, adjunct professor in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department and special projects coordinator for the Book & Paper Center, said she was surprised to learn that Columbia had been selected as a finalist.

“When we first started the garden, community members would stop us and people in the buildings or people who would work out in The Hilton Hotel would contact us and say, ‘Hey, we love walking by. It’s green and it’s a nice place to have in the city,’” Sheridan said. “We want to continue that in the winter [in a way] that’s attractive but also meaningful and connects people in some sort of way.”

The Papermaker’s Garden is still striving to be greener, Sheridan said, adding that the garden will soon plant fibers from local farmers.

“We want to locally source the fiber,” Sheridan said. “We are really using the garden for plant materials to take back into planting and try to close that gap a little bit.”