Earth Day is Every Day at Delaware State University

June 8, 2011

By Harry L. Williams, President, Delaware State University

(This article appears in the June, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

In Delaware State University’s climate neutrality and sustainability pursuits, engagement has been a key concept. It is not a process in which we simply tell people what we want to do regarding sustainability initiatives at DSU, but it is critically important to engage them intellectually and actively in the process. There are many jobs to do in such an endeavor, and we would be neglectfully remiss and not very effective if we did not fully engage members of the DSU community in this work. From the very beginning, we have understood that the significant reduction of the carbon footprint of DSU could not be effectively done without the participation of all segments of the DSU campus and community at-large.

Dr. Harry L. Williams, President, and Amir Mohammadi, Vice President of Finance and Administration, receive a recyclable mug from Chanel Paul, a DSU Green Ambassador

That is why upon committing to be a part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in August 2009, we immediately embarked on the establishment of a campus-wideGo Green Sustainability Committee.

Our 14-member steering committee encourages the involvement of others through the example set by our top leadership. All of the University’s vice presidents and deans are a part of the steering committee, as well as the president of the Student Government Association. Through that leadership group, seven subcommittees were created that include more than 80 active members from the University’s business and administration personnel, as well as students, faculty and staff from all walks of DSU academic life.

It was the creation of the subcommittees that truly resulted in the engagement of people from across the DSU campus and community. It allowed the committee to access a diverse group of intellectual resources to address a variety of sustainability needs. That’s the beauty of what we are doing, because in many cases we have engaged people in areas of their expertise, specialties where they already have a passion. This way we are getting the best thinking with respect to the sustainability goals that they are specifically involved in.

Through the work of the full committee, we found that our campus community needed to be made aware of the environmental challenges facing our nation and that DSU needed to confront. A series of monthly awareness sessions are now held. From the outset of our green commitment, our Office of Public Relations has been enlisted to use its various communications mediums to publicize DSU’s institutional commitment to the students, faculty and staff on campus, as well as let the broader community know that such a comprehensive initiative was launched. From that point onward, the DSU community has been kept informed of new developments, events and environmentally important research, as well as a wealth of environmental practice tips that individuals can make a part of their everyday lives.

We also began looking for procurements that are environmentally friendly, developing a comprehensive sustainability curriculum and working to identifyfunding sources that could assist DSU in its climate neutrality and sustainability efforts. We even enlisted DSU’s athletics officials to find ways to pursue sounder environmental practices during sporting events.

One way we have decided to utilize DSU personnel in their specialties is found in the area of energy stewardship. That subcommittee is led by DSU business and engineering professionals who are using their expertise to facilitate an energy audit of the campus, which is expected to bring about energy usage reductions and result in significant savings for the University. Another example is how we have enlisted staff from the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences to lead the development of sustainable gardens on campus. The first one was launched in 2010 on Earth Day, and is now reaping a harvest of vegetables and fruits to be used in our dining facilities, farmers market and local food bank.

Throughout the work, we have made it a paramount priority to involve students. We believe in engaging our students, as such endeavors prepare them to be good environmental stewards now, and after they graduate from DSU.

To make students an important part of DSU’s environmental agenda, we established the Green Ambassadors group on campus. This student organization immediately became an active participant in the Go Green planning, related events coordination and spearheading the education effort among their student peers on campus.

Our Green Ambassadors are proud to be a part of this work. They not only find great value in helping the University seek ways to strengthen our environmental stewardship, but also in increasing their knowledge about sustainability – which will help their success in the job market.

As a result of the work of these students, the Green Ambassadors’ president received the 2010 AASHE Student Sustainability Leadership Award. In addition, two other DSU students were selected to be EPA OnCampus Ambassadors to assist in promoting environmentally conscientious initiatives on campus.

On April 20, Delaware State University held a daylong celebration in recognition of Earth Day, and the turnout of faculty, staff, students and the community exemplified our enthusiasm and efforts toward climate neutrality and sustainability which extend far beyond one celebrated day of the year. As part of the festivities, DSU art students developed a mini-exhibition entitled “Found Objects,” which used objects that had been left to go to the local landfill and creatively converted them into art sculptures. The DSU Department of Art is now planning for this to be an annual exhibition, as part of Earth Day, with artworks submitted by students, faculty and staff.

As a historically black university, the environmental marshalling of our DSU members has led the way among other HBCUs. DSU’s Go Green efforts have been recognized nationally in publications of the ACUPCC, United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine and Black College Today.

Our Go Green efforts are consistent with DSU’s Core Values of “Outreach” and “Community,” as we are ever so mindful that by being committed institutional environmental stewards, DSU sets a strong example that goes far beyond the campus.

As a small university, we guard our resources closely and appropriate them toward priorities. A major priority of ours is to stay connected to industry groups that keep us abreast of the best practices and innovations in the field. Thus, I and two other representatives from the university will be attending the ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit in June, 2011. This is a priority for us and should be for others to join together with other presidents and colleagues to share successes and challenges.

In summation, DSU’s strategy for success is to include every segment of our on-campus and external community in our sustainability initiatives and stay connected to industry partners, joining together to work toward a common goal of sustainability and – most of all – climate neutrality.

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