Sustainability remains priority for Columbia

By Samuel Charles

On Oct. 14 Columbia hosted the Chicago GreenTown Conference, which aims to raise awareness about environmental responsibility, at the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. The conference was aimed at city planners and civic audiences to promote sustainability, primarily focusing on transportation, community design and green neighborhoods.

The keynote speakers at the conference were Phillipe Cousteau, activist and chief ocean correspondent at Animal Planet and Planet Green, and Suzanne Malec-McKenna, the Commissioner of the Department of Energy for the city of Chicago.

In his address to the audience, Cousteau, grandson of oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, detailed the recent trip he took to the Gulf Coast area after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the problems people will face with water quality.

“We’re evolving,” said Columbia President Warrick L. Carter. “We’re all concerned about our carbon footprint, and it’s larger than we’d like it to be.”

On Oct. 13, three pre-conference workshops were held to help students understand some specific aspects of the sustainability method.

Among them was “Sustainability and Higher Education: The Push for Green Campuses and Sustainable Curriculum.”

“Through our sustainability master plan, we’re finding out there is a lot of curricula at Columbia that involves sustainability already,” said Office of Campus Environment Project Manager Joe Leamanczyk. “One professor, who’s in the Marketing Communications Department, has a focus on market sustainable strategies in one of her classes. So it’s not called a sustainable class, but faculty does realize the importance of it and will incorporate it into the curriculum.”

Several academic institutions in the area have hosted the GreenTown Conference since it was founded in 2007. However, since 2009 the conference has been held in multiple locations in northeast Illinois and eastern Michigan.

Rain collection buckets decorated by various artists were on display on the eighth floor of the 1104 Center to help people recognize water as a finite resource and one that must be used frugally.

The buckets were sponsored by Recycle the Raindrops, an organization dedicated to using natural rainwater in ways people would normally use filtered water in their homes.

Various organizations and companies were in attendance, both to network with one another and show what they’re doing to increase sustainability within

their communities.

Some of the attendees included East Jordan Iron Workers, of East Jordan, Mich., which works to manufacture fire hydrants, manhole covers and other iron-cast products, as well as Leopardo, a Chicago construction company.

In his address to the audience, Carter said many colleges and universities now look to their students to teach faculty and to point out what the students believe schools do wrong.

“[Students] are the ones who raise questions,” Carter said. “It’s here at colleges and universities that the next generation is being trained and molded. Recently, a 40-person sustainability committee was appointed to hold my feet to the fire.”

The committee, Carter said, has proposed several recommendations to the college with hopes of lessening Columbia’s carbon footprint.

Carter said Columbia is on the path to a more sustainable campus and overall environment, via the two green roofs on campus at the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building, 33 E. Congress Pkwy., and the Media Production Center, 1600 S. State St.

“Although we have these very old buildings that were built in a time when [sustainability] was not at all considered, as we refurbish them, we are thinking in those terms,” Carter said. “In our future we’ll be a much greener place than we are now because we are continuously changing.”