Loyola expands green campus initiative

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Education reporter
  • January 28, 2009 @ 12:00 PM

Loyola University’s new sustainability director says he's hoping to increase green awareness at the school and in the surrounding Edgewater neighborhood.

Marshall Eames is the first person to hold the job, which was created earlier this month. While departments and groups across campus have been taking piecemeal steps to save energy and recycle for several years, there has been no one to oversee everything.

“It seems like every time we open a door, we find out that a different group has some sort of grassroots initiative going on,” Eames says.

Dining halls are eliminating trays so that students can take less food from the all-you-can-eat buffets at once, an effort to cut the amount of food that’s tossed at the end of meals. Many campus buildings now use energy-efficient lights and have motion sensors to turn off the lights in empty rooms. And some professors are trying to get students to turn in electronic versions of papers to save printed paper.

But few of those efforts are shared with anyone else on campus, Eames says. So his first priority in his new job is to build a database tracking every sustainability effort across every campus department and office. Once that’s up and running, he plans to take those efforts that are working and expand them into campus-wide programs.

That could include things like enabling two-sided printing and launching campaigns to change student behavior when it comes to things as simple as flipping off the lights.

Working with natural sciences instructor Jeremy Brooks, Eames also wants to reach out to neighbors in Edgewater and Rogers Park to address broader issues of sustainability.

The first of those efforts has already yielded results. Brooks’ classes last semester compiled two 100-page reports on a gamut of sustainability issues in the neighborhoods surrounding Loyola. The Edgewater Community Council is using those reports to shape its own policies.

Brooks says his students surveyed residents to get a sense of what they were already doing to go green. The results were sometimes unexpected.

“There seemed to be more demand for organic produce that wasn’t available in the community,” Brooks says,” but at the same time, there was low awareness of the availability of farmers markets in the community.”

Similarly, students found that the reason many Edgewater residents don’t bike is that they don’t own bikes. That has led to early discussions of creating bike-sharing programs on campus and in the neighborhood, so that people could rent a bicycle for a short period of time to run errands.

Eames is well aware of the large task on his plate, keeping an eye on dozens of individual efforts across campus and coordinating those with neighborhood groups.

“It is a lot of fun and I am excited, but at the same time, yeah, it is kind of scary to see all these things going on and wondering if I’m up to the task of keeping track of all this and sustaining it myself,” Eames says.

Brooks says the work is important, and he’d like to see other colleges in Chicago spearhead similar efforts.

“Chicago has a lot of universities and it’s a great resource that, it would be great if this kind of work was replicated at other schools around the city,” Brooks says.

Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education for the Daily News