Gonzaga now has a voice for all things green on campus: the Advisory Council on Stewardship and Sustainability (ACSS).
The Council "is great for the centralization of information," said Maggie Zaback, vice president of the Gonzaga Environmental Organization and student member of ACSS.
Founded last semester by Dr. Brian Henning of the philosophy department and Dr. Monica Bartlett in psychology, the council is meant to communicate issues to staff, students and faculty while studying sustainability on campus and making recommendations to the president's Cabinet.
"The first step is to collect information on what's being done already," Henning said. The council has received completed surveys from about 600 students, and will soon send similar surveys to faculty and staff. The council will use this information to create an agenda, Henning said.
"Gonzaga is like a medium-sized town. We might not see any changes for a year, but we don't just want to go off willy-nilly without knowing more," said Dr. Jon Isacoff, faculty member of ACSS and director of the Environmental Studies Program.
The council consists of a wide variety of staff, faculty and student members, including staff from Plant Services and CCASL, and students representing GEO and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), an engineering association.
The council acts as an advisory board to the administration and has no executive power. It's unclear whether the council will make immediate changes on campus, Henning said. The council is a "two-directional conduit of information," he said.
Henning created the council's Web site to increase awareness and transparency about sustainability practices on campus. The Web address is: www.gonzaga.edu/sustainibility
"There won't be any secret projects. The point is that it's an independent committee, not an arm of the administration," Isacoff said.
Study results and recommendations will be public information, he said. "The students and administration will be given the same information. It's safe to say this will be transparent as it can be."
The council recently created a subcommittee for waste reduction, which will work with GEO and AASHE, as well as Plant Services, to study recycling and waste practices on campus.
ACSS is a big step in increasing sustainability awareness on campus, Zaback said.
"There's been a huge gap in the past between students, faculty and staff. Student clubs struggle because students make so much progress, but they leave in four years. It's great to bring everyone together," she said.
Once the council has gathered and calculated the survey information, members will work with the administration and the University's contracted companies to make recommendations on issues such as water use, conservation, food sources, and energy use and emissions.
One step the council could take is to create a green rating for Gonzaga's profile with The Princeton Review, Isacoff said. In the past, Gonzaga has earned the lowest rating because no information has been submitted. The council will be able to create an accurate green rating, he said.
"[As a campus,] it seems like we're doing nothing, but it could be that we just don't know," Isacoff said.
He said ratings for green campuses can be difficult because so many factors enter into the equation. For example, Gonzaga could receive a lower rating than another campus, even with a higher energy efficiency, because many buildings on campus are older and aren't LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified.
"It would be a stretch to say that Gonzaga is a cutting-edge, ahead-of-the-curve green school. We seem to be behind the curve. That may be true, but until we take that inventory, we don't really know," Isacoff said. In the future, the council could make recommendations for sustainable construction of new buildings such as the student center, Zaback said.
"Hopefully, the committee can put their voice into campus growth issues, and make sustainable construction understood. The money used on sustainable practices could repay itself several times over," she said.
Plant Services has many small projects already happening that simply haven't been measured or communicated, Isacoff said. Big changes on campus may not be necessary, but communication is, he said. Council membership is open to the Gonzaga community.
"It's meant to be broad and all-encompassing," Henning said. ACSS plans to set an agenda for next year by the end of the semester. In the longterm, the council will develop a comprehensive sustainability plan for the University, Henning said. It will include curriculum, food services, grounds, and other components on campus.