Students at MU cannot ignore climate change and the efforts to reverse it. On a campus that ranks nationally in sustainability practices, environmental consciousness is unavoidable. MU’s Sustainability Office serves as the hub from which the pervasive message of sustainability is spread.
“Sustainability encompasses everything,” MU Sustainability Program Assistant Ashley Craft said. “Every bit of life, every major here. And so it’s something that we need to be aware of.”
Students can peruse the Sustainability Office’s library or register for one of the many undergraduate courses that discuss environmental issues. Student ambassadors who work for the office are also available to give presentations on sustainability to anyone interested. The office is also attempting to expand efforts throughout the campus.
“We plan on working with different departments to include the measurement of sustainability literacy as part of their operation functioning,” MU Sustainability Manager Raghu Raghavan said.
The Sustainability Office also works with energy management to pursue alternative forms of energy. Sophomore Margo Wagner discovered these endeavors during her first year at the university.
“I thought Mizzou was a not-sustainable campus, and I was kind of annoyed by it, but then I actually did a project for journalism on sustainability, and I found out that the efforts that we make for renewable energy is fantastic,” Wagner said. “I think Mizzou goes above and beyond.”
Since 1990, the campus has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 62% and energy usage by 21% on a square foot basis, according to the Sustainability Office’s website. The website also states 40% of MU’s total energy supply now comes from biomass fuel, wind energy and solar power.
Because of this, MU is ranked 6th by the Environmental Protection Agency for on-site renewable energy generation, competing with companies like Apple Inc. and organizations like the U.S. Department of Energy.
MU has been recognized several times for its sustainability efforts. The university has been the only institution of higher education to receive the System of the Year award twice from the International District Energy Association.
MU has also been ranked highly by Environment America for its use of renewable energy in comparison to other universities across the country.
“Mizzou is No. 2 in the country for on-site renewable energy generation, which is a pretty spectacular achievement,” Raghavan said.
Along with being nationally recognized, the campus has many environmentally conscious programs and installations, like cigarette boxes and large recycling bins at the school. Cary Littlejohn, an MU graduate student, has firsthand experience with how MU differs from other schools.
“I practiced law for a while until I went to grad school for journalism here, and this is probably one of the best performing colleges, I think, on the issues of sustainability,” Littlejohn said. “Mizzou values it and puts a high regard for that, and it’s really impressive. Even little things like the dorms ... you see a lot of green initiatives within that.”
One of the biggest ideas the Sustainability Office wants to impart is that students have the capacity to make change through conscious choices.
“Everybody has their own set of talents, and here at the Sustainability Office, we want to make sure students are equipped — no matter what their interest is — to play a key role in the sustainability efforts,” Craft said.
MU is creating a more sustainable university by increasing renewable energy use, expanding educational opportunities and installing green initiatives across campus. In doing so, it is attempting to achieve what Raghavan considers to be the fundamental goal of going green.
“The endgame of sustainability is a healthy community for everybody,” Raghavan said.
Kiana Fernandes is a student at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.