Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Greening DePaul’s Sporting Events

If you have every been to a college sporting event of any type then you have witnessed first hand the mess that is made by spectators and their consumption manufactured goods. My proposal for DePaul University is to take action and make sporting events a zero-waste activity. I have witnessed this on a large scale by the University of Colorado at Boulder with their zero-waste program otherwise referred to as Ralphie’s Green Stampede. The zero-waste program makes an effort to cut carbon emission, reduce waste and recycle at all their home football games played at Folsom Stadium. The program is comprehensive and accounts for transportation, recycling and composting, responsible vendors and eco-friendly merchandise. Vendors that supply cups and food containers for the games are compelled to insure that they are either recyclable or compostable. This program is supported all the way through the athletic department at the University of Colorado and is active message or it’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Bohn. DePaul can learn from this example and may benefit from a having a smaller athletic program.
Sporting events draw in a lot of attention to DePaul from outsiders. Instituting a zero-waste program for sporting events compliments the universities goals of educating people about sustainability as well as demonstrating sound practices. There are various ways to institute these practices and even more ways to promote these ideals during sporting events.

Steps Forward:
-Educating athletic staff on sustainable issues.
-Assessing student body and fan awareness of environmental impact of sporting events.
-Establishment of student led green cheerleaders that promotes green practices at home games.
-Promotion involving athlete wearing green wristbands as a demonstration of support for sustainability.
-Look for sponsorship from green companies.
-Pursue alternative snacks to serve at events that have been sustainably produced.
-Develop strategic plan to make athletic department more green and sustainable.
-Off setting carbon emissions emitted by air-conditioning and heating systems.
-Develop fundraising activities during sporting events.

One of the largest obstacles facing a green movement in athletics is the cost and return on investment. However, DePaul Athletics has some history with developing sustainable practices that have reduced cost. Wish Field on the Lincoln Park Campus utilizes artificial grass or FieldTurf. The turf, which is utilized by softball and soccer, eliminates the need for excessive watering, pesticide use, carbon emission, and is made out of recycled material. Information about the environmental impacts of FieldTurf can be found here.
The Men’s basketball draws the biggest crowd and presents the largest challenge of all other programs due to the fact that they play at the All-State Arena which is not a facility managed by the university. Steps forward do not have to be grandiose or incorporate all athletic programs all at once. According to sustainability in athletic programs is a growing trend and in it is time for DePaul to act in order to maintain and edge. These initiatives to make DePaul’s athletic department has the potential of increasing fan loyalty and represents a missing element in the universities sustainable movement.

-Kevin Nestor

Exercising DePaul’s Purchasing Power Through Procurement Services and Salvage Used Equipment.

“Since July 1, 2009 through March 1, 2010 DePaul has recycled over 41,000lbs of electronic goods with Vintage Tech”.

DePaul has an enrollment over 25,000, each student most likely equipped with several notebooks, multiple textbooks, laptop, pens and pencils. The total population of students and faculty consuming resources adds up. The Financial affairs department at DePaul has taken notice and through their procurement services has begun to track the sustainability initiatives of current vendors. Along with providing a list of preferred vendors, procurement services institutes it’s own internal sustainable initiatives to reduce the amount of paper and ink used. Additionally, they have instituted a safe and effective way for university departments to dispose of unneeded equipment through their salvage program. The combination of all three initiatives represents a comprehensive step forward for DePaul when it comes to sustainability.
Purchasing power of a university such as DePaul is a powerful tool. Tracking the sustainability and reporting of vendors allows for all members of the university to knowingly or unknowingly cooperate and encourages vendors reliant on universities money to comply with sustainable practices. Refusing to purchase from vendors that report unsustainable practices the university contributes to a broader movement beyond the campus. The message reverberates throughout campus as well. On campus it is made clear that DePaul actively practices what it preaches and fosters a community of knowledgeable and conscious consumers. Students and faculty can take pride in these efforts and more importantly are better enabled to participate themselves by purchasing school supplies produced in a responsible manner that may have been cost prohibitive if not bought through the university.
Conscious consumption is only half of the equation for the DePaul. Internal initiatives, such as a digitalizing forms and increasing awareness about wasteful practices develops DePaul’s message to a greater degree. Promoting responsible disposal through the salvage program brings the procurement services sustainable practices full circle. The University Salvage Store works on two levels. The first level allows for all university departments to cut down on their waste and prevent used but working hardware and equipment from ending up in a landfill. Secondly, it offers people on a limited budget to buy needed equipment to aid their education. This program reverses a trend among vendors to produce goods that deteriorate in a short period of time and forces them to produce high quality products that last many years. Salvaged equipment sustains new businesses that are adhering to ideals of sustainability. Vintage Tech is an example of a responsible company that benefits financially from universities selling or donating used electronics and creates an economy for recycled goods that may not survive if they relied predominantly on private consumers.
DePaul’s urban setting is a large obstacle in attaining sustainability since they are dependent upon outside resources and are confine to small area. The financial affairs department and especially the procurement services have done an excellent job in moving forward DePaul practice and message of sustainability in spite of this. They have created incentives to pursue sustainable production and consumption within DePaul and added to the growing number of voices demanding environmentally responsible production goods. Educating students about sustainability, operating through sustainable methods are two highlighted aspects of any sustainable movement. Incorporating sound procurement practices demonstrates DePaul’s commitment to an all-inclusive approach towards sustainability.

Image Credit: Vintage Recycles
-Kevin Nestor

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Environment-Friendly Paints and Finishes

There is much ongoing construction on DePaul’s loop campus. After watching the renovations on the 14 E Jackson building over the last few months and talking to a construction personnel about the upgrades, I can’t help but wonder- what type of building materials are they using and is it eco-friendly and health conscious?

EPA has indicated that air quality is one of the top 5 leading health risk issues in the US. One growing concern is volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in paint. VOCs are substances are emitted gases from solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects to humans and the environment. Most conventional products off-gas VOCs have no other benefits besides enhancing the performance or extend shelf life of the product.

The other concern is the production of the paint. I question whether the paint is produced from naturally derived and non-toxic substances or not?

Paints and coatings have their greatest effect on indoor air quality during and immediately after installation. The health hazard is particularly acute for installers. Most conventional products off-gas VOCs, and other chemicals that are added to enhance the performance or extend shelf life of the product and serve no other benefit.

When paints are produced, raw materials are extracted through quarrying and can destroy the natural environment. Using paints that use renewable sources like flax seed can reduce the health effects and the amount of natural resources extracted from the Earth.

A solution to the issue is to buy alternative paint and finishes substitutions. Most of these eco-friendly paints are lower in toxicity or nontoxic, by-products and naturally derived with low VOCs or no VOCs in the products. One might question if the paint is only ideal for indoor or recreational art uses, but many paint manufacturers have designed them for both interior and exterior uses.

Here are a few examples of eco-friendly paints:

Linseed oil based paint is and example of using flax plant by-products that are found in the food industry. The product lifetime is much higher that synthetic based paints that contain no solvents and are all natural. If the color fades overtime, the can be restored with linseed oil. The next dieal environment friendly products is wood and vegetable oil based paint that is made from natural elements such as soy beans, oak bark, and madder root. Again, these are naturally available and renewable materials. The types of VOCs that are released are not toxic which is not harmful to the environment. Other natural based paints are casein, protein, distemper, milk, and clay based paints. The last product group is low-odor, low VOCs or zero VOCs paints include shellac, interior wood finish, natural wax, natural oils, and beeswax. Most of these paints share similar characteristics that make them renewable, sustainable and natural.

Most of these paint products are produced specifically with the environment in mind. Many environment-minded companies take into consideration VOCs, reducing the amount of quarrying of natural goods and finding ways to use renewable products. Using natural and low VOCs paints in DePaul’s construction process will help improve air quality and basic healthy living for the students, faculty and ultimately the environment.

By: Mary Deemer
Photo credits: Show room 411, Environmental protection department

Saturday, October 9, 2010

DePaul’s Water Bottle refill stations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Illinois in their twenty-second annual landfill capacity report of 2008 stated that approximately 50 million gate cubic yards of solid waste was accepted of the State's 47 landfills with only 14% of that being recycled.

There are many factors that contribute to the enormous amount of solid waste and one of them is water bottle production.

Water bottle production has seen a huge increase over the past 10 years. According the Container Recycling Institute, there has been an increase of bottles sales in the US from 3 billion in 1996 to 36 billion in 2006 with about 40 million bottles a day ending up in trash or becoming litter. Food and watch reported that there is about 1.5 millions tons of plastic used per year to produce water bottles with 47 millions gallons of oil used to match the production. They also estimate that 8 out of 10 water bottles will end up in a land fill or as litter. Water bottle production has become a huge environmental concern since it uses up so much of the Earth's resources.

To help tackle the issue of reducing solid waste in Illinois, one of the truly outstanding sustainable development idea at DePaul university has implemented is the water bottle refill stations. It will take large scale recycling initiatives to counter this growing concern, but finding alternative ways like installing the ELKAY ezH2O water bottle stations around the campus will help contribute to reducing the solid waste and fossil fuel issues.

Considering these EPA statistics, implementation of the
ELKAY ezH2O stations on the DePaul Lincoln Park and Loop campuses has been beneficial on many scales. Students and faculty can now enjoy cleaner tastier water without worrying about whether germs are can be transmitted during fountain use contact. Reusing water bottles at these stations will help reduce the litter factor caused by the huge cultural need of water bottle production of the past decade. Other advantages of the station are the ELKAY’s unique filter system. It aids in the ability of quick refill capabilities and the ultra modern design that makes the water station more approachable than the outdated fountains from the past. These features will help keep up with the fast pace lifestyle most students are accustomed too.
DePaul has found an effective way to contribute to the growing concern of solid waste management by providing a service that will contribute to the overall well-being of the individual and the environment. the University also serves as an example for neighboring college institutes, companies and other organizations that can follow. In addition to being more environmental conscious, this also promotes a healthy lifestyle for the individual.

Education and awareness are essential tools that are required to inform people of the innovative ideas that help the environment. DePaul's water bottle station is an excellent example of reducing the carbon footprint and using these fountains will encourage people to take a more self-conscious and active approach to recycling and reusing not only at our school but in their own personal homes.

By: Mary Deemer

Photo Credit: Container recyling Insitute, ELKAY company

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Microfinance – Steps Towards A Sustainable Future

Colleges and universities are a life stage the majority of teens and twenty-something’s in the U.S. go through. A recent study by TRU, a Chicago-based market-research firm, reports 80% of 18-19 year olds and 67% of 20-23 year olds are currently enrolled in a college or university. Given the time, knowledge, and influence higher education institutions provide teens and young adults, it makes them well-positioned to also teach this cohort about sustainable development. DePaul, a leading private university, recognizes this fact with its practices of sustainable development. DePaul’s efforts to educate on sustainability have ranged from environmental initiatives such as providing students a way to refill their water bottles, eliminating their use of plastic bottles, to building LEED certified green-buildings on its campuses.

An area that is of particular interest to me is DePaul’s investment in community development. According to the Green Report Card 2010, DePaul receives a ‘C’ for efforts focused on developing communities, which is below the average of “B+”. Once examining further, I found a particular community development initiative at DePaul in microfinance. This is a smaller partnership and was not mentioned in the Green Report Card of 2010, but should be taken into consideration as one of DePaul’s stronger leaps towards created a sustainable future.

In a partnership with Fonkoze, and The Haitian Hometown Associates Resource Group, DePaul has become a partner in
a micro-loan program in Haiti called “Zafen”. “Zafen” is creole for “It’s our business” and allows ways for Haitian citizens to develop their communities through investment in their workforce and economy. One of DePaul’s role’s is marketing the organization, and an easy way to read more is through DePaul’s social-network sites. Here, those interested in “Zafen” can read up-to-date news on the organization. They are also able to read about DePaul’s efforts to promote “Zafen’s” mission, and can see photos of events being hosted, or even on-the-ground operations. Up top, you’ll see a photo of DePaul Day for Haiti which was hosted in April earlier this year (2010). The events proceeds were donated to Fonkoze, which would support “Zafen’s” projects.

DePaul’s involvement with Fonkoze and “Zafen” are a great way to promote sustainable development. Microlending is a means to promote community development, and in Haiti, invest in their workforce and economy. Helping the Haitian community sustain their businesses is a step toward securing a promising future. Being a higher education institution, it is important that DePaul not only continue to support such microfinance efforts, but also educate their students about their efforts. An initiative such as “Zafen” will not only inspire many students to become involved directly with the Haitian community, but it also educates the student body about workforce development, community development, developing nations aid, micro credit and micro finance, etc. DePaul’s partnership and involvement with Fonkoze and “Zafen” is also something that seems to differentiate them from neighboring Chicago-area colleges and universities. I wasn’t able to find much information on microfinance partnerships other universities have, and for many students and community members, it’s something to be proud of DePaul about. Please view a recent news release which covers DePaul's involvement with "Zafen". You can also check out these videos of efforts being taken in Haiti.

DePaul’s efforts in community development internationally make them a key player in creating steps to a sustainable and brighter future, especially for the Haitian community.

Posted by Nidhi Singhal
Photo Credit: DePaul Facebook Account - Woman Singing on DePaul Day for Haiti
Photo Credit: Zafen logo

Water Conservation: DePaul offers water bottle refill stations on campus

As part of DePaul’s sustainability initiatives and help reduce its carbon footprint, DePaul recently installed water bottle refill stations both in Lincoln Park and the Loop Campus. These water bottle refill stations help reduce the number of plastic water bottle waste that will end up in landfills, which is estimated to be eight out of ten water bottles purchased in the U.S. In addition to helping to decrease waste, the refill stations will also help in reducing energy consumption, as it is estimated that production of plastics account for 4% of energy consumption in the U.S. Upon further research of the DePaul’s installation of the water bottle refill station, I discovered that DePaul has installed 15-21 stations between the Loop and Lincoln Park Campus, at high traffic areas. The refill stations are part of Facility Operations efforts for water conservation, and are also sponsored by the Student Government Association, as part of funding provided to the association for pro-environmental projects.

The water bottle refill stations are extremely easy to use as they are controlled by an electronic sensor that will detect when a water bottle has been placed under its water refill dispenser. What is attractive about these water stations is that the water is filtered, appealing to those who do not like water from the fountain, or faucet because of taste or quality. Water bottle drinkers sometimes prefer to purchase disposable water bottles because taste and dislike for tap water. The filtered water allows for those concerns to be diminished. The ELKAY EASY H20 Station, like the stations that have been installed at DePaul, refills up to 3000 gallons of water per each replaceable water filter installed in the unit. In addition, the refill station provides a count of the number of times the unit has refilled a water bottle, providing a picture of how many water bottles have been prevented in ending up in a landfill. The number of refills is indicated by a ticker with a label that reads: “Helped eliminate waste from XXXXX disposable plastic bottles.” According to a Bob Janis, Vice President for Facility Operations, the refill stations have already provided over 20,000 refills as part of a 2010 DePaul Sustainable Highlights document. Another great feature of the Elkay refill stations is they are easily attached to existing water fountains on campus, helping to reduce purchase costs without having to replace complete units.

DePaul is not the only university in the country helping to eliminate water bottle waste by installing water refill stations on their campus. Universities such as Penn State and New York University have installed water refill stations on their respective campuses and have become a huge hit. Next time you are thirsty and walk by the 14th floor of the Lewis Building or the 11th floor of the DePaul Center, reach for your reusable and environmentally friendly water bottle and refill it at the local water refill station.

Image Source: Elkay Commercial Products

Posted by: Julio C. Puentes

DePaul Wellness: Small Changes Go a Long Way

It can be argued that a healthy and virile society is the foundation needed to achieve a flourishing economy. Without the members of society enjoying a high level of wellness, it is impossible to reach societal goals. In order to reach a community’s sustainable development objectives, healthy individuals are a necessity. While DePaul has made some progress toward achieving this, there are still areas to improve upon.

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law earlier this year, $500 million was allocated to create the Prevention and Public Health Fund. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated, “Investing in prevention and public health builds the foundation for improving the health and well-being of Americans... Investing in proven preventive services will help patients get the care they need early, avoiding costly and unnecessary care later.” DePaul has the unique opportunity to help contribute to the prevention of many diseases and ailments by implementing a few small changes.

The annual flu season and the outbreak of the H1N1 virus have the potential to affect many members of society. In past years DePaul has only received, and subsequently administered, a very limited supply of influenza vaccines. As a result, DePaul officials asked that only members of priority populations, children and the elderly, receive the vaccinations first. With many members of the DePaul community living in close proximity, the potential for influenza outbreaks affecting many individuals is high. Quite simply, more vaccinations and flu shots are needed to adequately protect the DePaul community. DePaul should attempt to acquire as many vaccinations as they can in a effort to stop a very preventable, yet potentially harmful illness.

Influenza and other ailments are spread through hand to mouth contact. The best way to prevent the spread of these illnesses is to wash one’s hands frequently. While washing one’s hand might not always be possible, using hand sanitizer is usually a viable option. DePaul should look to install hand sanitizer dispensers in buildings around campus. Signs and placards in bathrooms providing information about the benefits of washing one’s hands would also be beneficial. These are two relatively low cost improvements that could be implemented almost immediately. The effects and benefits of such changes would also be seen shortly after their implementation.

With less ill members of society, and less people needed to care for the sick, more resources and labor are available to pursue other sustainable development goals. By investing a little bit now in the prevention of illness and disease, care and treatment are not necessary later. DePaul should set an example and make a small investment in the health and wellness of those affiliated with the university. Administering a sufficient amount of flu shots as well as encouraging the washing and sanitizing of one’s hands frequently is the best way to achieve this. The Obama Administration has stressed the importance of prevention. DePaul should do the same.

Posted by: Nicholas Stratton

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Middlebury College and Green Dining

As one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges, Middlebury College has a (comparatively) long history of sustainable development practices. It also boasts "the oldest undergraduate environmental studies program in the country." DailyGreen ranks Middlebury as number five among the top "green" colleges in the States. The school's commitment to sustainability is evident by many of its green dining practices.

With an emphasis on using local foods, Middlebury College contributes to the economy by sourcing food from 47 Vermont food producers. 25% of food at the college is from local sources including the school's student-run organic garden. Since its introduction in 2003, the organic garden has grown to 3-acres, where students and interns volunteer and grow a combination of fruits and vegetables. To make getting to the garden easier for students, there is a walking/biking path from the campus to the garden, which is located about a half-mile away from campus (which encourages students to consider alternative transportation as well).

To encourage broad student involvement and support for the garden, weekly meetings are offered during the school year providing information about the school's garden and general farming practices. In addition, the school holds a weekly "farmstand" in September and October, where students can buy fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the garden.

According to its website, "food waste comprises upwards of 70% of the municipal solid waste stream." Middlebury College is a leader in food composting and composts 300 tons of food each year. "Food prep scraps, postconsumer food residuals, waxed cardboard, paper towels, napkins and food prep waste paper -- some 70% of the College's food waste--is composted. Plate waste (post consumer food residuals) is run through a pulper to remove excess water." ( ).

For large events, paper products and biodegradable trash bag liners are used which in turn go "directly into the college's composting system instead of the landfill". When possible, the college's dining services also make an effort to use silverware instead of paper products. The website states that roughly "90 percent of waste from large events is composted".

Another exciting way the college employs green dining is by turning food waste into biodiesel. "The Nordic Ski Team partners with Dining Services to use waste vegetable oil to fuel their biodiesel truck".

Finally, the college belongs to the Terra Madre slow food network, a global network of 100,000 members committed to sustaining local farming methods and environments. The Terra Madre network grew out of the "Slow Food Movement" founded by Carlo Petrini in 1989, to counter the spread of fast food restaurants and chains.

It is clear that Middlebury College is a leader of sustainable practices in "green" dining among academic institutions. The school's commitment to providing information, education and opportunities for engagement to students and others that are interested in learning more, is most obvious by the added fact that the college's homepage includes a "sustainability" link.

As a small school with a large endowment, it is not surprising that Middlebury is able to implement these initiatives, many of which most likely require huge initial investments, but the fact that the college has chosen to use its financial and human resources to bolster sustainable practices on campus is inspiring.

DePaul University has implemented many of the same initiatives as Middlebury on campus by working with its local food provider, Chartwell's. The university might also consider building an on-site composting area as well as working with lcoal neighborhoods/community organizations to build and maintain an organic garden. The food could be used on campus and if sold, proceeds could go to either expanding sustainable development initiatives on campus or donated to local chairities/food pantries. Finally, DePaul should better highlight its sustainable initiatives on the website and consider adding a direct link on the homepage.

Submitted by: Julie Felix
Photo: Bing clip art

DePaul and Transportation

While it may seem inconsequential or minor as a sustainability initiative, DePaul University's participation in the Chicago Transit Authority's U-Pass program is an impressive sustainability program. The program not only benefits students but to a larger extent, city residents in general. In addition, the program places less strain on limited university and nearby parking facilities and reduces traffic congestion in the city as well as carbon emissions.

First, the program benefits full-time undergraduate and graduate students by providign reduced fare cards to use Chicago public transportation. In fact, for undergraduate students the the card is included in the cost of tuition. According to one 2009 article, about 15,000 DePaul students use the pass. Because both Lincoln Park and Loop campuses are loacted close to CTA stops, the pass is ideal for students who live and work in the city. As a private university, the cost of tuition for attending DePaul is several thousand dollars. The reduced fare cards are a cost-savings benefit for full-time students who want the quality education DePaul offers without having to incur high transportation costs to attend classses. On average, the card saves students $200 in transportation costs during the academic year. U-Pass cards give students 24-hour access to unlimited CTA rides, during academic quarters. The U-Pass is very popular among students as indicated in this video. In addition, DePaul University's parking facilities are limited. Parking costs at the city campuses average roughly $600 for the academic year; the U-Pass is roughly $400, a substantial savings for young students during more difficult economic times.

The pass saves time. Full-times students juggle multiple classes, extracurricular activities, sometimes even work and parenting responsibilities. The availability of the U-Pass means students can get to-from class in great time. In fact, the time (on the red and or brown lines) to-from the Lincoln Park-Loop campuses is only 15-20 minutes. The hassles of "sitting" in traffic and having to locate parking are completely avoided by using the U-Pass.

By encouraging use of public transportation, DePaul also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion in the city. It's simple: fewer cars=less gas=less traffic! According to World Carfree Network's website " motor vehicles are the single biggest source of atmospheric pollution, contributing an estimated 14% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning..." ( ) By providing a financial incentive for students to make use of Chicago's great public transport system, the university helps reduce carbon emissions in the city and thereby, contributes to cleaner air for city residents.

DePaul University is not alone in implementing the U-Pass program. Most Chicago-area colleges and universities also make the program available to students. But it is an important initiative that fits into several components of DePaul's sustainability framework: environment, social, economic, cultural. Environment: riding public transportation-trains in particular-reduces the amount of carbons emitted in the air; Social: using the CTA enables students to engage with each other and the larger Chicago community; Economic: the pass save students' money; Cultural: the pass makes it easy for students to explore different areas and neighborhoods of the city.

Posted October 6, 2010 by Julie Felix
photo credit: DePaul

Implementing Sustainable Degree Programs at DePaul

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela) The next large step that DePaul can take in practicing sustainability is educating its students, as Nelson Mandela stated, to change the world. Sustainability is becoming much more than an environmental class on best green practices. There are majors in sustainable tourism, sustainable clothing, and interior design just to name a few. Business schools are also seeing a rise in the number of students interested in sustainability courses and programs.

DePaul currently offers a certificate through the Egan Urban Center that fosters community sustainability. The School of Public Service, the School of New Learning, the College of Commerce, and programs within the Liberal Arts and Sciences are currently offering courses in sustainability. Professional courses such as Sustainability and Business are being introduced to degree programs.

President Obama recently added an additional 150 billion to the 500 million dollars pledged towards environmental jobs to create 5 million new sustainability- related jobs. Jobs that promote sustainability are the future. DePaul already has a start on the course work of the future. My suggestion is that DePaul consider a College of Sustainability. With a College of Sustainability DePaul students can be at the front of the creative movements dealing with sustainability problems. A College of Sustainability could also find new ways of crossing this topic over into other majors like legal framework with the law school.

To begin the transition to a College I suggest that DePaul implement a graduate degree Masters of Science track through the School of Public Service in sustainability dealing with sustainable policies, governance, and economy. This program would allow for learning across a number of disciplines, and quantitative research in sustainability practices. I also suggest the availability of a Minor in sustainability. This would allow undergraduates to explore the connections with their major in such areas as human institutions, organizations, cultures, and technology. The Minor would draw off of the undergraduate’s major and supplement it with sustainability practices.

The benefits of a College of Sustainability, or a Major or Minor for the students is a diverse group coming together to solve the current world problems. Having a College or Major in sustainability would open up the university to new partnerships, and foster those that are already established. Sustainability issues are everywhere so this gives the opportunity to students to get involved with solving problems in their local community, nationally, and globally. Students who graduate from these programs find themselves eligible for jobs in higher education, industry, consultancy, utilities, regulatory agencies, non-profits, non-governmental organizations, or local, state or federal government. They will also find that they are at the fore front of sustainable jobs such as biodiversity and habitats, climate, social transformations, energy, materials and technology, governance and policy, international development, urbanization, and water.

Creating a college of Sustainability and a Major or Minor in the same will help DePaul move to the front of creative sustainable solutions. Having such a college will help to support the Vicentian principles of the University while opening it to new funding sources and partnerships.

Posted by: Kristina Vitali
Photo source: Vince Palermo, Global Institute of Sustainability

DePaul’s Egan Urban Center Building Sustainable Communities through Local Partnerships

DePaul University is working through the John J. Egan Urban Center to partner with the local community to address critical problems within the surrounding urban area. The center was founded in 1994 through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust. The goal of the center according to their website is to “channel community and economic development assistance to minority and underprivileged neighborhoods in a direct and concentrated way drawing upon faculty, student, and neighborhood resources.” The center is named after Father Egan for his work in bringing focus to people in distressed circumstances and communities on the west side of the greater Chicago area.

The center has also taken an active role in the Black-Latino Working Groups Initiative. The Egan Center’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Partnerships helps to foster a dialogue between Black and Latino leaders in the Humboldt Park, Chicago Lawn, and North South Lawndale for collaborative community projects. The overall goal is to develop a joint undertaking to benefit these communities through development projects, affordable housing, food co-ops, and credit unions. The center participated in 2006 Conference of Urban Ministries’ panel discussion on realizing the use of church assets to identify commonalities. They also are partnering with the Center for Latino Research to produce five events focused on the existing dialogue that has been built through efforts of the Black-Latino working Group Initiative.
Photo Sources:

One of the programs that the Egan Urban Center worked on was the West Humboldt Park Community Technology Centers (WHPCTC) through the West Humboldt Park Development Project. This project worked on the issue of “digital divide” which is a common topic in the sustainable development community. The Egan Center was awarded a 1.4 million dollar US Department of Education grant for the WHPCTC. The project was able to expand the already existing technology to create opportunities for the community to share information and expand computer access. The program also offers training in computer applications, systems support, and maintenance to expand the job opportunities for those in the community to provide longer term assistance. By training those in the community the WHPCTC establishes a program that can be sustained by those it has trained who can then continue to train others.

The Egan Center has taken their community involvement to education through a certificate program. This program shares the Egan Center’s approach to “creating sustainable institutional community partnerships by working in close collaboration with community leaders and residents to design and implement programs and initiatives,” according to the Egan Urban Center’s website. It is a program for those working in the communities to gain valuable skills in sustainability and effective responses will understanding the responsibilities to the local community. The Egan Center through the certificate program hopes to develop community leaders who can mobilize assets and resources, develop meaningful relationships with important actors, while also understanding their full potential and position within the community.

If you would like to volunteer with the Egan Center Click Here

Through the Egan Center, DePaul has a great asset in moving forward with sustainable community projects. By fostering important community relationships and providing critical need through neighborhood involvement the Egan Center is creating long term community partnerships. It is also educating those within the community to pay it forward.

Posted by Kristina Vitali

Image: Egan Center

DePaul Aims for Healthy Society

A healthy economy leads to a healthy society. Or so has been the traditional school of thought in the sustainable development community. Recently, however, there has been a shift in thinking. DePaul faculty member Michael Diamond, M.A. has suggested the phrase be reversed—a healthy society would in turn lead to a healthy economy. At first glance, the link between a population’s health and wellness and sustainability may not be immediately visible. According to Diamond, illness can impact an economy in many ways. When a person becomes ill and has to miss time from work or school, on average, another person is removed from the workforce or from their studies to care for the sick person. Resources and money that could be spent in the pursuit of other societal goals must then be used to care for the sick. With the potential drain both on capital and the labor force, it is in the best interest of any society to have as healthy of a population as possible.

Ultimately the choice to live and eat in a healthy manner remains with the individual. Institutions do have the ability, however, to provide incentives and push those affiliated down the path to wellness. DePaul has made great progress to encourage living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by making small changes. One such program is the Green Steps walking program that was put in place in the Spring 2010. This program encouraged daily exercise and the use of alternate methods of transportation by connecting members of the DePaul community. Participants engaged in healthy competition and were held accountable by others to walk as much as possible during the 10-week program. Not only did the Green Steps walking program reward daily exercise, it helped to reduce the carbon footprint of those involved. The addition of bicycle storage spaces in the Clifton parking garage is another way DePaul is encouraging exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise is only half the equation when concerning a healthy lifestyle; a nutritious, balanced diet is also necessary. DePaul is helping to provide robust snacks in campus vending machines by labeling ‘balanced choice’ healthy snack options with a green symbol. By providing members of the DePaul community with nutritious options during breaks, the goal of a healthy diet is easier to attain.

It can be said that an investment in a healthy lifestyle is also an investment in sustainable development. Walking or riding a bike not only provides the individual with necessary exercise, it provides an alternative method of ‘green’ transportation, thus reducing the greenhouse gases that would have otherwise been emitted. Competitions such as the Green Step walking program are appearing across the country. When exercise is combined with a properly balanced diet the foundation is laid for a fit society. The goals of healthy living and sustainable development do not preclude each other. It is refreshing to see DePaul recognize this and implement steps to make this a reality.

Posted by: Nicholas Stratton

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Collaborate for Sustainability

Collaboration is one of the key ingredients for creating a sustainable future. This can be interpreted at every level – countries, organizations, groups, people, thoughts, and even missions and goals. The concept of needing to ‘collaborate’ can also be used within the setting of a university’s sustainable development efforts. DePaul University is one of the most revered private universities in the U.S., and has taken great steps towards promoting sustainable development. One of the steps which must be strengthened is the concept of collaboration, specifically among various departments at the university. Each department brings with it unique goals, people, and ideas, and it also brings resources. Finding ways to combine resources is a smart way to maximize the use of current strengths and assets. Many times sustainability is not prioritized due to lack of time, man power, and resources. Being more creative with what is already within our reach will help move DePaul move forward towards creating a more sustainable future.

Efforts to collaborate, however, are difficult and require great communication skills and proper management. This is true for all levels of collaboration, as is shown in this video by Josh Powell, which concentrates on the various sectors and the complexities they face to work together. It also discusses the need and importance of collaboration to achieve goals. This concept of collaborative governance is also used with other topics and can be implemented for sustainable development.

I recommend the Yale University approach of sustainability where inter-departmental collaboration is vital to the successful attainment of goals. Yale creates networks of both members of the university community as well as local community to become involved in sustainability goal-setting and creating visions for future development.

Another example of collaborative governance is explained in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory Advance Access in the article “Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice” by Chris Ansell and Alison Gash. They discuss how making various groups come together for decision-making will be successful if a number of factors are aligned. Some mentioned are “face-to-face dialog, trust building, and the development of commitment and shared understanding.” These factors can be applied to the departments within DePaul, and can be noted to include as more efforts in inter-departmental collaboration become common. The full article can be read here.

Another type of collaboration can be through DePaul’s students. Creating more public forums about sustainability, or starting student-initiatives in sustainability (and making them public) will help promote better understanding of the topic, and interest. This approach allows students to be in-charge and govern a part of DePaul’s sustainable development. The grass-roots level ‘buzz’ among students should begin in various departments, and not only in one. This way, the collaboration is starting at the ground-level, and will be able to elevate as the development initiatives begin to grow. The Sustainable DePaul Blog is a great example of a way for students to collaborate for sustainability.

Adding onto DePaul’s current inter-departmental collaboration practices will allow the university’s sustainable development efforts to expand to a larger stakeholder audience, and also create a stronger sustainable footprint.

Posted by Nidhi Singhal
Photo Credit: University of Calgary, Leadership in Learning

Sustainable Servant Leaders

While DePaul University takes great pride in its role as an urban university, providing a vital educational and social service to Chicago, more can and should be done by DePaul in creating a future cadre of servant leaders. One way that DePaul can be at the forefront of servant leadership is through creating a service requirement for all undergraduate and graduate students before they may earn their degree.

Currently DePaul undergraduates majoring in liberal studies are required to engage in at least four credit hours of “experiential learning,” whereby they combine classroom knowledge with a learning experience that exists outside the classroom. There are courses in many departments that fit this requirement. Some are internships or externships, while others are a hybrid between a classroom-based learning environment and selected learning experiences outside the classroom. While this is a good start, more must be done to create DePaul students that are tomorrow’s future servant leaders. The way to do this is to establish a servant leadership program, required of all undergraduates and graduate students before they may earn their appropriate degree. All students must become engaged members of the Chicago community to ensure Chicago remains a sustainable community. Requiring a service component to graduation takes experiential learning a step further, as students will no longer have the opportunity to be passive observers when completing an experience outside the classroom. There are other colleges and universities that currently lead the way in requiring a service component as a core component for obtaining an undergraduate degree. Students at Tulane University in New Orleans must fulfill one service requirement before they may graduate. Students at Wittenberg University in Ohio must complete a semester-long service requirement to obtain their university degree. At Wittenberg students must register for the service as course credit, meet with a university staff member to outline their service and determine whether their service plans meet university standards, and then discuss their service results in reflections with other students, faculty and staff. Other universities, such as the University of Cincinnati, provide financial assistance scholarships with stipulations that require those scholarship holders to complete some form of public service.

DePaul should be at the forefront of creating service leaders. By requiring students to complete some form of public service, DePaul will create an engaged university community, attune to the needs of those not only in Chicago but throughout the U.S. and the world. DePaul’s requirement might also attract those students that desire an academic community looking to create a sustainable future. Sustainability is not something merely ecological. Servant leaders can help build ecologically sustainable communities, or help correct social injustices and poverty issues to allow others to participate in a sustainable future. Creating a servant leadership requirement of all DePaul students would help the university be true to its mission and values. From the Office of Mission and Values : DePaul University emphasizes the development of a full range of human capabilities and appreciation of higher education as a means to engage cultural, social, religious, and ethical values in service to others. What better way for DePaul to help build the foundations for a sustainable community and sustainable future, while remaining true to the core values the university seeks to fulfill.

For information on public service requirements at other universities visit these links:

For information on the U.S. government’s call to public service visit:

For more on DePaul's Mission and Values visit:

Posted by Marshall Houserman

Photo Credit -

Connecting Students and Chicago – DePaul’s Community Involvement

As a large, urban university DePaul University must consider the social and communal relationship that it has to Chicago and Chicago’s neighborhoods. In so doing, DePaul can have a significant role in building Chicago’s sustainable future. At this time DePaul is moving forward in building these partnerships. The Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies is working hard to foster these relationships and putting DePaul at the forefront of helping students understand their relationship to Chicago.

Founded in 2001 through a generous donation from Chicago banker Harrison Steans, the Steans Center’s mission is to develop mutually beneficial relationships with community-based organizations in order to develop a sense of social agency in DePaul students, faculty, staff and alumni. Using the ABCD model of community development, the Steans Center is committed to building a community where all community members have a voice, working to empower Chicago’s neighborhoods and foster a more satisfying community experience for all community members. Through this model the Steans Center not only focuses on community needs but seeks active participation from the community.

The Steans Center believes that if all community members are welcome to participate, a community is fostered and made more sustainable. For a greater understanding of the ABCD model for community development visit The Steans Center provides a vital link between nonprofit and government organizations in Chicago and DePaul University. Among these organizations are ABC Youth Center, an after-school tutoring program on Chicago’s West Side, and Off the Streets, a youth development organization working to get Chicago youth off the streets.

The Steans Center website lists over 500 community and government organizations that collaborate with the Steans Center and DePaul University. Through the Steans Center website community-based organizations can apply to collaborate with DePaul and the extensive resources accessible through the DePaul University community. In fostering these relationships, the Steans Center organizes service learning classes for DePaul students, including a “Discover Chicago” course that combines seven weeks of course learning with a week-long immersion on a chosen topic outside the classroom and out in Chicago. Furthermore, the Steans Center organizes and facilitates student internships with numerous community organizations in Chicago. This vital link brings DePaul students face-to-face with Chicago’s problems, making them active participants in the communities they live in.

The Steans Center is creating tomorrow’s service leaders. As DePaul students graduate, there is a hope that because of the great work occurring through the Steans Center, DePaul alumni will lead the way toward creating a just and sustainable future for Chicago’s citizens.

For more on the Steans Center at DePaul University visit their website:

To watch a short video on DePaul’s vision to take students outside the classroom and into Chicago watch the video here:

You can also follow the Stean Center’s activities and development on facebook and twitter:

Posted by Marshall Houserman
Photo credit: Steans Center

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sustainability Curriculum and Program Development

The Vincentian Mission is the foundation of DePaul University. This backbone is exactly the reason why DePaul is in a position to lead higher education institutions toward a globally sustainable futurel. However, DePaul is still weak in integrating sustainable courses and programs under the 'sustainable framework' flag.

Cortese (2003) advocates that “higher education institutions bear a profound, moral responsibility to increase the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values needed to create a just and sustainable future.” He continues that “the context of learning with change to make human/environment interdependence, values, and ethics a seamless and central part of teaching of all the disciplines, rather than isolated as a special course or module in programs for specialists. Environment specialists are necessary but not sufficient. Understanding how to create a just and sustainable society must be a fundamental principle in all education.”

The White Paper on Sustainability at DePaul University recommends the following strategy on curriculum.
1. Promote sustainability across the curriculum, in the same way we have included ethics across the curriculum. In fact, we see sustainability as an important development in our ethics across the curriculum program;
2. Educate students to be leaders in the growth of the rapidly emerging green economy;
3. Develop an interdisciplinary minor in environmental and sustainability studies;
4. Develop an integrative sustainable management specialization in the MBA program;
5. Create a master’s program in sustainable development.

As to point 1, I would like to propose to include ‘sustainability’ as a core course for both undergraduate and graduate students aiming to strengthen students’ integral human development. ‘Sustainability’ can be an independent 2-credit course or a combined 4-credit course with ‘ethics’.

The second proposal relating to curriculum is to make study abroad program a 6-credit course with 5-times classes in Chicago and a week to 10 days classes abroad. In this way, students will be well prepared to make the most out of studying abroad in addition to extra credits.

The third proposal is to integrate a 'guide to sustainability at DePaul’ and ‘Vincentian mission’ into new-student orientation. Another component I would like to propose is to include ‘tours of sustainability-related resources on campus’ in new-student orientation aiming at raising awareness on sustainability at DePaul from Day One. To cover these added components, if possible, I would like to suggest that the duration of new-student orientation for undergraduates is two to three days and that for graduate students, two nights. According to The College Sustainability Report Card 2010, more than two in three schools have introduced sustainability into student orientation. An example is Pacific Lutheran University which conducts 'campus green tour' for new students on Day 2.

The fourth proposal relates to point 2 which is to increase sustainability internship opportunities, paid and unpaid, for students on campus. Two-thirds of the schools offer paid sustainability opportunities for students. Sixty-eight percent of the schools offer paid positions to students for work on sustainability activities within the facilities department, sustainability office, or other relevant campus office, according to The College Sustainability Report Card 2010.

If enacted, the four proposals stated above would enable students as well as faculty and staff to take the educational experiences from a theoretical to a practical level.

The Stephens et al. (2008) advocate that higher education institutions have the potential as a change agent in accelerating society’s transition toward sustainability within a global context. this relates to points 2, 3, 4, and 5 on curriculum. A good example is Arizona State University (ASU). ASU established Global Institute of Sustainability with the mission to: identify the grand challenges of sustainability, advance knowledge for applied practical solutions, create new tools for improved decision-making, prioritize university-wide efforts toward sustainable practices, and build global research partnerships. In this line, ASU started the School of Sustainability in 2007 which offers 18-credit hour program as an undergraduate minor in sustainability that can complement a student’s major in another academic discipline. The aim is to bring together multiple disciplines and leaders to create and share knowledge, train a new generation of scholars and practitioners, and develop practical solutions to some of the most pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban areas. Please watch ASU’s orientation video to learn students’ comments on the School of Sustainability.
There are many universities which offer inter- and trans-disciplinary approach to sustainability. Examples include:
*Clark University, with inter- and trans- disciplinary course in its Department of International Development, Community, and Environment;
*The University of Notre Dame, with sustainability-related courses across all of its six colleges and schools;
*Loyola University Chicago, with the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy and ‘step courses’; and
*Santa Clara University, with clusters of courses with a common theme, promoting integrative and intentional learning, and with sustainability pathway course.

While DePaul does not present 'sustainable course framework' to students, it offers sustainable courses in the School of Public Service, the School of New Oearning, the College of Commerce, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Continuing and Professional Education. Starting inter- and trans-disciplinary courses on sustainability or establishing a School of Sustainability would require consensus among faculty, staff and students and may be difficult to materialize in a short-time frame but it must be done in the near future. To take one step forward, I believe that it is feasible to establish a 4-credit ‘ethics & sustainability’ course, change the study abroad program to 6-credit course, and integrate ‘guide to sustainability at DePaul’, ‘Vincentian mission’ and ‘tours of sustainability-related resources on campus’ in new student orientation. Increasing the number of paid sustainability opportunities on campus for students is also a possible change DePaul can bring to students.

Posted by Toyoko Sakamaki

Stephens, Jennie C., Maria E. Hernandez, Mikael Roman, Amanda C. Graham, Roland W. Scholz. 2008. Higher education as a change agent for sustainability in different cultures and contexts. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. Vol. 9, no. 3: 317-338

Kelley, Scott. 2009. What must be done? DePaul as Sustainable Learning Community.

Vincentian Identity as the Core of DePaul’s Sustainable Efforts

What distinguishes DePaul’s sustainability efforts is the Vincentian mission. For DePaul, the values of the sustainable learning community are not new but the logical extension of its strategic plan, Vision twenty 12 released on March 4, 2006. The plan declares six goals: I-Enrich academic quality, II-Prepare students to be socially responsible future leaders and engaged alumni, III-Be a model of diversity, IV-Selectively increase enrollment, V-Strengthen financial position, and VI-Further institutional DePaul’s Vincentian and Catholic identity. Four objectives under the six goals explicitly articulate our ethical responsibilities and Vincentian, Catholic and urban identity:

*Objective 1e-Provide opportunities for all students to learn ethical systems and demonstrate ethical practice;
*Objective 2b-Become a university known for its students’ lifelong commitment to social justice and civic engagement;
*Objective 6a-The board, faculty and staff will assume responsibility for the institution’s Vincentian and Catholic identity; and
*Objective 6d-Externally, be well-known for civic and community engagement and a commitment to the common good as expressions of our Vincentian, Catholic and urban identity.

The White Paper on Sustainability at DePaul University released on August 31, 2009 reaffirms our values: “The sustainable learning community requires a shared vision of integral human development that is achieved through dialogue and is marked by justice, the common good, and stewardship. This shared vision demands a heightened moral awareness and sense of social responsibility….Our Vincentian charisma requires a “bracketing in” of moral concern.”

Being aware of its mandate as a higher education institution, DePaul provides education that links economic, social, cultural and personal development across the curriculum with Vincentian identity as a core value. Students as well as faculty and staff are accustomed to analyzing what is going on, discerning what we value, and asking ourselves what must be done—as Madame de Gondi asked Vincent de Paul 400 years ago. Indeed, St. Vincent de Paul created sustainable and institutionalized solutions to address it. To follow the footsteps of Vincent de Paul, we must read the signs of our time and respond to them. We, the Depaulians, need to discern what we value and think about what kind of world we want to pass on to future generation. These are our sustainable efforts being practiced for the past 112 years since its foundation in 1898.

At DePaul, efforts in attaining a holistic view toward sustainability are made not only in classrooms but also outside of classrooms. In 2009 study abroad programs were offered in more than 40 locations throughout the world. Over 700 graduates and undergraduate students participated to see what is really going on in the world and to form vision on what should be done and what we can do. Arizona State University also sees study abroad programs as effective educational opportunities for students and includes them in its sustainable education course.

Kates (2005) states that sustainable development can be viewed as social movement and the underlying principles are the evolving product of a global dialogue. The original emphasis on economic development several decades ago and environmental protection has been broadened and deepened to include human and social notions of development and alternative views of nature (anthropocentric versus ecocentric.) However, in 2010, prevailing notions of and actions for sustainability are ‘GO-green’. The human and social aspects of environmental protection, especially from a global viewpoint, are not yet widely understood. For example, the sustainable efforts taken at U.S. universities and colleges, as represented by the members of the Association for the Advancement of sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), are directed mainly toward green initiatives.

My Google research about university/college mission statements which articulate holistic approach to sustainability found only two.

One is Bellarmine University: Its mission statement says: “The foundational Bellarmine mission statement of 1950 insisted that students must be taught to evaluate this society and to exercise their trained human powers to change it whenever necessary. Accordingly, we must continue to imbue our students with the knowledge and skills to develop solutions and opportunities—creative, serious, substantial and enduring—for a globally sustainable future….These principles, then, are the hallmarks of a Bellarmine education: Gospel values; Catholic identity; inclusive Merton spirit and sensibility. They are enacted with a commitment to excellence in all that we do; the provision of transformational educational experiences; internationalism; and global sustainability.”

The second is University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. On its website under ‘Sustainability Initiative’ UMass Dartmouth writes: “Our Mission is to assure that all graduates from UMass Dartmouth….will be environmentally literate and responsible, and work toward regional sustainability; to contribute to the international re-examination of paradigms in business, science, and technology through the establishment of educational programs that combine stellar interdisciplinary research and groundbreaking partnerships with business, non-profit groups, government agencies, and educational institutions.”

DePaul should include a statement on the front page of its website about DePaul's Vincentian heritage, its holistic approach, and its efforts toward a globally sustainable future. If revising the Mission Statement would require a long process, adding a few sentences in the vision or goals may serve to let people know of our stance and holistic approach to sustainability.

Posted by Toyoko Sakamaki
Center panel of triptych, Vincent de Paul with poor at circular table of the Lord, face shown on table; dog at lower left; original in Vincentian church, chapel of Mercy, Graz,,%20Graz,%20Vincent%20de%20Paul%20with%20poor%20at%20table.jpg


Kelley, Scott. 2009. What must be done? DePaul as Sustainable Learning Community.