RU Releases Groundbreaking Strategic Sustainability Plan

In celebration of the university’s official release of its first Strategic Sustainability Plan this summer, we reprint this 10 June 2015 RU news release by Laura Janota, Director of Public Relations at Roosevelt.

RU SustPlan Cover

Cover of RU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan

Green is no longer just Roosevelt University’s school color. Green is now a part of the University’s institutional DNA thanks to a new five-year Strategic Sustainability Plan.

Developed by Roosevelt University students, administrators, faculty and staff, the plan positions the University as a leader in driving the most important transformation of higher education now happening, which is the greening of American colleges and universities, according to Paul Matthews, assistant vice president for campus planning and operations and one of the plan’s leading organizers.

The plan has four areas of focus: climate and energy, education and outreach, waste and natural resources and economics and governance.

Among goals, it calls for reducing energy usage by 10 percent; the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and installation of refueling stations; expansion of the undergraduate Sustainability Studies program; connection of faculty and students across disciplines in sustainability innovation, research, educational outreach and service-learning opportunities; advancement of recycling and composting efforts by a student-led team; start-up of sustainable local food businesses at the University; expansion of community/rooftop gardening; raising awareness about water usage through a water conservation campaign; and creation of an Office of Sustainability, residing in the University’s Physical Resources division, which will manage Strategic Plan implementation, among other administrative tasks.

“This is a roadmap that documents what we have done so far and sets goals and priorities for making the University more sustainable in the future,” said Michael Bryson, professor of humanities and director of the University’s Sustainability Studies undergraduate degree program.

Since 2010, the University has been taking major steps to become greener. Highlights include: attaining green certification for more than half of all campus electricity; graduating 45 Sustainability Studies majors since 2011; creating service learning opportunities for students in sustainability with environmental organizations like Chicago Lights Urban Farm, Eden Place Nature Center, the Field Museum of Natural History and Friends of the Chicago River; recycling  100 percent of all e-waste; composting 50 percent of all food waste; restoration of significant campus grounds to prairie; and establishing community, rooftop  and other types of gardens at the University.

“People sometimes think that sustainability is just focused on building design and energy efficiency, but it is also about the kinds of academic courses we offer, the partnerships we forge in the community, as well as the practice of social justice,” said Bryson, who created a special course called The Sustainable Campus.  During the recent spring semester, 19 Roosevelt students took the course in which their major assignment was to collect base-line data for tracking the University’s progress in meeting its sustainability goals through use of the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).

Assessment using STARS was one of the recommendations for the plan made by Sustainability Studies student Mary Beth Radeck, who researched the status and landscape of sustainability planning at higher education institutions across the United States as part of a recent independent study course she took with Bryson in 2014.
“I not only found that it wasn’t the norm for universities to have formal sustainability plans, but also discovered that one of the best ways to make real progress in greening a university is to assess where the institution has been and where it is going,” said Radeck. “The STARS system is a reliable tool to help Roosevelt with assessment,” she said.

Radeck facilitated group planning for Roosevelt’s new Strategic Sustainability Plan and also wrote and presented the plan that has been approved by top Roosevelt administrators and endorsed by Roosevelt’s Faculty Senate, as well as reviewed by Roosevelt’s Board of Trustees.

Posted in education, news, planning, Roosevelt, students

Joliet’s Pilcher Park Hosts a BioBlitz for Scientists and Public on June 12 and 13

Scientists and citizens alike in Will County are gearing up for a “BioBlitz” to document the biodiversity in Pilcher Park, an urban woodland within the Hickory Creek watershed and the hidden gem of Joliet and Will County. During a BioBlitz, biologists gather at a site for a 24-hour period and collect as much data as they can, said Katie Zaban, Pilcher Park Nature Center manager. Pilcher Park will host such an event this coming weekend, June 12 and 13.
According to the Joliet Herald-News,

Visitors can watch the biologists in action. Katie Zaban [manager of the Pilcher Park Nature Center] notes that the BioBlitz is being held to draw attention to the park, which park officials plan to expand. “If people are interested and don’t know what lives in the park, this is a good event to go attend so they can realize, ‘Hey, this is what lives here and we want to protect these things,’ ” she said.

Also on June 12, the park district will host an open house at Pilcher Park to celebrate the addition of 80 acres there. The open house will start at 9 a.m. at the Pilcher Park Nature Center.

Zaban said Pilcher Park is significant because it was the site that started the Joliet Park District. She said the park has grown to 640 acres in size and has about 10 miles of hiking trails, along with a nature center and greenhouse.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources designated Pilcher Park as an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory site, including it in the category of “high-quality natural community and natural community restorations.” 

The BioBlitz is a result of a partnership between the Joliet Park District, Illinois Audubon Society, University of St. Francis and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.

For more information on the BioBlitz, call 815-741-7277.

BioBlitz Schedule

• 3 p.m. June 12: Steve Pescitelli from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will sample and identify fish near the park center. He will also talk about Hickory Creek fish populations.

• 7:30 p.m. June 12: Juanita Armstrong, from the Forest Preserve District of Will County, will set up a mist net and catch bats in the forest. She will also check on the bats after it gets dark.

• 9 a.m. June 13: Siobhan Peacy, from Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and Rita Renwick, from the Illinois Audubon Society, will lead a hike through the woods and discuss the significance of Pilcher Park.

• 10 a.m. June 13: Joliet Park District naturalists will lead a pond study for children ages 7 and older.

• 11 a.m. June 13: Bill Bromer, from the University of St. Francis, will lead a crew sampling Hickory Creek for aquatic insects and crayfish.

Posted in biodiversity, conservation, ecology, events, parks and public land, suburbs, wildlife

Why We Need English Majors To Help Ensure a Sustainable Future

Here in the Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt, faculty requite a lot of writing from students in all the classes throughout the curriculum. That’s not just because our profs love reading and grading papers (though of course they do); rather, it stems from their conviction that critical thinking and clear writing go hand-in-hand, as well as the fact that the creation, advocacy, and marketing of progressive environmental policy depends upon excellent communication.

And that’s why we need English majors to join the sustainability movement, as well. Students who care about and study literature, and who dedicated themselves to honing the craft of writing, can make major contributions on behalf of water conservation, waste reduction, and climate change mitigation.

A great example of that is today’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition program, “Editing the Climate Talkers: Punctuation’s Effect on Earth’s Fate,” by Nell Greenfieldboyce. Give it a listen and get out your pencil!

Posted in climate change, education, humanities, news, policy

EPA Releases New Rules for Protecting US Waters

From the Thursday 28 May 2015 online edition of the NY Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday [27 May 2015] announced a sweeping new clean water regulation meant to restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.

The rule, which would apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s bodies of water, comes as part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

SUST majors Ron Taylor (front) and Ken Schmidt canoe the Upper North Branch in SUST 220 Water, Fall 2012 (photo: M. Bryson)

Industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are already preparing lawsuits to challenge the rule, and legal experts say the battle over control of the nation’s waters could end up before the Supreme Court, which in recent years has cast doubt on the government’s authority to regulate certain waterways.

Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. This summer, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of regulations intended to counter climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants.

Already, Republican lawmakers are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay both the climate and clean water rules.

In announcing the rule, Mr. Obama said, “One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution.”

“With today’s rule,” he added, “we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.”

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, called the rule “a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” adding, “House members of both parties have joined more than 30 governors and government leaders” to reject the rule.

The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the United States, last spring. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.

The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into those larger waters.

But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.

E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.

The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” the E.P.A. administrator, Gina McCarthy, said in a written statement.

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers, which co-wrote the rule.

“This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations,” she added.

Environmentalists praised the rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.

“Our rivers, lakes and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.

Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.

“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent.”

Industry groups also warned that enforcement of the new rule would create a profusion of lawsuits and other legal red tape. If property owners fail to apply for permits to build, till, develop or perform other potentially polluting activities near water bodies, they can be sued by the E.P.A. Environmental advocates and even private citizens will also be able to bring lawsuits against landowners who might be in violation of the regulations.

The lobbying fight over the rule has generated a public relations battle on social media.

In its protest, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of it. But some legal experts say that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Science, Agriculture and Oversight committees sent letters to Ms. McCarthy demanding that the E.P.A. turn over documents relating to the development of the social media campaign.

Posted in agriculture, business, conservation, economics, news, policy, pollution, water

RU Awarded IL Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant

RU skyline AIARoosevelt University was awarded a grant in April 2015 that was applied toward upgrading the energy efficiency  lighting systems for its National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building at the Chicago Campus as well as for the entire Schaumburg Campus facility. The grant was made by the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. It not only enables Roosevelt to take another stride toward energy efficiency and environmental awareness; it also helps the University reduce the cost of its monthly electricity bill.

Installation of the systems was completed last month and we are looking forward to seeing what our savings will total. At the Schaumburg Campus alone, estimated cost reduction could total $13,600 annually. The university expects to save 169,681 kilowatts hours of electricity through the grant program.

For more information on this and other RU sustainability initiatives, contact Rebecca Quesnell, Environmental Sustainability Student Associate (

Posted in awards, climate change, conservation, economics, energy, Illinois, news, Roosevelt

Roosevelt’s 2015 Bike2Campus Winners

One of the key events of Earth Week at Roosevelt this past April was Bike2Campus, a multi-university effort to promote cycling in Chicago. All students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to participate by biking to campus — whether directly or to a public transit commuting location — and documenting their rides on the Bike2Campus website. Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus in the Loop is a prime location for bike and transit access, and its Schaumburg Campus is part of that Village’s extensive network of bike paths/lanes. The purpose of this now-annual event is two-fold: to promote sustainable, active transit; and to have fun.

This year’s Bike2Campus RU winners received nice bike accessory prizes for their efforts, courtesy of the Physical Resources Department. The SUST Program salutes your participation, and thanks all who participated in this year’s competition!

Diana Zak Bike2Campus 1st Place RU 2015

First-place winner Diana Zak works as Assistant to the Chair of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, and is majoring in Sustainability Studies. Diana commutes 8 miles daily (round trip) to RU’s Chicago Campus, and often stops at the grocery store on the way home, so her rides do double-duty. Way to go, Diana! You definitely set the standard here at Roosevelt.

Steven Monserud Bike2Campus 2nd Place RU 2015

Second-place winner Steven Monserud is Director for Accounting and Reporting at RU’s Chicago Campus. As of this posting, we don’t know Steven’s daily mileage for his ride to Roosevelt — but we’ll find out. Congratulations, Steven, and thanks for your participation in Bike2Campus week!

Mike Bryson Bike2Campus 3rd Place RU 2015

Third-place winner Mike Bryson is Professor of Humanities and Director of the Sustainability Studies program at RU. During Bike2Campus week he rode from his house in Joliet to the Rock Island Metra Station (2 miles one way) on 3 days, thus combining a short bike ride with a train commute to RU’s Chicago Campus. He rides his bike to the train year-round, whenever weather allows.

Chicago’s campus winners of the Bike2Campus competition in 2015 were, in order, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Dominican University. We salute all who participated in the spirit of promoting active transit in Chicago.


Posted in activities, biking, events, news, Roosevelt, transportation

2015 U.S.-China Forum: Spotlight on Climate Change at University of Chicago, 19 May 2015

The Energy, Environment, and Climate Nexus in China:
Where Opportunities Converge

Tuesday, 19 May 2015, 8:30am-3pm


On almost any major issue, from climate change and urbanization to international trade and peace and security, how the U.S. and China work together (or don’t) will shape our global future.  This inaugural U.S.-China Forum takes up one of these major issues: climate change. What is the health and economic toll of climate change and associated environmental challenges? What key energy and environmental policy decisions have been made, and will need to be made, in order to forge a sustainable path toward long-term economic growth? And how can the two countries work together to build the kind of lasting relationship that is needed to address climate change, and other vital global challenges?

About the Series

The U.S.-China Forum is sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Chicago Office of Global Engagement. The annual Forum brings together renowned experts—including faculty from the University of Chicago and scholars from China—for high-level engagements focused on issues of importance to both countries and, by extension, the world. It is intended to spur long-term research collaborations between Chinese and University of Chicago researchers. This year’s program is focused on the climate change challenge, and hosted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Paulson Institute.


All sessions are open to registrants. Registration is required as space is limited. To request special assistance, please contact the Office of University Events and Ceremonies at 773.702.9626.


Morning Session – The Energy, Environment, and Climate Nexus in China: Where Opportunities Converge

When international negotiators meet in Paris later this year for the next round of UN climate talks, much of the world’s focus will be on two countries: China and the U.S. Both countries have shown their leadership in confronting climate change, with a landmark joint climate announcement last year outlining their respective new climate goals for 2025 and beyond. But much work remains to be done to make these goals a reality. This panel and associated discussion with current and former senior government officials and academics will explore the intertwined environmental and climate challenges the country faces, their health and economic toll, and the key energy and environmental policy decisions that China has made and will need to make in order to forge a sustainable path forward.

9:00am  Welcome remarks

9:15am  Panel – China’s Environment and Climate Challenges: The Human Toll and Path Forward

China’s Climate: Changes and Physical Impacts
Elisabeth Moyer, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science, Department of Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago

Air Pollution: Current and Future Trends
Wang Litao, Professor of Environmental Engineering, Hebei University of Engineering

The Environment and Health: Impacts from Air Pollution Today, Climate Change Tomorrow
Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the College, The University of Chicago; Director, Energy Policy Institute at Chicago

National Policy Efforts and Implementation
Zou Ji, Deputy Director General, National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, People’s Republic of China

Moderated by Pete Ogden, Senior Advisor and Fellow, Senior Advisor and Fellow, Energy Policy Institute at Chicago

11:00am  Beyond Paris: A Conversation with Hank Paulson, Chairman, Paulson Institute and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury

Moderator: Michael Greenstone

11:45am  Morning closing remarks with Dali Yang, Professor, Department of Political Science, The University of Chicago; Founding Faculty Director, The University of Chicago Center in Beijing

12:00pm  Complimentary lunch with pre-registration

Afternoon Session – U.S.-China Relations

Climate change is not the only challenge the U.S. and China must work together to confront. Their relationship, and how it evolves, is crucial to all of our futures.  As the two countries continue to learn how to interact in an ever changing world, there will be cooperative opportunities and times of contention.  In what areas do the U.S. and China have the greatest common interests?  And how can they work past areas of debate to forge a relationship that will aid both countries’ interests and our common future?

1:30pm  Keynote address and conversation with Madame Fu Ying, Chairperson, Foreign Affairs Committee, 12th National People’s Congress, People’s Republic of China

Posted in climate change, conferences, energy, events