Gaining On Sustaining


ST. LOUIS — Environmental sustainability is claiming center stage at Maryville University with students, faculty and staff all making palpable progress towards a greener campus. The Maryville University Sustainability Taskforce worked with Physical Plant to secure a contract for campus-wide co-mingled recycling that will start in October. Co-mingled recycling will allow for aluminum, glass, cardboard, plastic and paper recycling.

This follows members of the Maryville community attending the 7th national Ball State Conference on Greening the College Campus, held at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Attending the conference were Nadine Ball, Ed.D., associate professor of education at Maryville University and chair of the University’s Sustainability Task Force; Ernie Aveytia, physical plant custodial supervisor; Stacy Steinbach, assistant director of residential life; Jenny Palmer, senior interior design student, and Jessica Burton, junior nursing student. Zhanara Scherer of Fresh Ideas attended for one day to learn about sustainable possibilities for food services.

“Zhanara is Fresh Ideas’ representative to the task force and is bringing enormous energy and many ideas to decrease the environmental impact of food services and operations,” Ball said, noting that Fresh Ideas is selling Maryville mugs, available for refills at a reduced cost, as a way of reducing trash and saving energy by not having to wash as many cups. Ball, who also serves as president of the Missouri Environmental Education Association, said she is encouraged by the progress Maryville has made in its sustainability efforts in a relatively short period of time.

“I didn’t anticipate we’d be here by now,” she said. “Maryville is starting to do what we need to do. We might be at the beginning but it’s a good beginning.” At the conference, the Maryville representatives attended informational sessions on topics as diverse as cutting water and electricity consumption, composting, reusing storm waters, and integrating “sustainability education” into curricula.

Ball says sustainability education is an approach to cultivate awareness and adapt behavior to environmentally sound practices. “The educational dimension is different from putting together the infrastructure,” she explained. “The first step is to place bins and set processes in motion. The educational dimension helps people understand why it is important to do, and promotes long-term ongoing behavioral change” Part of this can be done in the classroom by integrating environmental education into curricula. Unfortunately, said Ball, this is often hard to do in a 16-week class, where there is an entire academic or professional curriculum that must be conveyed to students.

Ball did, however, pick up a few ideas on how to disseminate sustainability education through social marketing, which she says is a simple approach aimed at developing public habits and conceptions through the use of signs, images and facts.

Palmer said she was impressed with the variety of topics addressed at the conference and aimed at the different constituents of a university community. “No matter who you were, whether you were a student, or physical plant (staff member), or a teacher going to the conference, you could learn something you could implement.” The conference allowed plenty of time for brainstorming and networking, which all of the conference participants appreciated. Ball said she is looking forward to working with the newly hired sustainability coordinator at nearby Washington University.

Palmer said attending the conference “made [her] feel we’re so far behind. We only have basic recycling but other schools are going much further with it, even composting their food and cooperating with local farmers to buy locally instead of getting food that’s been shipped from all over the world.” Ball agrees with Palmer, acknowledging that “there is more to do than is even imaginable.” She wants to delve into energy issues in 2008, after the recycling infrastructure has been established. Ball says she came away from the conference “with much more urgency,” explaining that “genuine sustainability is not just about ecology, but social, cultural and economic stability as well. The three are intertwined and have to be addressed together.”

The experience spurred all participants to action; Palmer is proposing to hold an “eco-olympics” tournament in University housing. The activity would monitor water and electricity consumption on individual floors or buildings, with residences competing to lower their consumption the most. Burton, on the other hand, is planning several outdoor activities to mark Environmental Sustainability Day on October 24, including games, a deejay and a campus-wide trash sort, where students would be able to see just what, and how much, they throw away.

Among the conference highlights was the opening and dedication ceremony of Ball State’s David Letterman Communication and Media Building. The late night talk show host was present at the dedication, and according to Palmer, highly amused the audience with his top 10 “Good Things About Having Your Name on a Building” list.

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.