Increased energy efficiency, water conservation, expansion of recycling efforts and more are all happening at NIU, and the work of a diverse cross-section of NIU faculty, staff, students and community members are working together to make it happen.
Raising awareness of the efforts of the Green Team is what Melissa Burlingame, assistant director of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy, is focused on in her role as chair of the NIU Green Team.
“There are so many positive environmental activities happening in so many different ways, but communicating all of these efforts is a challenge,” Burlingame said. “The more people know about what we’re currently doing, the more likely they are to support future initiatives.”
The Green Team started in 2007 as a government-mandated task force on sustainability, but even after the mandate lifted, NIU officials decided to keep the group intact to keep the university moving in a more environmentally focused direction. The group meets six times per year and right now is focusing on building and writing a sustainability plan.
“We’re working towards making sure that all of these efforts can be more coordinated to avoid duplicate efforts or missed opportunities for collaboration,” Burlingame said.
But even as the sustainable plan is in its draft phase, the work continues. Recently, under Burlingame’s direction, the Green Team added to their website a function allowing people to submit proposals for environmental initiatives. The Green Team has also worked with campus dining services to connect them with the DeKalb County Health Department to decrease waste, and campus dining services took it upon themselves to eliminate the use of environmentally harmful materials such as polystyrene. And currently, a student is working to build a database of environmental initiatives and reports across campus that will become a searchable database.
This semester, Burlingame is teaching a class that is charged with spearheading the campus sustainability plan. Burlingame and the Green Team have taken their message “on the road,” as they’ve presented to nearly all of the university’s shared governance councils and are about to begin presenting to student groups and departments.
“It seems like everywhere I go, people are supportive and have ideas or know of other efforts not yet on our radar,” Burlingame said. “That’s exactly why we are doing this, to connect all of these environmental efforts.”