Article by Danielle Wheelan and Taylor Perkins
Students have been informed for years that environmental stability is important, but sometimes things are easier said than done. Topics such as recycling, energy usage, water consumption and composting can be overwhelming and efforts to do such are often postponed for other tasks at hand. Drury University also prides itself on its environmental efforts, but what exactly do their efforts entail?
A few members of the Drury community came forward to speak about what the university has done to make a difference, what they could do better and how the community can become more involved with campus sustainability efforts.
Sustainability at Drury: An overview
Drury’s vision of becoming increasingly eco-friendly is largely overseen by the President’s Council of Sustainability. The panel is membered by environmental advocates across campus including Architecture Dean Karen Spence, Director of Facilities Services Brandon Gammill, Associate Professor of Biology Ioana Popescu and Head Groundskeeper Joe Fearn – just to name a few.
According to Fearn, the university’s sustainability efforts have been in progress for quite some time and have required constant evaluation. Recycling on campus first started around ten years ago and was refocused in 2016 with the purchase of new recycling bins. The Commons replaced Styrofoam for eco-friendly, washable containers. The majority of Drury’s outside lighting has also been converted to LED, which saves energy consumption and decreases expenses.
In coming months, much of the lighting at HSA and Olin Library will hopefully be replaced with more sustainable lighting, according to Steven Schupbach, SGA V.P. of Sustainability during their most recent meeting. This will put an end to the annoying buzzing sounds, add value to university property and decrease energy consumption.
Last but not least, Grounds continues to show excellence for their strategic efforts to be as sustainable as possible.
Grounded in sustainability
Like his name might suggest, Drury’s Head Groundskeeper Joe Fearn is passionate about plants. However, he is also passionate about students and hopes to improve their academic experiences through his grounds-keeping.
Since Fearn’s arrival at Drury, the university has dramatically decreased chemical use and water consumption, while improving the plant mix, number of native species planted and efforts to infiltrate storm water.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Is the landscape self-sustaining?’” said Fearn. “’Would the landscape continue without human intervention?’”
He added that it’s important to have stratification within the plant palette – a mixture of trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. It is this variety that allows for habitat. It’s also important that the plant species chosen thrive in the environment. Some of Drury’s reoccurring species include witch hazel, goldenrod, purple beautyberry and redwood trees.
Another important sustainability choice by Grounds is planting plants that have a small investment and footprint. Plants used on Drury’s campus are grown by a local nursey and bought while young, so less resources are spent on the plant by an outside source and money is put back into the local economy.
“Sometimes the biggest sustainability step that you can take is to not spend a dollar. Every dollar comes with a sustainability footprint,” said Fearn.
Fearn is proud of Drury’s sustainability efforts and appreciates the recognition shown by the City of Springfield. The city uses Drury’s landscape as a metric that is often used to advance their own environmental efforts.
“We look to push [Springfield] and, in return, respect when they push us.”
According to Fearn, over 70 large trees have been planted on the public areas of Drury and the university has agreed to take care of them for five years. On top of that, over the last five years Drury has planted over 400 trees, 600 shrubs, too many perennials to count and plans to plant over 6,000 bulbs in the coming months.
As of Nov. 3, Drury Grounds’ twitter account is followed by 902 followers and tweeted 3,086 times. The account has been actively pushing their sustainability message since Nov. 2014.
According to Fearn (who runs the account), the account is a setting where students can engage with Grounds and view them in an authentic light. He urges students to do more than favorite or retweet the account, but “bring [Grounds] along with you” on your daily journey.
Students can also get involved this fall by participating in #DUDoesFall.
Started last year, the hashtag was created to help promote tree education in accordance with the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA Certification. Drury University is one of only ten college campuses certified with the foundation in Missouri.
To participate, follow Think Green, Drury’s environmental awareness organization, on Instagram who will be posting hints about types of trees around campus that students need to find. Post the correct tree photo with three fun facts and the hashtag to hopefully when some cool prizes.
Small steps make a big difference
Students on campus are taking action to make a difference in the community. Junior Makayla Jordan-Diemler said there are very easy steps students can take to becoming more eco-friendly.
“The easiest thing I did was switch from plastic grocery bags to reusable ones,” Jordan-Diemler said.
She said she was inspired by a video called “You Can Live Without Producing Trash,” where a woman went waste-free and only produced a mason jar full of trash in two years.
While this may be overwhelming to consider at first, Jordan-Diemler had many suggestions for students to take more manageable steps.
“I also started bringing my own thermos to coffee shops and the CX so I didn’t have to use a paper cup,” she said.
This change led her to take other steps in reducing her production of waste.
“Another huge lifestyle change that I made to be waste-free was buying fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, oils, soaps and other things in bulk or without packaging,” she said.
To do this she went to Red Racks and bought cheap mason jars. Then she went to Mama Jean’s and purchased her grocery items. She said that buying things this way is actually cheaper and much more sustainable.
When she does use other products with packaging she takes a look at what they are made of. She did research on what she is allowed to recycle and started composting on campus.
Drury Grounds maintains two open-air compost heaps on campus that Jordan-Diemler uses to throw her compost into.
“By just recycling and composting, I’ve reduced my trash by at least 75 percent. I have only had to take out my trash once this semester,” she said.
According to Jordan-Diemler Drury Grounds is dedicated to making the campus more sustainable.
“They use resources that we already have rather than buying new resources like stones, mulch or dirt,” Jordan-Diemler said.
What could Drury do better?
Despite the work that Drury Grounds does, Jordan-Diemler said that she does not feel like Drury has a real dedication to sustainability.
“While recycling bins are a great start, it’s about more than putting out bins,” she said. “Actually, most of the bins on campus are labeled incorrectly. Springfield has single-stream recycling, so there is no reason for bins to be classified as ‘paper’ or ‘cans and bottles.’”
Instead, she suggests that there should be small recycling bins in every classroom. She also said that Drury should put more into their awareness of the recycling conditions on campus.
“So many people don’t think about the small things like using plastic straws or throwing away a graded essay, and a University-sponsored push for more environmental awareness could go a long way,” Jordan-Diemler said.
She said that she is working with Drury Grounds and Drury Facilities to take these sustainability steps, but she encourages students, staff and faculty to also advocate for these changes.
“There are so many resources to inspire waste-free living. I recommend the video I mentioned, Pinterest, or just going into a big store like Mama Jean’s to get inspired. Shopping waste-free makes me feel about one hundred times better about myself,” Jordan-Diemler said.
She has hope for the future of sustainability.
“I hope for a future where we can comfortably provide for ourselves without making disposable products at all. Where it’s a norm to compost and live in sustainable homes. This is incredibly possible if people make small switches from Tupperware to glass, from paper to laptops, from plastic to metal.”