Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

Sustainability Initiative: About

Welcome to the Aquinas Sustainability Initiative. Together, we can systematically redesign our college to be the kind of place where the campus community loves to work and learn. We work to accomplish the following three objectives:

  1. Improve the health of natural systems;
  2. Enhance the quality of life for the Aquinas community and our neighbors;
  3. Increasing long-term financial stability of the college

 
Campus Sustainability Committees
With the establishment of standing staff, faculty, and student sustainability committees in 2006, sustainability was embedded in Aquinas' governance process. From recommendations offered by Mitch Thomashow, the college has been piloting a new integrated committee structure since 2014 focused on the themes of community, learning, and infrastructure. These committees seek to not only incorporate sustainability but also the principles of Economicology.
 
Here are more details on each committee:
I.    LEARNING: Curriculum, interpretation, and campus aesthetic
Vision: Aquinas College is an intellectual incubator integrating the Catholic Dominican tradition and the Economicology framework.

  • Members:
    • Dr. Heather Kesselring-Quakenbush (Co-Chair, Cabinet Member); Angelica Gero (Co-Chair- Elected from Committee, Staff, 1st term Exp 2021)
    • Jessica Eimer Bowen (Ex-officio, Director of Sustainability); Sister Damien Marie Savino (Ex-officio, Dean of Science and Sustainability, Provost’s Designee)
    • Mary Clinthorne (Faculty, exp 2020)
    • Shannon Pelton (Staff, 1st term Exp 2021)
    • Emily Cipriano (Student); Haley Kozal (Student)
  • 2019/20 Goals
    • Continue: 1) Advise that Sustainability Brown Bag and Economicology Forums; 2) Advise the Nature App
    • New topics for education, perhaps through the existing sustainability speaker series including: 1) Educating on sustainability myths (i.e. is a vegan purse really good for the environment?); 2) Reflection on the role of technology in our lives and the environmental impact of our technocratic paradigm.
    • Additional opportunity for the group exist to market/communicate all of the great sustainability programs already available and broadening the engagement in these programs. For example, there may be some opportunities for CIS to contribute some value to the tree app.

II.    COMMUNITY: Governance, investment, and wellness
Vision: Demonstrating the relevancy and currency of the liberal arts, Aquinas students and faculty lead change to address contemporary human and ecological issues.

  • Members:
    • Brian Matzke (Co-Chair, Cabinet Member); Brigid Avery (Co-Chair- Elected from Committee, Staff, 2nd term Exp 2021)

    • Jessica Eimer Bowen (Ex-officio, Director of Sustainability); Sharon Smith (Ex-officio, Wellness)

    • Cecilia Cunningham (Guest)

    • Michael Curry (Faculty, exp 2021); Bill Foley (Faculty, exp 2020)

    • Chad Buczkowski (Staff, 1st term Exp 2020)

    • Anastasia Tafelsky (Student); Amaya Morrow (Student)

  • 2019/20 Goals:

    • Continue: Advise the Green Revolving Fund

    • New Project: Interested in building a cohort/partnering with community organizations on a sustainability project.
      o Themes: Doing good for all of our students and Quality of Life. Perhaps sponsor a workshop in the summer that demonstrates the unique contributions of AQ to sustainability. We are the convener. Find out what we are doing well and build on that.

III.    INFRASTRUCTURE: Energy, food, and materials
Vision: Aquinas College is a living lab of sustainable practices.

  •  Members:
    • Lisa VanDeWeert (Co-Chair, Cabinet Member)
    • Shelbi Rushing (Co-Chair- Elected from Committee, Staff, 1st term Exp 2020)
    • Jessica Eimer Bowen (Ex-officio, Director of Sustainability); Doug Greenslate (Ex-officio, Director of Housekeeping); David Durkee (Ex-officio, Director of Residence Life or Designee)
    • Francine Paolini (Faculty, Exp 2020); Rebecca Humphrey (Faculty, Exp 2021)
    • Rachael Roberts (Student); Elizabeth Walztoni (Student)
  • 2019/20 Goals:
    • Continue 1) They will continue work on the We All Live Here Service Day in the spring; 2) Advising the community garden; 3) Reusable mugs in the Moose; 4) Purchasing more efficiency washers and dryers; 5) Getting more affordable textbooks on campus.
    • New Projects to Consider: 1) Changing the waste collection systems in the Residence Halls to increase zero waste performance.; 2) Performing energy and water assessments and looking into opportunities with LED lighting/motion sensors; 3) Investigate the increase in waste coming out of CDS; 4) Investigate opportunities to address food insecurity on campus; 5) Consider a community project for campus work during the school year. This would likely be a continuation of the Earth Day We All Live Here project. 

What is Sustainability?
Sustainability means different things to different people. The word “sustainable,” according to the Encarta World English Dictionary, means “able to be maintained.” This definition can be applied to various subject matters, including society as a whole, industry, agriculture, or family values. The concept of sustainability can be over-whelming because of the broad nature of the word. At its root, sustainability is a concept that is intuitive to most people.
 
What does an ant colony need to thrive? It needs fresh water, clean air, healthy food, and a suitable location for the colony. The natural world supplies these necessities to the ants and the only waste produced is fertilizer for soil. The ant colony is an example of a sustainable society. Rather intuitive, right? Principles of sustainability can be used to restore and nourish our living environment, while maintaining or improving our current standard of living.
 
Key concepts of sustainability come directly from the natural world. Nature uses sunlight as an energy source for all species. All waste is food for other species. Ant waste provides food for the microorganisms that enhance soil productivity. Natural systems also respect diversity. If a natural disaster eliminates a particular food source, the ants simply shift to another food source. Nature does not put “all her eggs in one basket” so why should we? Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry," reminds us that the natural world already has 3.85 billion years of design experience. Let’s look to nature when designing products, businesses, or communities.
 
Not only can sustainability concepts be applied to ant colonies, but they can also be applied to businesses, cities, and even the Aquinas College campus. Sustainable business practices applied to college operations may result in a decrease in waste generation, as well as reduction in resource and energy use. The same business practices that increase social and environmental capital also improve the long-term profitability of companies. These win-win situations for the natural world, the community, and business will make Aquinas a better place to work, learn, and explore.
 
What is Economicology?

Not only does sustainability guide our journey at Aquinas, but we also take inspiration from "Economicology." The term was coined by the visionary Peter Wege to define the balance needed between the economy and ecology. The word summarizes Mr. Wege’s advocacy for educating the public on the reality that a prosperous economy depends on maintaining a healthy environment. 
 
Economicology is driven by the six E’s:

  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Ecology
  • Ethics
  • Empathy
  • Education

 
The effort is funded in part, through a generous gift from the Steelcase Foundation and the Wege Foundation.