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March 5, 2004 Feature

Sustainability Council Promotes Greening of Utah State

Sustainability Council members

Natural resources student Scott Shine has been trekking from classroom to classroom with Power Point slides, on a modern-day mission. His presentation promotes the greening of Utah State University.

"We're trying to help students recognize we're part of the natural world," he said. He would like to see sustainability issues incorporated throughout Utah State's curriculum. He's not alone in his enthusiasm. Utah State students, through ASUSU, have spearheaded Utah State's membership in the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Program, a program that promotes sustainability efforts on college campuses.

President Kermit L. Hall wants to tap into a bit of that student enthusiasm, and so he's appointed Shine to the newly formed Sustainability Council.

Students bring a lot of enthusiasm to the table, Hall said. "We can use student enthusiasm for sustainability as our guide to conduct," he said. "After all, they'll be the next generation to inherit the challenges and opportunities of sustaining our natural world and our economy."

The new council has been charged with the task of carrying sustainability efforts through the next phase.

"We need to consistently raise the issue of sustainability," Hall said. "We need measures and benchmarks, so we can bring people together around common goals."

The Sustainability Council is composed of representatives from the student community, the academic community and the administration, and hopes to find common ground somewhere in the middle of the diversity of opinions.

As Co-chair Fee Busby put it, "We don't want to get bogged down in extremes from either side. We want to work from the middle ground."

Scenic view from campusBusby, who is dean of the College of Natural Resources, co-chairs the council alongside political science professor and department head Randy Simmons.

"We want input from the campus community," Simmons said. "We want to listen and gain ideas. Ideally, we will be nonpartisan and nonpolitical."

Simmons and others on the council believe that a campus audit is the first priority.

"We need to determine where we are being responsible, and where we're not," said council member and Facilities Planning Director Brent Windley. "We need a baseline estimate. What can we do, what's been done, and how can we improve on it?"

The council will develop an appropriate matrix to assess performance, and incorporate it into campus master planning. "Best practices" will be evaluated, benchmarks will be recommended and performance assessments will be developed. An annual report will be published and a Web site developed. The audit and recommendations will be included in the January 2005 State of the University address.

Council members David Anderson, Cathy Hartman, Edward Heath, Mac McKee, Jeanette Norton, Jennifer Peeples, Scott Shine and Brent Windley want to begin by looking at three primary areas: Land and Water; Energy and Air Quality; and Solid and Hazardous Waste. They hope to focus on both operations and education.

The council is not without challenges. "Budget realities are the 800-pound gorilla in each meeting," Simmons said. "We need to be financially realistic."

The council will capitalize on gains made in recent years, as Utah State switched from coal-fired to gas-powered electricity, realized gains in energy efficiency, began emissions testing on university cars, moved to spot treatment with pesticides, and created more desert-friendly landscaping.

The council is also doing its homework. A lot of homework, as it turns out. "We want to look for sister universities that we can compare ourselves to, in order to see what we're doing well and where we can improve," Peeples said.

Windley believes that people are the key to making it all work. "It's not just a natural resource equation. We must also include the people, the community."

This is a long-term enterprise, Hall said. "We are laying the foundation. Our sustainability effort requires intellectual integrity, respect for each other, independence and authority. This council will provide leadership on campus.

"Academics will always comes first at Utah State, but the question is: How we can make sustainability central to our purpose without neglecting our central mission? Being efficient means being a good friend to our environment and our economy," Hall said.

The Sustainability Council welcomes your feedback, suggestions and comments. Contact Simmons at

Writer: Nadene Steinhoff, 797-1429,
Contact: Randy Simmons, 797-1310,






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