Walking along the bike path here on the UL campus where, earlier this week came a really amazing designation for bicycles, the university and the department of sustainability. “So, we are one of 35 universities designated as a bike-friendly university,” explains a proud Gretchen Vanicor, Director of the UL Department of Sustainability. “We've made it safe for the students so they feel comfortable riding on campus."
There are hundreds of things we could say about Gretchen Vanicor and her sustainability team… but let's highlight a few. How about UL football games, where, student volunteers take concession and tailgating food, and find another, natural purpose for what would typically be thrown away as garbage?
“We have our students there to help guide our fans,” begins Vanicor, “and then after the games ,they do another sort through to go through of the food materials to make sure if some of the composting materials maybe made its way there and wasn't supposed to be. We take it to Cade farm, and then our staff and researchers at Cade farm turn all of that food waste that would have been going to the landfill and instead, they turn it into compost, which is rich nutrient-rich soil.”
Cutting back is an important part of sustainability. During the pandemic, the Department of Sustainability realized –with fewer students physically on campus--there wasn't the need for huge electric bills, so…they turned down the thermostats. “We recognized we have a small city that we're operating here, with buildings that are suddenly empty. How can we save energy? We saw a 40-50% reduction in energy use because we intentionally went in and changed systems on campus.”
For the students, in-cafeteria dining was closed; but take-out meals became earth-friendly, good to geaux meals. “We switched to biodegradable plates and utensils through our ‘Good to Geaux program.”
Beautification. Tree plantings and the like. So many more elements for another story. And Gretchen Vanicor will tell you tell an environmentally-sustainable University of Louisiana? None of this happens without the students taking ownership of their cleaner, greener campus.
“You know, they get it; our students get it,” Vanicor says proudly. “We did a survey last fall, and in the freshmen class, 90% want a sustainable campus. I it to take to heart. They want to see it.”
And we end our story where we probably should have begun. How about a salute to Edwin Stephens, UL University president for 38 years, 1900—1938. Among the many things he did, was plant the Century Oaks, throughout campus with some on the corner of University and Johnston. In essence, he planted the seeds... for the UL Sustainability Department.
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