Sustainability committee introducing 10 new ideas to make campus greener



On Saturday, Sept. 7, Madi Laughlin and Morgan Cusick of Green Group cleaned up trash at Great Plains Nature Center.

Not just yellow and black anymore – Wichita State is going greener. 

A series of sustainability initiatives will be rolled out over the next year, Student Body Vice President Michael Bearth announced in an Student Senate meeting Wednesday. The initiatives include 10 specific proposals to be implemented around campus, as well as four ongoing facilities goals. 


The new initiatives, proposed by the Sustainability Committee, were designed to align with WSU’s six-point sustainability plan, which was endorsed in July by the President’s Executive Team.

The Sustainability Steering Committee is comprised of a research team, curriculum team, facilities team, and the student-led Green Group

Three of the proposed ideas involve expanding existing on-campus resources. The committee hopes to bring more water bottle-filling stations, bike racks, and recycling bins to campus by the end of the school year, Bearth said. 

Sustainability training may also become a requirement soon for faculty and student organizations, he said. The training would encourage participants to practice more eco-friendly behaviors, such as turning off lights and computers when they’re not in use. 

“We also talked about maybe [having] an award made for sustainability, so if you have been noticed going above and beyond, then you can get something for your efforts,” Bearth said. “Whether that’s faculty, student orgs, or students.”

The committee is also working on introducing specific policies for combating e-waste around campus. Ablah Library could be one area of focus, Bearth said, with its rows and rows of computers. 

“Powering those off at the end of the day — that’s one of the ways we could save,” he said. 

Single-use plastics may also be on the cutting block over the next year, at least in part. Plastic straws and bags have been banned outright at several universities around the country, and many have switched to using paper products by default, charging a fee for plastic bags. 

The Sustainability Steering Committee lists a similar effort towards mitigating single-use plastics at WSU as one of the 10 proposals for the year.


Food central to sustainability plans

Bearth said the committee also hopes to promote awareness of existing programs, such as Shocker Share-a-Meal, which operates through dining services. The program allows anyone placing a catering order — like a student organization hosting an end-of-year banquet, for example — to request that any leftovers be collected and donated. 

“Because you’re signing up through catering, they already know what time your event starts and ends, and that extra food will be moved, and anybody with access can grab free food,” Bearth said. 

In addition to promoting the Share-a-Meal program, the committee proposed implementing composting as a way of keeping food waste down. 

The Green Group is also leading efforts to revitalize and expand an existing community garden on the south side of campus. A full plot of land behind Ahlberg Hall is set aside for the garden, but only one corner is currently in use. Under the new proposal, raised beds will be put in across the full plot. 

Bearth said the group hasn’t decided how the community garden will operate yet — whether plots can be reserved by students for individual use, or if they’ll grow a few main crops together. 

“The original thought was, gardening is therapeutic — so it’d be something along those lines, where you could just come and relax and help out,” Bearth said. “Or we may have reserved beds that you can apply for, and then you can grow whatever you wanted, legally.” 

Members of the Green Group will run the garden, Green Group President Madi Laughlin said, but students will be able to sign up to volunteer any time through ShockerSync. 

The group is also considering a partnership with the counseling center, Laughlin said, so gardening could be offered to students as a form of therapy. 

Laughlin said any community-grown crops may be donated to the Shocker Support Locker, which offers food and hygiene items to students in need. Chartwells, the food service company that manages on-campus dining, has also donated seeds to the garden, and may use the produce harvested in dining hall meals. 

Lastly, the committee plans to introduce signage around campus that highlights the efforts the university has already implemented. 

“There’s a lot of sustainability or environmentally friendly things that the university already does,” Bearth said. “But people don’t know.”

The John Bardo Center, for example, is already outfitted with solar panel capabilities, minus the panels themselves. The cost is prohibitive right now, Bearth said, but the university plans to add them in the future as part of the six sustainability goals. 

“The goal is what we can do around the other areas of campus to one, be more environmentally conscious, and two, save money, and then use that saved money to start making larger purchases,” he said. “Every little bit helps in making a difference in sustainability and the environment.”

Additional signs will be posted to help students understand how to be more environmentally conscious on campus — like some in the Rhatigan Student Center showing what items can actually be recycled, and some in the Heskett Center encouraging shorter showers. 

“We’re not only helping people start the mindset now so they can carry it on wherever they go, but also trying to build a long life cycle with what we’re trying to do as a university that has benefits for the future,” Bearth said “So that we, no matter where we are, can feel confident in who we’re leaving behind to take care of it.”