Sustainability Initiative at Aquinas College

Sustainability News & Events

Sustainability Events

On-Campus Events

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. Esperanza Garcia, Dr. Jen Lendrum, and student, Ms. Alana Calhoun, will be discussing the impact of limited food access as well as community-based solutions for mediating these issues affecting local communities. Stop by for tea, coffee, snacks, and conversation about this issue that heavily impacts the Aquinas community and the greater Grand Rapids area as a whole!

Green Tea Tuesday- Safe and Sustainable Personal Care Products
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. 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. The two available volunteer shifts include morning (9am to 11am) and afternoon (1:30pm to 3:30pm). More information, including registration, will be posted as the event nears.

Off-Campus Events


Sustainability News

Midyear Update: Zero-Waste (January 2023)

Is Aquinas College a zero-waste campus? Quick answer: no. But we are making great strides toward that goal. Sustainability is integral to Aquinas, strengthening our Dominican and Catholic traditions of being good stewards of God’s gifts. The zero waste program (minimizing and sorting waste) is a tangible way for our community to practice sustainability. And based on 2022 data, AQ’s zero waste initiative is ranked 16th in the nation! Because we are halfway through the academic year (and the zero waste initiative just celebrated its 10th year), it’s time to update the campus on our progress.

The current (average since July 1, 2022) diversion rate for the campus is 59.4%, meaning we are diverting 59.4% of waste from landfills. Last year at this time, we had a 58.6% diversion rate. While our waste diversion rate has slightly increased this year, we are seeing much lower waste diversion rates since Covid started. (For example, Aquinas boasted a 70.5% waste diversion rate in 2019.)

In comparing Fall 2022 to Fall 2021, we have much to celebrate. Many campus buildings have improved zero waste performance, including all classroom spaces, Brookby, several campus apartments, and Regina Hall. Regina Hall improved its diversion rate from 24.8% to 33.7%! Fr. Bartolome increased from 16.5% to 34.9%. However, we have some hard work ahead of us. Many campus buildings have falling waste diversion rates, such as the Wege Student Center (non-dining), St. Martin de Porres Hall, Sturrus/Alksnis, Campus Safety, Meijer Hall, and the Cook Carriage House. At the end of this memo, you will find the current performance of each of our campus buildings.

We need your help to continue to move the needle toward zero waste. Waste is significant this spring, as Aquinas will compete in the national Campus Race to Zero Waste Competition from Jan. 30 to Mar. 26. This competition gives us our national rankings (16th last year). Please continue to model sustainable behavior by sorting waste and encouraging students and peers to do the same. A simple reminder to a student can encourage new (sustainable) habits.

Thanks for all you have done and continue to do to support zero waste. With your help, we will make Aquinas zero waste (and become the first college in the nation to reach that goal)! As a reminder, weekly zero waste progress by building can always be viewed on the Sustainability Initiative website here: You are also welcome to contact Jessica Eimer Bowen at for more information on your building or to schedule a zero-waste training/refresher. Go, Saints!

Building name, followed by the waste diversion rate for Fall 2022 and Fall 2021.

  • Academic Building- 68.5%; 58.5%
  • Albertus Hall- 62.0%; 56.6%
  • Art & Music Center- 48.9%; 36.0%
  • Jarecki-Lacks Center- 64.0%; 50.3%
  • Sturrus & Alksnis- 47.1%; 48.6%
  • Browne Center- 74.4%; 57.3%
  • Campus Safety Office- 72.7%; 80.4%
  • Cook Carriage House- 69.4%; 75.7%
  • Donnelly Center- 67.5%; 57.3%
  • Flannery Hall- 85.0%; 78.3%
  • Holmdene- 77.0%; 69.1%
  • Our Lady Seat of Wisdom- 78.5%; 82.9%
  • Performing Arts Center- 30.5%; 34.6%
  • Wege Student Center (non-dining)- 39.9%; 58.3%
  • Fr. Bartolome Hall (B)- 34.9%; 16.5%
  • Brookby Estate- 60.6%; 10.4%
  • Eberhard Hall (A)- 25.8%; 26.7%
  • M. Euphrasia Hall- 34.4%; 9.9%
  • Hruby Hall- 76.0%; 78.7%
  • Knape Hall- 26.4%; 11.8%
  • Meijer Hall- 26.3%; 52.5%
  • Regina Hall- 33.7%; 24.8%
  • St. Catherine Hall (C)- 39.0%; 19.1%
  • St. Joseph Hall- 21.0%; 21.0%
  • St. Martin Hall (D)- 26.4%; 33.1%
  • St. Rose Hall (E)- 37.9%; 26.1%
  • Willowbrook Hall- 82.3%; 77.8%
  • Dining Services- 86.7%; 88.0%

Fall 2022: July 1, 2022- December 4, 2022
Fall 2021: July 1, 2021 – December 5, 2021

Aquinas College is awarded a Bronze BFU designation
In Fall 2022, the League of American Bicyclists recognized Aquinas College with a Bronze Bicycle Friendly University (BFUSM) award once again. Aquinas has held this recognition since 2015. In the most recent recognition year, Aquinas is one of 9 Michigan schools to receive this designation. Aquinas joins a cutting-edge group of colleges and universities across the United States that are transforming their campuses and the communities around them. Looking ahead, Aquinas will have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly.

2022 AQ "Tree of the Year"
The Campus Tree Advisory Committee (C-TAC) and the AQ Writing Center hosted the 2nd annual AQ “Tree of the Year” Competition in October 2022. 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. After giving the campus an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite tree, we would like to announce the winning tree which will forever be commemorated with a 2022 "Tree of the Year" plaque. The 2022 Tree of the Year is the Black Walnut, a Michigan native species submitted by Kacey C. Please join me in congratulating Kacey. The top 3 tree submissions were as follows: Black Walnut between CCH and Regina. Shumard Oak in front of St. Joe's. Red Oak at the start of the walk to St.  Joe's from Physical Plant.

2022 Friar's Challenge is a Success! 
The final results of the Friar's Challenge are in.....NO ONE BEAT THE CAMPUS FRIARS IN WILLOWBROOK! While they remain the zero waste "building to beat," we would like to congratulate Hruby Hall on coming the closest to Willowbrook's waste diversion rate. It was a very tight race! Willowbrook finished with a 74.2% diversion rate and Hruby Hall finished with a 73.7% diversion rate. Please congratulate Hruby Hall residents on a job well done. Hruby Hall will hold the traveling sustainability trophy and are invited to a barbeque with the friars. Thank you all for your hard work and participation. We would also like to congratulate RA Ethan B. on winning the RA Sustainability Education Challenge! He designed a beautiful bulletin board focused on zero waste sorting best practices. 

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.

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