Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

Sustainability News & Events

Sustainability Events

On-Campus Events

The Friar's Challenge
August 22 - September 25, 2022
Can you recycle and compost better than our campus Friars? Aquinas Residence Halls, Theme Houses, and Campus Apartments will compete to beat the Willowbrook waste diversion rate during the Friar’s Challenge (formerly the Tip the Scale Competition). If your residence can recycle and compost more waste than the Friars, you will be treated to a barbeque with Father Stan and Father Bob, as well as the traveling sustainability trophy. (If no residence beats Willowbrook, the building with the highest waste diversion rate wins.) Do you have what it takes?

RA Sustainability Education Challenge
Dates: August 22 - September 25, 2022
RA's across campus are competing alongside the Friar’s Challenge to have the best sustainability program and the winner will receive a Rocketbook Notebook! (Plus some bragging rights.) While a team of RA’s can compete, only one gift package will be awarded to the winner or winning team. Possible education programs include: Build Your Own Recycling Box Event, "Mug-Shot" Program and Bulletin Board, Trash Can Audit Event, etc… The program can be focused on zero waste or any other sustainability-related theme. We encourage you to share pictures of the event to either Instagram (@aq_sustainability) or Twitter (@aqsustains). #aqsustains.

Green Tea Tuesday: Featuring Aidan Raffaele
: September 20, 2022; 3pm to 4pm
Location: Albertus Hall, Rm 127
Join the Center for Sustainability, the Learning Sustainability Committee, and the AQ Department of Political Science for our first Green Tea Tuesday of the year featuring Aquinas College student, Aidan Raffaele. Mr. Raffaele will present the findings of his undergraduate research titled "Addressing Climate Change: An Analysis of the Impact of Local Governance". Can small cities more easily change their CO2e emissions through city policy and the practice of residents or are the emissions predetermined and out of the municipality’s control? Attend this Green Tea Tuesday to learn more about the various factors at play that may affect local municipalities' efficacy in creating climate change policy.

Invasive Species Removal 
: September 22, 2022;  Time Options: 1:30pm to 3pm and/or 3pm to 4:30pm
Targeting invasive plant species on our campus is one major component and goal of the AQ Urban Forest Initiative. At this event, volunteers will learn how to identify invasive species and assist in removal efforts. We typically target Buckthorn, an invasive species that is very common on our campus (especially in the woods). Buckthorn is a shrub that grows in the understory of the forest. It has an advantage over native plants because it leafs out early in the spring and lasts later into the fall, giving it a longer growing season. Buckthorn also produces dense clusters of leaves and changes the pH of the soil, making it difficult for native plants to survive. Its berries have very little nutritional value, and they can actually have a diuretic effect on birds, which can sometimes be fatal and helps spread seeds far and wide. Organizers will provide all necessary supplies, but we recommend that all volunteers wear long pants and closed-toed shoes. Volunteers will meet in front of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, and we will travel to the work area from there. RSVP requested but not required to

Campus Tree Tours
Tour Dates: 

  • Thursday, September 29, 2022- 3:15pm to 4pm
  • Tuesday, October 4, 2022- 2pm to 2:45pm
  • Tuesday, October 11, 2022- 3pm to 3:45pm
  • Friday, October 14, 2022 - 12:15pm to 1pm
  • Monday, October 24, 2022- 3pm to 3:45pm
  • Wednesday, October 26, 2022- 10am to 10:45am

All faculty, staff, and students are invited to tour the beautiful trees on campus and see the fall colors in golf cart! During these 45-minute tours, Ryan Wendt will introduce you to over 75 species of trees and share several interesting facts about each tree.  Ryan will also cover a brief history of our campus woodlands. These tours are a great way to find a tree to nominate for the AQ “Tree of the Year” Competition. Come learn all about one of the features that make Aquinas the most beautiful campus. RSVP is required to, as each scheduled tour has a maximum attendance of 5 people. Tours will begin outside Campus Safety. Private tours are also available at request by contacting the email above. 

Hack-A-Thon: Hack Away at Invasive Species
Date: October 3, 2022; 10am to 5pm
Do what you can, when you can. At this all-day "Hack-A-Thon," volunteers will help remove invasive plant species from AQ’s campus. No commitment or registration is required, and you can hop in and out throughout the day. At the beginning of each hour (10 am, 11 am, etc..), volunteers will assemble at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, where you will receive a brief training before removing invasive species in a particular area of campus. Collectively, we need your help to achieve our goal of 100 volunteers by the end of the Hack-A-Thon!  

AQ “Tree of the Year” Competition 
Dates: Special Alumni Nomination Period: September 15-18, 2022. Campus Nomination Period: October 3-16, 2022; Closed Tree Committee Vote (top 3): October 18-20, 2022; Open/Public Vote (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place): October 24-30, 2022

The Campus Tree Advisory Committee (C-TAC) and the AQ Writing Center are excited to host the 2nd annual AQ “Tree of the Year” Competition. Big or small, any tree can be the winner! This competition celebrates what brings life to our campus and air to our lungs...the trees. Participants will have two weeks to nominate their favorite tree using an online form (link to nominate). (Note: The link will not be live until the nomination period begins.) The C-TAC will review all submissions and select the top 3 submissions, based on three criteria: Social relevance, pitch quality, and relevance to the natural community. The public will then have a week to vote and select the winning tree, which will forever be commemorated with a 2022 "Tree of the Year" plaque. (Link to vote)

Plant Your Future: A Class Tree Planting Event
Date: October 5, 2022; 1:15pm to 1:45pm
Location: Front of St. Joseph the Worker Hall
“The one who plants trees, knowing that he or she will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.” (Rabindranath Tagore) At Aquinas College, we believe higher education is about more than completing a degree. It’s about fostering a community of well-rounded individuals committed to making a positive impact on the world. At the “Plant Your Future” event, all first-year students are invited to participate in the planting of several trees that will be forever commemorated with a “Class of 2026” plaque. Because Aquinas is attempting to reach the goal of having all trees native to Michigan on campus, the selected tree species (The Shumard Oak) will be a Michigan-native species that we are currently missing. At the event, hear from campus leaders about this exciting program, watch as a campus friar delivers a blessing over the trees, and participate in or observe the class tree planting. This class tree is among the first of many contributions you will make to our AQ Community during your time as an AQ Saint. All staff, faculty, and students are invited to attend, with a special invite to the Class of 2026! Hot beverages will be provided. #Beasustainablesaint

Fix-It Fair: Stitch it, Don’t Ditch It
Date: October 26, 2022; 3pm to 5pm 
Location: Wege Ballroom
Come join the Center for Sustainability at our "Fix-It Fair: Stitch it, Don't Ditch it!" event on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. Skilled community members from AQ and beyond will be onsite to help students, staff, and faculty fix damaged clothing items. The event will highlight and teach basic apparel repair skills such as simple sewing, hemming, patching, and fixing buttons. The Fix-It Fair aims to help reduce apparel waste and shrink your environmental footprint. The world of fast fashion is unsustainable, with consumers discarding clothing items after just 7 or 8 wears ( Lengthen the life of your clothing by getting free repairs and learning how to repair your clothes in the future. All attendees will even get a free sewing kit. Stitch it, Don't Ditch it, Saints!

Green Tea Tuesday: Featuring Father Bob Keller and Catholic Social Teaching
: November 8, 2022; 3:15pm to 4:15pm
Location: Albertus Hall, Rm 127
Join the Center for Sustainability, the Learning Sustainability Committee along with Fr. Bob Keller to discuss the relationship between sustainability and catholic social teachings aided by Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. 

Campus Race to Zero Waste
: January 30, 2023 - March 26, 2023
The Campus Race to Zero Waste is a friendly national competition and benchmarking tool for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. Over an eight-week period in February and March, colleges report recycling, composting, and trash weights to be ranked against participating colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. For the second year in a row, Aquinas took FIRST PLACE in the smaller campus division of the "Race to Zero Waste- One Building Challenge" Category (Albertus Hall) in 2022. Aquinas also finished 16th in the Diversion category and 2nd in the Food Organics Category (smaller campus division).

Tip the Scale Waste Competition (Spring Semester)
Dates: January 30 – February 26, 2023
The Spring Semester version of the Tip the Scale Waste Competition is a friendly competition for all buildings on campus. Aquinas faculty, staff, and students are fighting to prove that their building is THE zero waste champion to beat! There is both a student category and a faculty/staff category, with the champion in each category winning the traveling sustainability trophy. Each participating building is working to beat its average (cumulative) diversion rate to date, earning a point each week that the percentage is beaten. The building with the highest number of points at the end of the competition wins!! In the event of a tie, the building with the highest percent change receives preference.

Green Tea Tuesday: Food Insecurity in Michigan
: January 31, 2023; 3pm to 4pm
Location: Cook Carriage House, Moose Cafe
Join the Learning Sustainability Committee in partnership with the Center for Sustainability, the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity, and AQ’s Sociology Department for a guided discussion about Grand Rapids food inequity and the divide between various communities in the Grand Rapids area. Ms. Mallory Miller and Dr. Jen Lendrum will be discussing the impact of limited food access as well as community-based solutions for mediating these issues affecting local communities. 

Green Tea Tuesday- Safe and Sustainable Personal Care Products: A Workshop with Honeywild Apothecary
Date: March 21, 2023, 3pm to 4pm
Location: Donnelly Center.
Do you know how many chemicals in personal care products are harmful to both women’s health and the environment? Learn how to avoid them, how to navigate “green cosmetics” labels, and how to make your own personal care products in a workshop with Kate Todd Nordling, co-founder of Honeywild Apothecary, a local woman-owned business.  A collaboration with the AQ Center for Sustainability and the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center

Fix-It Fair: Bike Tune-ups
: April 12, 2023; 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Location: Front of the Academic Building (tentative)
Campus Safety and the Center for Sustainability are coming together for the spring Fix-It Fair focused on bikes! Are you looking for a free bike inspection, or tune-up? A local bike shop will be on campus doing free bike inspections and tune-ups in front of AB/Wege Mall on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 from 1-3 p.m. Bring your bike over and get it checked out. This is a great opportunity to fill up your tires, get that flat tire repaired, adjust your seat and make sure your brakes and gears are working properly. Please email Ryan at or call 616-632-2449 with any questions. If you are unable to make it to the event, but would still like to get your bike checked out, please contact Ryan to set up a time.

Contemporary Writers Series featuring CMarie Furhman 
: April 13, 2023; 6pm
Location: Art and Music Center
Season 26 of the Contemporary Writers Series will feature Native Voices in Literature. CMarie Fuhrman is co-editor of "Cascadia: A Field Guide Through Art, Ecology, and Poetry" (Mountaineers Press, 2023), co-editor of "Native Voices: Indigenous American Poetry Craft and Conversations" (Tupelo Press 2019), and the author of "Camped Beneath the Dam: Poems" (Floodgate 2020). She serves as the 2021-2023 Idaho Writer in Residence, where she lives. CMarie will perform April 13, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. in the Kretschmer Recital Hall in the Art & Music Center on the campus of Aquinas College. This event is free and open to the public. <link

"We All Live Here" Service Day
Date: April 19, 2023 
In celebration of Earth Day, Arbor Day and the Dominican pillars of community and service, the Aquinas College Infrastructure Sustainability Committee is proud to sponsor “We All Live Here.” Please join us in a day of service dedicated to the care of our common home on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. Crews of Aquinas staff, faculty, and students will complete projects at Aquinas to honor our beautiful campus. Potential activities include improving wooded paths, picking up trash, planting trees, and working in the community garden. All projects will be outside, so please dress for the weather. More information, including times, will be posted as the event nears.

Off-Campus Events


Sustainability News

2021 AQ Campus Race to Zero Waste Winners
Our on-campus waste competition has come to a close and we have our winners! The full rankings can be found here. The Faculty/Staff Category winner is ... the Cook Carriage House! Congratulations to Zero Waste Advocates Mallory Miller, Ramil Collier, and all of the occupants of CCH on this victory! CCH finished the competition with four points out of a possible four points (plus a 74% diversion rate!) and will be the new holder of the Faculty/Staff Sustainability Trophy. The Student Category winner is ... Hruby Hall, with four points out of a possible four points (and an 80% diversion rate). Congratulations to all the students at Hruby Hall on this accomplishment. You will be the new holder of the Student Sustainability Trophy. We also like to recognize the building with the highest diversion rate during the AQ Race to Zero Waste. Campus Safety finished the competition with an impressive 84% diversion rate. You all are rock stars!

Aquinas College recognized as top performer in 2020 Sustainable Campus Index
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2020 Sustainable Campus Index lists Aquinas College as one of the top performers in the area of waste, a category that assesses waste minimization and reduction construction, waste diversion and hazardous waste management. Aquinas is the only Michigan school to be listed as a top performer in any of the index’s 17 categories. Aquinas achieved a third-place ranking in the waste category by earning 80.1%, nearly 35 percentage points above the 45.3% average score for all institutions in the category.

Aquinas featured in The Princeton Review 2021 guide to green colleges
The Princeton Review listed Aquinas College as one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges in its Guide to Green Colleges: 2021 Edition. This is the 10th time the Aquinas has made the list. The guide notes the broad range of sustainability activities at Aquinas, from its seven LEED-certified buildings and one LEED-registered building to its local food program with dining services, integration of sustainability issues into the academic curriculum, efficient and innovative changes in its physical infrastructure and campus-wide zero-waste program. Released in October, the Guide to Green Colleges profiles institutions based on a survey of administrators at 695 colleges. The publication’s editors analyze more than 25 data points in choosing the final 416 schools for the guide. Aquinas scored a 98 out of 99 in the publication’s Green Rating, a comprehensive measure of performance as an environmentally aware and prepared institution.

Winner of RecycleMania Zero Waste Category
Aquinas participates in a national waste competition each spring called “RecycleMania”. 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 eight week period in February and March, colleges report recycling, composting, and trash weights, to be ranked against participating colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. his year, Aquinas took FIRST PLACE in the smaller campus division of a new RecycleMania category called “Zero Waste”. The University of Michigan won the larger campus diversion. The Zero Waste main competition category is designed to help schools focus on waste reduction and zero waste efforts campus-wide and compare their results to other campuses. During this competition participating schools track all sources of their waste generation in five campuses buildings (or less for smaller campuses) during the eight-week competition period. We selected the Academic Building to “compete” in this category. Results from this category can be found by clicking here and then selecting “Zero Waste” under the section titled “2020 National Rankings.” In the Diversion category, Aquinas finished 12th (among 145 schools) in the nation and 2nd in the state. Go Saints!

Aquinas named a "Tree Campus USA"
Aquinas College received the 2019 “Tree Campus USA” designation from the Arbor Day Foundation. This designation recognizes campuses with a broad commitment to promoting healthy trees and community engagement opportunities. There are five broad requirements of the designation including: 1) Campus Tree Advisory Committee; 2) Campus Tree Care Plan; 3) Campus Tree Program with Dedicated Annual Expenditures; 4) Arbor Day Observance; and 5) Service Learning Project. This designation is the first of many outcomes related to the college's renewed commitment to investing in the campus urban forest. Aquinas College's Urban Forest Initiative aims to provide a structure, support, investment and engagement opportunities, and plan to better manage the Aquinas College campus woodlands. This initiative is an institutional priority with several components for both the short and long term, and engagement by many individuals across campus.  
>More information on the Designation
>More information on Aquinas' Urban Forest Initiative

New Recycling Rules, Effective January 1, 2020
Recycling rules are changing for Kent County on January 1st, and that includes AQ recycling. The recycling center is no longer accepting plastic bags or shredded paper. Shredded paper can now be disposed of in the compost bins and plastic bags should be placed in the trash. Of course if you are able, you can always bring plastic bags of all types (including zipper storage bags like Ziploc) to store drop off sites like Meijer. Or better yet, ditch single plastic bags altogether and carry a reusable bag!

2019 Tip the Scale Waste Competition Winners
St. Joseph Hall officially won the 2019 Tip the Scale Waste Competition! This is the first time St. Joe's took the title since the competition began in 2015. St. Joe finished the month of September with a cumulative diversion rate of 49.42%. Regina East finished at 36.72% and Regina West finished at 23.52%. As a reward for their victory, a pizza party was hosted in the St Joe Lobby and the building also held the traveling sustainability trophy. The winner of this fall's RA Education Challenge (and a RocketBook Notebook and solar charger) was Megan Bopra! She set up a special collection waste area in her house and organized a "weekly recyclers" network among her residents. Thanks to all who participated.

Homecoming and Move-In Were Zero Waste Events!
Thanks to the help of dozens of volunteers, first year move-in and homecoming at AQ were zero waste events. Move-in wrapped up with 989.8 lbs of recycling, 38.6 lbs of compost, 38.2 lbs of comforter bag donations, and 65.4 lbs of trash. That computes to an impressive 94% diversion rate! Since 2014, that is our second highest move-in diversion rate. The homecoming zero waste effort was also successful, with a 94.12% diversion rate. Thanks again to our volunteers and extraordinary interns for making it happen.

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