Those sustainable Sycamores

The following story is by Earth Charter Indiana intern, Andi Barnett, a senior at Indiana State University.

As a student at Indiana State University, it’s exciting to see the place I’ve called home for almost four years strive toward a more sustainable way of living.

Indiana State was just one of many colleges and universities commemorated through the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index (SCI). The organization that published the SCI, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), aspired for the Index to give credit where credit is due, stating it, “recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability.”

Overall, the report praised campuses for their efforts to conserve, rethink and execute initiatives to change the manner in which we live on a daily basis. Specifically, Indiana State University ranked 5th in the nation for water conservancy.

Each school was measured by the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System — or STARS for short. STARS was essential in accurately and objectively rating colleges and universities. In order to be considered a top-performing campus in Water Conservation, colleges and universities had to meet certain standards and expectations, such as satisfactory Water Use, Rainwater Management and Wastewater Management.

Conserving water usage has been a serious priority of Indiana State, as stated by Bryan Duncan, Director of Capital Planning and Improvement. “We have a rich aquifer underneath campus that we access through eight wells on campus. We also use much of our rainwater on campus and are working towards increasing the amount of rainwater that is diverted from the sewer system.”

ISU has been utilizing a water reuse and recovery system to help decrease annual water usage, and has thus far been successful. Moreover, Indiana State has adopted a rainwater management plan as a proactive strategy for water conservation. As reported through STARS, Indiana State’s rainwater management plan features: “About 60% of the campus is irrigated. Our campus irrigation supply is drawn from ground water throughout the campus through a system of eight wells, and replenished on campus through a system of dry wells, drainage swales, and retention areas.”

Indiana State University embarked on the mission of sustainability almost six years ago in 2012 with the origin of the Institute for Community Sustainability (ICS). ICS is driven to promote environmental responsibility while fostering social equity on campus and in the surrounding communities. As a result, the ICS has been the backbone for many of the environmental and sustainability initiatives on Indiana State’s campus. ICS has not only taken on the challenge of enforcing sustainable initiatives, such as the Community Garden located north of campus, but also engaging and sharing environmental awareness with the community by forming more than 75 community partners.

Recognition of hard work brings forth a desire to pursue bigger dreams; although every college or university commended in the Index excelled differently, all schools envisioned the same outcome: to live more sustainably. The 2016 Sustainable Campus Index does justice in shedding light on the innovative and sustainable work colleges and universities are pursuing nationwide, and it’s just the beginning.

Andy Fry