For this edition of our continuing “Conversations with Green Champions” Rolland President Philip Rundle speaks with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville about campus and community sustainability.
SIUE Creative Director Heather Kniffel of University Marketing and Communications covers the campus’ old-growth forest, environmental jobs for graduates, and responsible printing at a school that runs on green power.
SIUE is nationally recognized for academic excellence, and one of the most-affordable universities in the Midwest
• Located in Edwardsville, 25 miles from St. Louis, with a 2,660-acre campus and more than 13,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs.
• Recognized for quality and value by Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.
• Committed to energy efficiency, and a leading university in the region with seven Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings.
In addition to the Environmental Sciences Department, SIUE has environment-related programs in Biological Sciences, Civil Engineering, Geography and Integrative Studies. What is attracting students?
Our regional, national and international reputation. Students from 43 states have completed Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences degrees since 2000 – and 60% come from outside our region. A major attraction is our campus, where two beautiful sites are ideal settings for research, lab and class assignments:
• The SIUE Nature Preserve is a protected area that promotes learning about native ecosystems and wildlife, with 380 acres of old-growth forest, secondary forest, restored grassland and lakeshore habitat.
• The Gardens at SIUE is a living research laboratory with 36 acres of woods, ponds and an arboretum, even a vegetable garden for students.
Demand for environmental specialists and scientists is projected to be higher than the average for all occupations. Where are your graduates working?
Across the economy. Traditional organizations like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service. Universities, from Purdue to the University of Michigan and SIUE in the Midwest to the University of Texas and Vanderbilt. Companies close to nature, like American Water Works, Archer Daniels Midland and Environmental Operations. Household names like the American Red Cross, Anheuser-Busch, Pfizer and Walt Disney.
When did SIUE move to 100% renewable electricity?
January 2017. The EPA has ranked SIUE as the top university in Illinois for green power usage, and among the top 30 nationally. We purchase 100% of our electricity from renewable sources through renewable energy credits. Green power is generated on campus by a 120-foot wind turbine and 140 solar panels. All of this reduces our carbon footprint.
What is the role of the Sustainability Action Group?
SAG is made up of faculty, students and staff. The goal is to make SIUE a more sustainable institution and community member. The heart of the work is assessing progress and vetting new ideas.
SAG contributed to SIUE’s 2020-2025 strategic plan, to be adopted shortly, which includes the goal ‘To develop, maintain, and protect the university’s physical and financial assets through sound and sustainable practices.’ This will help guide our development as the higher educational institution that produces the most bachelor’s degrees in the St. Louis Metro region.
What are typical community-oriented sustainability projects?
SIUE Successful Communities Collaborative (SSCC) supports partnerships that advance sustainability. An example is Edwardsville, which is working to address the environmental impacts of its fast growth. A committee of city leaders, residents, University faculty, staff and students – Earth Edwardsville – is developing plans and projects. One starts soon: a 10-cent tax on plastic shopping bags, to fund environmental causes. Students also worked on a storm water management plan with the City of Alton, IL., and a recycling education campaign with the Village of Godfrey, IL.
Food Recovery Network, a national student organization fighting food waste and hunger, is active on campus. Volunteers work in the cafeteria, recovering food that would otherwise go into the trash, and it goes to people in need.
Of SIUE’s many environmental certifications or rankings, which stands out most?
We earned a STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) silver rating for campus sustainability in 2016 from AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in High Education). We’re working on a new assessment report to maintain that designation. It’s a KPI in our strategic plan!
How about the financial side of sustainability?
SIUE is affordable and nationally recognized, so we put a quality education within reach, which speaks to the triple bottom line.
On the physical side, our LEED buildings are energy efficient, which reduces operating costs and environmental impact. Older buildings are also being upgraded, with energy-efficient windows and LED lighting. The administration is willing to make these investments, because they see the long-term benefits.
As a paper manufacturer we have to ask: What is the role of print communication at SIUE?
I oversee print for University Marketing and Communications, a full-service agency with a team of 24 working in all media. We continue to recommend print to clients, like university departments, because it is so tangible and so personal. We complete many hundreds of print projects a year.
Our students are citizens of the digital age, but surveys show they respond positively to print publications like our Viewbooks, 20-24-page booklets on our colleges, schools and programs.
Do you have a sustainability checklist for paper suppliers?
Our priorities are FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) certified 100% post-consumer waste paper, and FSC-certified printers using vegetable inks. About three-quarters of all printing is on 100% recycled paper.
What led you to choose paper from Rolland?
A St. Louis printer, which used Rolland paper for Missouri Botanical Garden projects, made the recommendation years ago when the more expensive recycled sheet we’d been using was unavailable. Since then we have been using Rolland’s Enviro product line with 100% recycled post-consumer content. Mainly for offset printing, but more and more digital printing lately. We like the image quality and availability.
We print a substantial amount of publications. So, we have a responsibility to select sustainable vendors and products, like our printers and Rolland Paper. It wouldn’t make sense to do anything less, considering the University’s environmental effort.
Do you see SIUE as a green champion?
Yes, because we practice environmental, social and financial sustainability, and work at improving. Our campus environment matters, too. When prospective students and their parents visit, the natural beauty is a deal-maker. People respond to the land, to the way it is protected. It’s a jaw-dropper of a campus, a wonderful place to learn.