Santa Clara University

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Green is the Hottest Color on Campus

recycle_190As a Jesuit University, Santa Clara is committed to fashioning a more humane, just, and sustainable world, so “green” isn’t just a buzzword on campus. To students, faculty, and staff alike, sustainability is seen as a social justice issue, the need to use resources more equitably and to preserve the environment for future generations.

But reaching sustainability goals requires everyone on campus to learn a new way of living. From turning off lights to replacing standard bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs. From encouraging recycling on a daily basis to a waste diversion campaign on residence hall move-out day that yielded more than seven tons of items for Goodwill rather than landfill. From low-flow showerheads in 90 percent of the residence halls to the more than 200 water-free urinals throughout campus. “Sustainability is ingrained in everything we do,” notes Lindsey Cromwell ’04, MBA ’09, sustainability coordinator in the new Office of Sustainability.

sustainability_150Individual as well as institutional efforts add up. Since 2000, there has been a 27 percent increase in campus building area, but only a 3 percent increase in total energy consumption. Furthermore, SCU has committed to reducing CO2 emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by the end of 2010.

The interest in environmental studies and environmental sciences has grown as well. More than 90 students are in the program right now, and 30 will graduate from the major in 2009.

“Sustainability has captured the imagination of a lot of our students, who want to be stewards of the environment for future generations,” says Leslie Gray, executive director of environmental studies.

Students actively engage in applying sustainability efforts to their day-to-day lives, from cultivating an urban garden, to greening campus, to the latest project, creating a “wild zone” in Santa Clara for children to develop an appreciation for the environment by interacting with nature. On the seventh floor of Swig Hall, a new program puts these principles into practice with the Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project (SLURP), directed by John Farnsworth, a lecturer in environmental studies and English, and Sherry Booth, a senior lecturer in English.

Students engaging in the eco-living project SLURP
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The Class of ’10, including (from left) Corinne Kirmil, Liza Dadiomov, and Molly McIlhenny, was the first to be part of the eco-living project called SLURP.


Photo: Charles Barry

SLURP is a residential learning project that includes academic work, environmental research, and lifestyle choices. Students living on the seventh floor of Swig Hall pooled their resources to decrease waste. They eschewed bottled water for tap water. In their quest for knowledge, these students—from different backgrounds, majors, and years in school—created a learning community that other universities from as far away as New Jersey and Scotland are now seeking to emulate.

They also learned how to analyze environmental rhetoric, design and implement a research project to investigate an environmental hypothesis, and adapt their lifestyles to reduce their personal energy footprints. Their studies have influenced such diverse matters as water fountain choices in the new business school to entrée selections on campus menus.

This year a new group of students has embarked on SLURP, building on the knowledge from last year. As time goes on, sustainability will become even more ingrained in the culture of SCU.