Student leadership is the cornerstone of our sustainability work and policies at Morris. In fact, our sustainability efforts began with students. In the early 2000s students asked the administration to begin the switch to renewable energy by purchasing a portion of the campus electricity from a renewable provider.
The University leadership challenged the students to find a way to offset the extra cost of the renewable power by coming up with equal cost savings at the college.
The students responded overwhelmingly. They began conserving water and energy—in their residences and elsewhere—and increased recycling, saving Morris thousands of dollars.
More than that, they inspired the administration to ask: Are we doing enough? That question has led to more than a decade of progress in sustainability at Morris and the commitment to do more. Morris is highly regarded for its sustainability efforts, thanks to the inspiration of our students to continually improve our environmental performance.
Students lead the way on campus
The campus policy to promote LEED building standards grew out of a student-led initiative. The first LEED Gold building was the historic Welcome Center, which is both a high-performance building and on the Register of Historic Places. The new Green Prairie Community is LEED Gold certified, and all new construction will meet LEED guidelines.
Students have now researched and implemented a new composting initiative to reduce campus waste.
The Morris recycling program is student led. The campus recycles:
- electronics waste
- glossy paper
- office paper
Disposable plates and cutlery are made from biodegradable starch. Recycling revenue partially funds student workers at the recycling center. Composting efforts are diverting tons of food waste from the landfill.
Morris students led the effort to install VendingMisers® on refrigerated vending machines. The devices automatically power down the machines when they are not in active use, cutting energy consumption by more than 40 percent.
Each year Studio Art sponsors Fashion Trashion, an annual upcycle fashion show in which students reuse and repurpose materials into chic and funky designs.
Students also run the organic garden on campus, have leadership roles in the Morris Healthy Eating program, and act as Green Ambassadors, leading sustainability tours of the Morris campus for visitors and prospective students.
Many students have
- done work in green chemistry
- studied the impact of climate change on the prairie/forest transition
- and more.
Individual students have taken full advantage of the opportunities in sustainability, doing research and hands-on conservation projects.
- Dan Seidenkranz, under the direction of Associate Professor Ted Pappenfus, published an article on benzodithiophines, compounds that are promising in the emerging field of organic solar cells, in the peer-reviewed organic chemistry journal Heterocycles.
- Will Dolezal, Joe Hartmann, Alicia Beattie, Aaron Goemann, and Bryce Blankenfeld researched and developed an on-campus composting system.
- Heidi Eger, Laura Yourd, Alyssa Jacobsen, Naomi Wente, Kristian Nyberg, Laura Anne Hunt, and others have worked to improve the campus food system.
- Zak Forde and Lucas Felts initiated a green Revolving Loan Fund.
- Chris Droske did extensive energy conservation work on campus and in the community.
- Seth Elsen, Melinda Kawalek, and others worked on the Students Using Natural Energy (SUN-E) team, helping to implement a solar thermal system that heats the campus pool, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Jordan Wente researched Danish energy models.
The combination of students’ research, student-led championing of sustainability causes, and the promise of their future impact will continue to be one of the most important legacies in sustainability at Morris.
Sustainability Leaders for the Future
Thanks to generous grant funding, the Sustainability Leaders for the Future (SLF) program is developing the next generation of leaders prepared to live in a carbon-constrained, more sustainable world.
Replicable across other college campuses, the program builds on Morris’s international reputation for:
- Engaging student leaders
- Developing sustainability curriculum
- Building environmentally sound facilities
The Sustainability Leaders for the Future program is sustained in part by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.