Columbia creates culture of sustainability

By Ivana Hester

Columbia’s Sustainability Task Force welcomed student input during an open meeting Oct. 30 at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building.

One of the topics discussed at the meeting, which three students attended, was the updated Sustainability Roadmap published by the college Oct. 15. The original plan, which was published in August 2011, outlined a five-year strategy to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The revised map updated the original proposal with data from the 2010–2011 fiscal year.

During that time, sustainability consulting companies, Sustainametrics and TerraLocke, helped Columbia compile its first GHG inventory to help the college find ways to lower its emissions.

The next GHG inventory will be conducted later this year and will include the new Media Production Center and the Johnson Publishing Co. Building, the future site of the college’s library. The 2010 results showed that Columbia’s GHG emissions totaled the equivalent of 51,409 barrels of oil, or 2.5 million gallons of gasoline.

During the meeting, sustainability manager John Wawrzaszek suggested different methods of lowering emissions. He said turning off computers when they are no longer in use, encouraging commuting students, faculty and staff to bike or use public transportation and minimizing waste by recycling and composting would all help Columbia reach its sustainability goals.

Wawrzaszek said sustainability is an important practice for institutions to implement because habits it encourages go far beyond the classroom. Sustainability is not something students would only learn to incorporate in their lives now, they will continue these practices moving forward, he said.

“I believe [the college’s part] is important [for] when our grads go out [into the world],” Wawrzaszek said. “This is the way that the world is shaping, so they are going to need to be acclimated to working within this framework.”

John Mascarenhas, a sustainability consultant at TerraLocke, said colleges and universities that educate people about sustainability are helping achieve global goals.

“Even if [graduating students] don’t work in sustainability, to be aware of it and have that influence, their work is going to be a very positive thing for society,”

Mascarenhas said.

Alex Mann, a junior arts, entertainment and media management major, attended the meeting and said sustainability is important to her because she once worked on an organic farm and has seen the impact of sustainability firsthand.

She said she feels heathier and good about herself because she is knows she is giving back.

“[Sustainability] doesn’t just improve the overall picture, but it [also] makes me feel better about myself,” Mann said.

Wawrzaszek said the college wants to get more students involved in helping Columbia reach its sustainability goals.

“[The Sustainability Task Force] wants to be the catalyst for connecting people together to start working on projects,” he said.

According to Wawrzaszek, students can get involved by integrating certain practices into their daily lives, such as recycling, not buying bottled water and developing innovative ideas to promote sustainability in their class work.

He also said he wants to encourage students to be more vocal about steps they think the college can take to be more sustainable and also to educate themselves on available resources and utilize them.

“There is a part of Columbia that has always been sustainable,” Wawrzaszek said. “We are adding to that new bigger picture where we want to go.”

For more information on sustainability and to view Columbia’s Sustainability Roadmap, visit