Sustainability Initiative  


  • Facebook Instagram



News: Archives

TerraCycle Collections Extend to Vending Machine Locations
TerraCycle bins are now available next to vending machines on campus! TerraCycle is a collection system that is different from recycling. Items that go to TerraCycle become upcycled into products for sale again, rather than going into a landfill. The products made range from notebooks to purses to backpacks.
The Feast of St. Francis and the Catholic Climate Covenant
On October 4 the Center for Sustainability and Campus Ministry hosted the Feast of St. Francis event. This was a prayer service and gathering outside Wege, celebrating Aquinas College’s signing of the Catholic Climate Covenant. Aquinas’ Catholic Dominican tradition is rooted in being good stewards of God’s gifts and caring for the poor (who are typically subject to disproportionate amounts of negative effects of climate change because of greater exposure and vulnerability). The signatories of this pledge commit to five things: prayer, learning about climate change, assessing how to decrease their carbon footprint and contribution to climate change, acting to change behaviors, and advocating for climate change discussions and decisions. Aquinas College has joined with twenty-seven national Catholic organizations, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Portland, and many others who have signed this pledge.
Special Collection Systems in Residence Halls, Apartments, and Jarecki
What do a toothbrush, mascara tube, Styrofoam cup, chip bag, and tennis shoes all have in common? You can recycle them! Be sure to check out our new special collection systems in all residence hall trash rooms, apartment lobbies, and Jarecki Lobby. You will find battery, ink cartridge, Styrofoam, electronic waste, TerraCycle and Goodwill collection bins in all of these areas. Special collection systems will be added to common areas in academic buildings in November!
Ride the Rapid for only $0.25
With an Aquinas ID, students and employees can now ride the rapid bus system for only $0.25 per ride. Using public transportation is a great way to save gas money, green your transportation habits, meet new people, and decrease your carbon footprint. For more information on riding the bus and information on other new programs like the AQ bike share program, check out the "re-think" transportation page.
New Carpool Spaces in Wege Lot
Campus Safety is excited to announce the availability of two “carpool” spaces in the Wege Lot to the campus community beginning this semester! To utilize a carpool space a vehicle must have a valid Aquinas parking permit and a minimum of three occupants commuting to campus together. All occupants must check in at the Campus Safety office together to receive the permit. This spot is open to qualifying students, staff and faculty who commute to campus. Please note that a carpool permit is valid only for the duration the vehicle occupies the space; moving the vehicle from the designated carpool space invalidates the permit. If no carpool spaces are available, vehicles eligible for or displaying a carpool permit must abide by normal lot restrictions. Permits will be issued on a daily basis as spaces are available.
RecycleMania 2013 Results
For the 5th consecutive year, Aquinas competed in RecycleMania 2013. RecycleMania is a friendly competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an 8 week period (February 3 to March 31), Aquinas reported recycling, composting, and trash weights, to be ranked against over 600 participating colleges and universities in the U.S. Our Michigan peers in RecycleMania include: Albion, CMU, GVSU, Kalamazoo (1st in the state 2012), Kendall, MSU, U of M, and Washtenaw CC.

RecycleMania 2013 results are in! Nationally, Aquinas was ranked as follows:

  • Grand Champion Category: 49th (44.18% recycling rate)
  • Per Capita Classic: 70th (14.8 pounds of recycling per person)
  • Waste Minimization: 88th (33.5 pounds of trash/recycling generated per person)
  • Food Service Organics: 17th (10.4 pounds of compost generated per person)
“The Biggest Loser: Waste-Loss Challenge”
Throughout the entire month of February, “The Biggest Loser: Waste-Loss Challenge” will be held in St. Joe. Each floor will be competing to recycle and compost the most waste (computed in pounds per person). Weekly “weigh-ins” will be held during the St. Joe Staff Meetings on Thursday evenings at 10:00pm, and the first will be held February 7. The purpose of the competition is to increase awareness of and participation in the Zero Waste Initiative, by providing an incentive for residents to recycle and compost more of their waste.
New Paper Towel Composting Program
Did you know that the paper towels we use to dry our hands are compostable? We need your help to keep paper towel waste out of landfills and the local incinerator. All large cans in campus bathroom are now designated as paper towel only, and a small trashcan provided for non-compostable materials. (If your bathroom is not yet equipped with both containers, it will be this week!) This small step will make a big difference in helping us achieve our zero waste goal by 2014.
Paper towels and other compostable waste will eventually become nutritious plant food instead of being trapped in a landfill for generations or incinerated, which releases harmful emissions into our air. Our composting, including paper towel waste, is sent to a windrow composting facility in Zeeland owned by SPURT. Please join me in thanking the Housekeeping Department for their assistance in this transition. Housekeeping staff is helping to collect and keep the paper towels separate from other trash. We could not make such strides in our zero waste goals without their help, so please give your housekeeper a big thank you! What’s the best part of this new program? It’s so easy! Remember, all food waste and food-soiled paper can be composted, and help us to “TRASH the trash can.” If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Eimer (x1994). Thanks for your cooperation.
Sierra Club Recognizes AQ Sustainability Leadership, Yet Again!
Aquinas ranked 41 on the 2012 Sierra Club "Cool Schools" list. Just making the list is a big achievement, but improving our rank from last year's 94th is really something! Nice job Aquinas.
Aquinas will Plant Community Salsa Garden this Summer

The AQ community salsa garden (located on the west side of Fulton House) needs volunteers for planting day and for summer-long maintenance.

You can help with the planting day on May 10 at 10 a.m. and/or you can sign up to be a volunteer this summer by committing to work in the garden one day per week (Monday through Friday) for at least thirty minutes. If interested in becoming a summer volunteer, please email the following information to Kaitlyn Aholt, what days and times you can volunteer and how many hours per week you can work.

Important volunteer notes:

1. Volunteers must gain approval from their supervisors if they are volunteering during their shifts.

2. Staff/Faculty members can volunteer in the garden during normal business hours, but they cannot be officially on "college time". Hourly employees must punch out, and all employees are still expected to complete their weekly hours.

Questions? Contact Kaitlyn Aholt at or Jessica Eimer at, 616-632-1994.

Recyclemania 2012: Final Results

Official rankings out of 605 colleges:

  • Grand champion-162 (campus recycling rate of 25%)
  • Per Capita Classic-241 (6.76 pounds of recycling per person)
  • Waste minimization-53 (27 pounds of waste generated on campus per person during competition, trash and recycling combined)
  • Food Service Organics-28 (9.11 pounds of organic waste was composted per person on campus during competition)

Because we expanded our composting program this year, a large portion of compostable materials that were originally recycled were no longer part of our recycling data, causing us to rank poorly compared to previous years in every category except "waste minimization" and "food service organics". Overall, we have reduced our solid waste to landfill by 14%, while increasing our composting 700%! This is a great step in the direction of reaching our goal of zero waste to landfill by 2020. Keep up the good work Aquinas!

Growth in E-Waste Recycling
In 2011, the total amount of electronic waste (e-waste) recycled by Aquinas College grew from 7,050 pounds to 11,437 pounds. Nearly 20 tons of e-waste have been recycled since Comprenew Environmental began providing electronics recycling to AQ free of charge in 2006. A big thank you to Chad Buczkowski for providing the drop-off location in the Media Center, and to all staff, students, and faculty for disposing of your e-waste responsibly.
Campus Composting Program Expansion

We are also pleased to announce that the composting program is being expanded across campus to accompany all 60 centralized recycling locations. The green bins previously used for recycling have a new solid lid and are designated for composting! All compostable items can be placed in the green bin, including food soiled paper like pizza boxes, used napkins, dirty paper plates, and paper coffee cups. ALL food waste can be composted, including meat, bones, and dairy products. Bio-Based plastic labeled as "compostable" can also be composted.

Also, Aquinas has simplified its recycling program this year by designating only one bin for single stream recycling. All recyclable items can now be placed together in the blue bin. (Paper does NOT have to be separated from plastic, glass, and tin.) Green and blue bins can be found in every building on campus. Posters located above each bin contain information on the composting and recycling programs.

Speaker at Sustainability Event Urges Ecological Accountability
On October 5th, Dr. Andy Hoffman "urges ecological accountability" at the Leaps of Faith conference hosted by Aquinas College. An annual event of Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, the Center for Sustainability co-sponsored this year's event that featured Dr. Andy Hoffman as a keynote speaker alongside numerous breakout sessions.
Ink Cartridge Recycling on Campus

The Center for Sustainability has expanded the campus ink cartridge recycling program with the help of TMH Corporation. TMH will recycle and repurpose Aquinas’ ink cartridges and in some cases, even pay the college for certain cartridges. In place of the large collection boxes in Regina and St. Joe’s, you will now find small, cardboard collection boxes next to the recycling bins in Regina, St. Joes, Dominican, and the apartments. For more information or questions, please contact Jessica Eimer (632-1994,

Aquinas Made The List
Aquinas College made the Sierra Club's Coolest Schools list concerning Sustainability (#94). The only other Michigan schools on the list are University of Michigan and Kalamazoo College.
New Bicycle Lot by Dominican Hall
A collection of inverted-u bicycle racks were installed this summer on the east side of Dominican Hall, to accommodate overflow bike parking. Numerous bikes have been seen attached to trees and poles around Apartment D, rather than in the racks provided. Not only is this an eye-sore, the bikes are getting in the way of the grounds crew. The new bicycle lot is intended to provide sufficient parking for Dominican Hall, Apartment D, and the nearby Woodward Ave. houses. If the bike racks outside your dorm are full, please use the Dominican Hall Bicycle Lot. Thanks for the cooperation.
Community Garden on Campus
Aquinas College now has a revitalized and relocated community garden on campus. The 30’ x 30’ community garden is located near Fulton House. The garden was recently planted with a variety of fruit, vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. No synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides will be used on the garden. Aquinas volunteers will be caring for the garden in the coming months. Be on the lookout for updates about the garden’s progress throughout the summer. Click here to view pictures of the garden and the transformation it has undergone on the Center for Sustainability’s Facebook page
Electronic Waste Recycling
In anticipation of students moving out and cleaning their dorm rooms, electronic waste recycling will be available in the lobbies of St. Joes and Regina, near the main entrances. All unwanted and broken electronic items are accepted, including cell phones, alarm clocks, radios, and computer parts. All items with a battery or a cord can be dropped off in the designated boxes through Friday, May 6th. Aquinas faculty and staff can also bring electronic waste to Chad Buczkowski in the Media Center anytime throughout the year. Collected electronics will be donated to Comprenew Environmental, a non-profit e-waste recycler who reprocesses all e-waste collected for resale or disassembles into component parts for reuse by suppliers. For more information or questions, please contact Jessica Eimer (632-1994 or
New Campus Excessive Idling Policy

The excessive idling policy successfully traversed the sustainability initiative process in the spring, and received the final approval from Provost Gunnoe on April 28th, 2011. (The proposal received a 5- on a 1 to 5 scale- in the Joint Sustainability Committee on March 2 and passed the Student Senate on April 20th.) By limiting the amount of time vehicles are permitted to idle, the policy helps to preserve the natural beauty of campus while simultaneously supporting AQ's pledge to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

Aquinas Featured in the Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges: 2011 Edition Aquinas Featured in the Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges: 2011 Edition
We are pleased to report that Aquinas College was selected for inclusion in the second annual edition of “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges: 2011 Edition." This one-of-a-kind resource -- published in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) - is the only free, comprehensive guide that focuses solely on colleges that have demonstrated a notable commitment to sustainability. Check it out!
Single Stream Recycling on Campus
Aquinas College has decided to change its recycling system to a single stream collection system. This means that paper, plastic, glass, and tin no longer have to be separated, and all recyclables can be placed in the same bin. The large green and blue recycling bins will remain in common areas, but clean recyclables can be placed in either bin. The small recycling can in each office can now be used as a single stream container as well. Therefore, you can now place plastic, glass, and tin recyclables in your office recycling container, in addition to recyclable paper! The types of items that are able to be recycled have remained the same; the process of recycling has just become easier. If you are unsure if an item is recyclable or not check the signs that are located on all recycling bins on campus. Remember: You no longer need to separate paper from plastic, glass and tin anywhere on campus! Please continue to empty and rinse out your recyclables before placing in the collection container. Please contact Jessica Eimer ( with any questions concerning the new single stream recycling system.
Final RecycleMania Standings:
  • Grand Champion Competition- 36th: Aquinas College has a recycling rate of 46.56%
  • Per Capita Classic- 66th: Aquinas College averaged 19.98 pounds of recyclables per person during the 8 week competition
  • Waste Minimization- 94th: Aquinas College produced 42.91 pounds of waste per person on average during the 8 week competition
  • Food Service Organics Competition- 31st: On average 8.04 of food waste were composted per person during the 8 week competition.
Unplug Over Break
Electronic devices consume electricity even when they are not being used. This draw of electricity is often referred to as vampire power, because energy is “sucked” out even when the device is not turned on. Vampire power is completely preventable by unplugging electronic devices when they are not being used. The Center for Sustainability and Residence Life are encouraging all students, faculty, and staff to unplug all electronic devices before leaving for spring break. If everyone unplugs their electronics electricity can be saved, and carbon dioxide emissions can be avoided.
Monthly Sustainability Newsletter
The Center for Sustainability will now be releasing a monthly electronic newsletter to keep all sustainability groups on campus informed about upcoming events and ongoing projects at AQ. The purpose of this newsletter is to promote collaboration and information sharing between all individuals involved in sustainability efforts on campus. In addition to updates on current projects of the Center for Sustainability, the newsletter will include a monthly sustainable business student feature and updates from the Students Striving for Sustainability (S3) club. We are encouraging a variety of perspectives on sustainability through the periodic inclusion of articles submitted by campus community members. All students, staff, and faculty are welcome to submit news and ideas to be posted in the newsletter.
Vending Machine Miser
The Center for Sustainability has partnered with Residence Life to obtain permission to install vending machine misers on vending machines around campus. Vending machine misers are a device that can be installed to vending machines to reduce power consumption. The misers have a sensor that attaches to the vending machine; when no one walks in front of the machine for a given period of time, the machine powers down and turns off its internal lights. Vending machines misers can also regulate the temperature of the vending machine, shutting off the compressor when the internal temperature is cool enough, and repowering when necessary to maintain a cool temperature for products. These energy saving features help vending machines to operate at a more efficient level, saving money on electricity bills and carbon emissions. Pepsi Co. has agreed to donate one vending machine miser to Aquinas College for trial purposes.
Energy News: New Digital Kiosks
As you may have noticed, digital media signage and new computers serving as information kiosks have been installed in public areas around campus. These devices are equipped with auto power-down features to save energy when they are not in use. There is an auto shutdown in place on the digital media signage ensuring that they are shut down for overnight hours. For all of these features to function properly, it is important that the devices not be manually shut down, as that overrides the settings that have been put in place.
Rapid Van Subsidy Now Available to Aquinas Students and Employees
Aquinas College now subsidizes the use of Rapid Van Pools by staff, faculty, and students travelling to school or work! The van pool system is perfect for people with long commutes who are interested in "sharing the ride." The Rapid provides vans to vanpooling groups on a month to month basis, for a small fee. Approximately 20 Rapid vans travel from Lansing, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, and other communities within 60 miles of Grand Rapids. Individuals meet at a Park and Ride lot, and share driving responsibilities on the van. The monthly fee (without the subsidy) is approximately $83-$100, depending on the number of van riders. This covers all costs to ride the van - a very desirable situation for commuters.

Aquinas' subsidy covers $22 of the monthly van cost. For more information on the Rapid Van Pool Program, click here to visit the Rapid website.

Click to learn more about Aquinas College's Rapid Van Subsidy Program.

Carbon Footprint report completed and submitted to the ACUPCC

Aquinas successfully completed the 2007/08 carbon footprint report and submitted the results to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. Within one year of signing the commitment, all signatories must complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions and update the inventory every other year thereafter. Aquinas' full carbon footprint report can be viewed at the ACUPCC website.

Aquinas Chemistry Society Receives National Recognition
The Aquinas Chemistry Society, a student chapter of the American Chemical Society, has received a Commendable Chapter Award for its 2008-2009 activities. This marks the fifth consecutive year that the chapter has been recognized. The 2008-2009 award-winning chapters will be profiled in the November/December issue of "in Chemistry" magazine and at the ACS Student Affiliates Chapter Award Ceremony that will be held at the 239th ACS National Meeting in San Francisco in March 2010.
The Aquinas Chemistry Society also received a Green Chemistry award for its 08-09 activities. Selection for this award is by the American Chemical Society Committee on Education and the Green Chemistry Institute. Our chapter was one of only 55 chapters to receive the Green award this year. Congratulations to the officers and members of ACS!
Aquinas Steps Up as First College in West Michigan to Sponsor Entire Habitat for Humanity Home
Aquinas College has become the first college in West Michigan to underwrite and complete a LEED for Homes Certified "Total Gut Rehab" home. This project highlights our commitment to sustainability and community service and we are thrilled to involve our entire community. Click here for the press release.
Aquinas College featured on the NCRLC Website
Some of Aquinas College's sustainability efforts are featured on the National Catholic Rural Life Conference's (NCRLC) web site. The NCRLC applies the teachings of Jesus Christ for the betterment of rural America and care of God's creation.
Additional Bicycle Racks Available on Campus
During the summer of 2009, the Sustainable Business Academic Department and Residence Life Office purchased 19 additional inverted U-Racks for bicycle storage on campus. Existing bike rack sites (Academic Building, Wege Courtyard, Grace Hauenstein Library, Regina Hall, and St. Joe's) received supplementary U-Racks to facilitate the increasing demand for bike storage at these locations. To prevent students from chaining bikes to the railing and blocking the handicap entrance, 5 U-Racks were also installed near the northwest entrance of Albertus Hall. Furthermore, Regina Hall and RVD received a handful of wall mount racks for additional bicycle storage. A big thanks to the Physical Plant and Grounds Departments for their help with installation!
Dr. Balog Joins Leadership in ACUPCC

Aquinas College emphasized its commitment to sustainability and combating climate change this past summer by joining the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). And now, the selection of Dr. Ed Balog to the 2009-2010 ACUPCC Steering Committee, comprised of the heads of 22 member institutions, further highlights sustainability goals of both the president and Aquinas College.

"Green College Spotlight: Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan" by
Click here to read the EarthFirst article, featuring Aquinas College's Sustainable Business Program and the Center for Sustainability.
"Being recognized for going green isn't enough for Grand Rapids environmental leaders"
by the Grand Rapids Press
With a flashy new "green" art museum and dozens of LEED-certified building projects, the Grand Rapids area is gaining a national reputation for being environmentally aware. FastCompany, a national business magazine, just named Grand Rapids "America's Greenest City," saying the region has more green buildings per capita than any other U.S. city. But being green is not enough, according to business leaders and educators - we need sustainability. >>View the full article, featuring Aquinas College and many other local organizations working toward sustainability.
Small Quantities of Business Cards Can Now be Ordered
Business cards can now be ordered in smaller quantities at a substantially reduced cost! Aquinas Personnel only had the options of purchasing 250 or 500 business cards. This resulted in a large amount of wasted paper and the reluctance of infrequent card users to purchase the product. Now Aquinas staff and faculty can purchase as few as 25 cards, if needed. The cards will be on the same paper with the same two-color design Aquinas has been using. Since we are able to offer smaller numbers now, hopefully, individuals will no longer create their own.  It is important that all cards are uniform and professional in their appearance.
Announcing the WMSPC Logo Design Competition!
The West Michigan Sustainable Purchasing Consortium (WMSPC) has just announced a logo design competition for students in West Michigan. For purposes of this competition, West Michigan is defined as Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa counties. WMSPC will only accept e-mail submissions. Students must send their entry form, copy of their student ID card and all logo design entries in one e-mail to by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 27, 2009. Please note that the entry form is an interactive pdf file. Students should enter his/her information, save, and attach it to their email submission along with their logo designs.
Library LEED Silver Certified
As Aquinas College continues to lead in green initiatives, the Grace Hauenstein Library achieved a major milestone this semester in obtaining LEED Silver certification from the US Green Building Council. The library earned 35 points through green features implemented throughout the project. Some of the major innovations include:
  • Over 82% of building materials were diverted from local landfills and to recycling centers
  • Nearly all (93%) of the building’s regularly occupied spaces feature exterior views
  • Water use is 32% less than a standard facility of similar size
  • All adhesives, sealants, paints, carpet, padding, and particleboard used in the Grace Hauenstein Library are low VOC
  • A majority (58%) of the building materials were shipped from facilities within 500 miles
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is currently the nation’s green building standard. Grand Rapids is home to the most LEED certified buildings per capita in the US. The Grace Hauenstein Library is the first of many green buildings planned for Aquinas’ campus, including the second floor of the Academic Building, the new apartments, and the fieldhouse project.
Tray-Less Tuesday's
In an effort to reduce the College’s environmental footprint, the food service is testing “TRAY-LESS TUESDAY’S," beginning on September 23rd, 2008. Tray-Less Dining decreases waste, conserves natural resources (namely energy and water) and reduces the introduction of polluting detergents, rinses and drying agents into the water table.  Economically it reduces the cost of these same inputs (energy, water, cleaning agents) as well as the fees associated with waste removal. Socially, tray-less dining can provide education and awareness about environmental issues, while also potentially reinforcing a healthy lifestyle.  Collectively, it is a true triple bottom line initiative, further supporting campus sustainability.
Environmental Benefits:  
  • Conserves energy by eliminating the need to heat water for tray washing
  • Reduces dependence on fossil fuels
  • Saves one-third to one-half gallon of water per day
  • Reduces chemicals, detergents, and drying agents used to wash trays
  • Decreases discharge into landfills and wastewater treatment facilities
  • Lessens the ecological footprint
Social Benefits:
  • Supports education and awareness of environmental issues
  • Reinforces the College sustainability initiatives
  • Encourages students to participate in a “Green” initiative that has both a personal and community impact
  • Reinforces sustainability awareness on a daily basis
Economic Benefits:
  • Saves on cost of water and energy
  • Saves on cost of detergents and rinse/drying agents
  • Eliminates cost of trays
  • Reduces food-waste removal costs
The Corner Cafe is going GREEN!
Category: Local Innovation
Implementation Status: Fully implemented
Purchase a 20 ounce GO GREEN, Re-Usable, Biodegradable water bottle for $10 in the Corner Cafe. Fill it with Purified Water for $0.50 each time!
Aquinas Signs the Presidents Climate Commitment
Category: Local Innovation
Implementation Status: Aquinas is still within the first year of signing the Commitment. We have already met the first requirement with the standing staff, student, and faculty sustainability committees. The comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory is largely completed, although it needs to be slightly refined to meet the requirements of the Commitment. We also need to update the reported figures.
President Balog formally signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in June 2008. In doing so, Aquinas has committed to creating a strategy to greatly reduce our carbon footprint. The specific responsibilities of the Commitment include:
  1. Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.
  2. Within one year, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.
  3. Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming "climate neutral."
Through the active engagement of the Center for Sustainability, the sustainability committees, and all campus community members, Aquinas will undoubtedly meet the requirements of the Presidents Climate Commitment and advance our institution’s sustainability goals. To read the Commitment in its entirety, please visit:
Regina Hall Student Rooms Lighting Retrofit
Category: Local Innovation
Implementation Status: Fully implemented
Through the leadership of the Residence Life Office, the student rooms in Regina Hall have been fully retrofitted with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's). Not only do CFL's use up to 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, but they typically last five to ten times longer. Furthermore, Aquinas only purchases Philips Alto bulbs, the bulb with the lowest mercury level available on the market today. By retrofitting Regina's student rooms, Aquinas will save money on electricity costs and benefit the environment.