University announces new 5-year sustainability plan


(Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs)

A NU student rides his bike along Sheridan Road. The new sustainability plan announced on Tuesday included transportation initiatives, such as an effort to increase bike commuting by 10 percent.

Elizabeth Byrne, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern announced a five-year strategic plan Tuesday to guide sustainability programs from 2017 to 2021 and encourage involvement in related campus initiatives.

The plan was developed by sustainNU, the University’s sustainability program. The framework includes 50 objectives over the next five years, such as reducing net greenhouse gas emissions and creating a campus culture of environmental awareness.

Earth and Planetary Sciences Prof. Bradley Sageman, co-chair of sustainNU’s sustainability council, said the plan is the first step in creating necessary change.

“The plan is a starting point; it’s a really good framework for us to move forward,” Sageman said. “It doesn’t have all the ultimate goals we want, but … I’m really gratified we’re kicking it off.”

The plan is split into five different key program areas: Built Environment, Transportation, Resource Conservation, Experiential Learning and Communications and Engagement. Sagemen said the categories formed from five “working groups” made up of faculty, staff and students who planned specific initiatives related to the distinct categories.

Kathia Benitez, NU’s director of sustainability, said the concept was proposed before she arrived at NU last year. Most of the plan’s foundation already existed, she said, and just needed structure and organization.

Benitez said the most important initiative from the plan is a reduction of NU’s greenhouse gas emissions, but added she would also like to see increased communication and awareness about sustainability in the NU community. She said she wants to see greater participation in the working groups and more subscribers to sustainNU’s newsletter.

“SustainNU is an inclusive program and is set to support the entire institution with whatever sustainability initiatives they would like to launch,” Benitez said. “It takes an entire community to move forward in this direction. We can’t do it alone.”

Katie Mansur, Associated Student Government’s vice president for sustainability, said ASG works with sustainNU to connect students with the administration. The goal is to increase awareness about the role sustainability plays on campus, especially among students, the Weinberg senior said.

“It’s easy not to think about these issues sometimes,” Mansur said. “But the higher the degree that we’re able to build our awareness as a student body … the better we can just work to create a more sustainable campus and a culture around sustainability.”

Mansur said students should be aware of the environmental consequences of day-to-day actions. Simple acts like using reusable water bottles and choosing to recycle can make an impact, she said.

Benitez said she’s proud of the sustainability movement at NU and the progress it has made thus far. She said the objectives will help each generation become more conscious of its footprint.

“It’s been a journey to get it to where it’s at today,” Benitez said. “I’m just really excited to hear from the campus community and hopefully we’ll have an influx of stakeholders who really want to get plugged in and really support what we’re doing.”

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