Getting Trashed on the Loading Dock: SUST Students Conduct Waste Audit of RU’s Chicago Campus

RU students and staff sort the trash from the AUD Theatre on the RU loading dock, Oct. 2014 (M. Bryson)

RU students and staff sort the trash from the AUD Theatre on the RU loading dock, Oct. 2014 (M. Bryson)

Last Thursday, October 17th, students in Professor Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste & Consumption honors class gathered at Roosevelt’s Wabash Building loading dock instead of their regular classroom to poke through the trash. More specifically, they conducted the second systematic waste audit of RU’s Chicago Campus in order to ascertain how much waste various areas of the campus produced in a single day, how much of that waste was being diverted from landfills by being recycled, and how effective the university’s recycling efforts (in terms of what kind of stuff gets thrown where). The first Chicago waste audit, which focused exclusively on the then-newly opened Wabash Building, was also performed by SUST 240 students back in the Fall of 2012.

Gloves highly recommended for this class! (M. Bryson)

Gloves highly recommended for this class! (M. Bryson)

This was truly a hands-on learning experience, so much so that rubber gloves and a strong nose were required — not to mention a cheerful attitude and a decent measure of physical stamina! The 13 students, one faculty member, and two staff (Tom Shelton of Physical Resources and Noe Villagomez of the Auditorium Theatre) split into four teams and managed to sample five office, classroom, and performance areas of the Auditorium and Wabash buildings in just 2.5 hours, start to finish. Student auditors not only weighed the collected trash and recycling to determine how much of RU’s total waste stream is being diverted, but also sifted through each carefully labeled bag, piece by soggy piece, to category each item of waste by material according to the EPA’s WARM guidelines. This way they discovered what kind of materials we’re throwing away; what we’re recycling; and what we could be recycling or composting but aren’t — yet.

  • Of the over 140 pounds of refuse from 15 Wed 2014 sorted through that afternoon, students determined that 79% was put in the trash while only 29% was being properly recycled — well below Roosevelt’s goal of achieving a 50% recycling rate for the university as a whole by 2015, and several notches below the 2011 US average municipal waste recycling/waste diversion rate of 35%, as reported by the EPA.
  • Moreover, they detected different rates of recycling in various areas of the campus: from a high of just over 50% on one office area (WB 13th Floor for RU insiders) to a low of 0% in the Auditorium Theatre. These figures indicate not just a clear need for significant improvement, but also the capacity to double RU’s overall recycling rate in the near future.

Chicago Campus Waste Audit 2014 Oct 16
Pre-Sorted Waste and Recycling by Campus Area

Pre-sort waste audit data F14

Evidence of RU's social justice mission: it's everywhere. Literally. (M. Bryson)

Evidence of RU’s social justice mission: it’s everywhere. Literally. (M. Bryson)

The post-sorting materials analysis of both the trash and recycling streams indicate that there is great potential for recycling and composting the vast majority of the university’s waste stream, if all potentially recyclable items are properly segregated and a comprehensive composting program is implemented. Doing that will involve not just new systems of waste collection and processing (for composting) but also better recycling practices by faculty, staff, and students. Post-sort waste audit data F14 graph 1

Post-sort waste audit data F14 graph 2

The SUST Program sincerely thanks Tom Shelton and Noe Villagomez for digging into this project with great enthusiasm, Mariola Szklaruk and her housekeeping staff for coordinating the trash/recycling samples, and the intrepid undergrads in SUST 240 for getting down and dirty on the loading dock in the service of (garbage) science. See this preliminary report (pdf) for a more detailed overview of our study, and stay tuned for the fuller report once we finish crunching all the data.

Five areas sampled in 2.5 hours: well done, team! (M. Bryson)

Five areas sampled in 2.5 hours: well done, team! (M. Bryson)

Posted in activities, courses, education, faculty, recycling, Roosevelt, students, waste

SUST 390 Course Preview: The Sustainable Campus (Spring 2015)

Following up on Roosevelt’s campus-wide strategic sustainability planning effort this fall, the SUST Program will offer a SUST 390 special topics course entitled The Sustainable Campus this coming spring (2015) semester. Taught by SUST Program Director and Associate Professor Mike Bryson, the class will meet at the Chicago Campus on Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:30pm, and begins January 10th, 2015. Pre-requisites: ENG 102 and SUST 210.

The Sustainable Campus: More than Just a Cool Building

RU's distinctively blue Wabash Building (constructed 2012), a LEED-gold structure that complements the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building (foreground) at the downtown Chicago Campus.

RU’s distinctively blue Wabash Building (constructed 2012), a LEED-gold structure that complements the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building (foreground) at the downtown Chicago Campus.

What are colleges and universities doing to make themselves more sustainable institutions? How can their efforts serve as laboratories for innovation and models for larger communities, from small college towns to sprawling suburbs to bustling big cities? What have Roosevelt University and other area institutions accomplished the last few years in creating more sustainable campuses, and where are they headed in terms of sustainability planning, operations, academics, and community relations?

This new special topics course focuses on the microcosm of the university as a lens through view to explore how communities are striving to save energy, conserve water, reduce waste, encourage active transportation, restore biodiversity, foster environmental literacy, develop innovative curricula, and connect with local communities. Seen in this context, the Sustainable Campus is always a work in progress, yet has the capacity to model sustainable development strategies that may be applied to communities large and small.

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (photo: M. Radeck)

While we will consider case-studies of other US colleges and universities that are well on the path toward sustainability, this section of SUST 390 will concentrate on Roosevelt’s efforts since 2010 to green its operations and curriculum, which have recently culminated in a series of university-wide sustainability planning workshops during the Fall 2014 semester. As a follow-up to the creation of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan, our class gather data on some of the plan’s priority initiatives in its four thematic areas:

  • Energy and Climate
  • Waste and Natural Resources
  • Education and Outreach
  • Economics and Governance

STARS 2.0 ManualAmong our many activities, we’ll use the STARS 2.0 Sustainability Tracking and Reporting System adopted by many universities to guide our research, as we document and assess Roosevelt’s progress on various indicators of sustainability. This work will form the foundation of the university’s forthcoming STARS reporting efforts in alignment with the new Strategic Sustainability Plan, and provide critical baseline data as we launch new sustainability initiatives in coming years.

Students in SUST 390 The Sustainable Campus will get an in-depth perspective on the university’s sustainability efforts and, through their research, gain practical experience gathering data and generating reports for the STARS 2.0 tracking system. More importantly, you will have a hand in helping the university realize its vision of becoming a more sustainable institution, both inside its walls and throughout its connection with Chicagoland communities.

For more information on this upcoming course, please contact Dr. Mike Bryson via email ( or phone (312-281-3148).

Posted in courses, education, faculty, Roosevelt, students

Hawai’i Connections: RU Professor and Student Promote Marine Education and Research

Hoffman portraitIn recent student and faculty news, SUST adjunct professor Michele Hoffman Trotter, who is working on a documentary film about marine biodiversity and conservation entitled “Microcosm,” received an appointment as Director of Advancement of the Hawai’i Association for Marine Education and Research (HAMER). In this new position, Michele is charged with helping HAMER organize a funding campaign that will support critical research on imperiled manta ray populations. The funding campaign will go live in December 2014.

Jordan EwbankJordan Ewbank, a senior SUST major at Roosevelt and intern for the Microcosm project who presented an overview of the project to the RU community last spring, will also be contributing to the HAMER development effort and  is now recognized on their website as “Advancement Officer.” Congratulations to Michele and Jordan on these impressive appointments!

Posted in biodiversity, ecology, education, faculty, news, Roosevelt, science, students, water

Environmental Activist Kim Wasserman of LVEJO Speaks at Roosevelt on Oct 22

Kimberly Wasserman_profile 2013The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project at Roosevelt University is proud to kick off its Fall Distinguished Environmental Organizer Series next Wednesday, Oct. 22, 4:30 – 6 p.m., with a special presentation by Kim Wasserman, Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO).

Ms. Wasserman (pictured at right) is a 2013 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for leading the successful lobbying campaign for the passage of the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance that resulted in the closing of the Crawford and Fisk coal-fired power plants. She has been LVEJO’s executive director since 2005.  Wasserman’s presentation is entitled Beyond Crawford and Fisk: How Community Power can Defeat Corporate Power.

Please join the Roosevelt community for this powerful conversation in the Spertus Lounge in RU’s National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave., room 244. Refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director of the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project ( See this flier (pdf) and the image below for future events through the Loundy Project’s “Just By Nature” series at Roosevelt this fall.

Just by Nature RU Lecture Series F14

Posted in education, events, humanities, Illinois, policy, pollution, presentations, Roosevelt, social justice, waste

Morton Arboretum Awards RU’s Schaumburg Campus Level I Arboretum Accreditation

Roosevelt University’s Schaumburg Campus has been awarded Level I Arboretum Accreditation through the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. The University received the accreditation by meeting standards set by Morton arboreta and sustainable landscapes.

RU's restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

RU’s restored prairie and part of its urban forest at the Schaumburg Campus (photo: M. Radeck)

An arboretum is a specialized type of botanical garden that focuses on trees and other woody plants. Arboreta collect, grow, and display trees, shrubs, and other plants for people to study and enjoy, and ideally are open to the public for education and inspiration. A principal goal of arboreta is to encourage and support the planting and conservation of trees for environmental improvement and enhanced quality of life.

SUST undergraduate students MaryBeth Radeck and Mary Rasic have worked on RU’s arboretum accreditation process during their time as Student Associates in Environmental Sustainability for the Physical Resources Dept. Thanks to both of them for their efforts in recognizing the ecological and community value of the Schaumburg Campus’ urban forest!

Posted in awards, biodiversity, ecology, news, Roosevelt, students

Strategic Sustainability Planning Underway this Fall at RU

On September 26, 2014, Roosevelt University began an inclusive effort to craft its very first 5-year Strategic Sustainability Plan. At this kick-off workshop event, faculty, staff and students provided clear guidance for the plan, including these major initial recommendations: 1) expand sustainability education across the curriculum; 2) focus university campus investments in energy savings, reduced carbon footprint, and better recovery of waste; and 3) invest in an independent Office of Sustainability to oversee and accelerate projects.

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (M. Radeck)

Students, staff, and faculty prioritize sustainable actions at Roosevelt University on 26 Sept 2014 (M. Radeck)

This event was the first of three half-day sessions guiding sustainable actions sponsored by the university. The second two sessions, culminating in November with a written plan, criteria for project selection and assessment, as well as organizational structure, are on a fast-track to completion. The University will conduct measurement through AASHE’s STARS 2.0 and reassess the plan on an annual basis.

Robust changes which have already impacted the University’s carbon footprint and curriculum as it embraced sustainability as a core part of Roosevelt’s identity include: over 30 students have graduated from the Sustainable Studies undergraduate program in four years; two green buildings were built in Chicago (the LEED-Gold Wabash Building and the LEED-Silver Goodman Center athletic center); and a native prairie was restored as well as a community garden established at the Schaumburg suburban campus.

Tom Shelton of RU Physical Resources presents governance/economics priorities for sustainable action at the Sept. 26 planning workshop (M. Radeck)

Tom Shelton of RU Physical Resources presents governance/economics priorities for sustainable action at the Sept. 26 planning workshop (M. Radeck)

Underlying these visible indicators are on-going contributions to social equity made by Roosevelt students and faculty in the community, an extension of RU’s institutional strategic plan developed in 2013-14. These advancements have been funded by the University’s operations budget, grants, and rebates; and made possible by the collaborative hard work of the university’s administration, staff, faculty, and a handful of high-impact student interns.

Today, opportunities for funding and savings abound, and participation in programs like Retrofit Chicago are an imperative. With renewed focus and sustainability-minded planning, the university stands to realize more energy and resource efficiencies as well as further lower its greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Chuck Middleton, President of Roosevelt University, praised the planning team’s efforts and remarked, “After five years of substantial change, I’m pleased to see that together students and staff will provide continued impetus for sustainable action at RU.”

For more information on Roosevelt University’s Strategic Sustainability Plan and how you might participate, please contact Thomas Shelton (, Sustainability Coordinator in RU’s Physical Resources Department.

Posted in activities, education, faculty, news, planning, Roosevelt, students

Exploring Spatial Justice in Chicago on Oct. 7th at the Institute for Cultural Affairs

This coming Tuesday, Oct. 7th, please join the Center for Humans and Nature, in partnership with The Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network and the Institute of Cultural Affairs, for a free interactive discussion entitled “Is It Just Space?” — how justice is a critical component in how we create, maintain, and engage with urban spaces. Refreshments are provided, and there are still a few spots available for the program!

Photo credit: Center for Humans and NatureWhen/Where: Tuesday, Oct. 7th, 2014 | 5:30-7pm | Institute of Cultural Affairs, 4750 N. Sheridan Rd. (a short walk east from the Red Line’s Lawrence stop)

  • Through interactive activities, all participants will be encouraged to share stories and ideas about justice and space in Chicago.
  • Julian AgyemanA facilitated dialogue with four panelists—community activists Melanie Eckner (Uptown) and Orrin Williams (South Side), Sustainability Studies Professor Michael Bryson (Roosevelt University), and Professor of Urban + Environmental Policy + Planning and CHN Senior Scholar Julian Agyeman (Tufts University, at left, participating via Skype)—will reflect on key ideas surfaced by the full group about the relationship between justice and space.
  • The event will conclude with a full group discussion about implications for community action in Chicago.

Reception to follow the meeting. Space is limited and expected to fill quickly! Register to attend & join the online conversation today. The event is free, with a suggested donation of $5-10.

Is It Just Space 2014Oct at ICA

Posted in architecture, cities, community, ethics, events, faculty, humanities, parks and public land, planning, policy, social justice, transportation