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Sustainability awards recognize efforts to green campus, reduce wastefulness

Megan McAtee/University Relations

Eric Dunn, Wichita junior, takes biodegradable service ware from the Market in the Kansas Union. KU Dining Services was one of several Sustainability Award winners for its efforts to reduce waste and use more environmentally friendly products.

Green projects often start from the ground up. But a few new sustainable projects at KU are starting from the roof down.

An innovative, student-led cooperative project will soon begin gathering rainwater that falls on the roof of the David A. Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center to feed a garden. The roof of the Kansas Union is home to an herb garden, just one of many sustainable initiatives taken by Dining Services.

Both projects were among efforts recognized with Sustainability Awards, presented by the Center for Sustainability on Nov. 11. Awards were given in four categories: project, faculty, staff and student.


The award for student-led project was presented to the Student Rain Garden, an initiative planned, researched, designed and implemented by students with the help of staff and other departments of the university community. Students from several majors will plant a garden on Earth Day 2009. The project will gather about two-thirds of the rainwater that falls on the roof of the David A. Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center and direct it to the garden. The garden will promote sustainable landscaping through use of native Kansas plants with deep root systems that help prevent soil loss and require less watering. The garden will also direct water into the ground as opposed to the city’s storm sewers. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is helping to fund the project.

Six students have worked with Design and Construction Management, Recreation Services and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on the project.


Whether it’s growing an herb garden on the roof of the Kansas Union or reducing waste, Dining Services has led a number of initiatives to boost sustainability.

The herb garden has produced ingredients for catering and the Impromptu Café, and the department has also increased its use of locally produced ingredients. Other projects noted in the nomination include:

  • Implementation of a trayless service trial in residential dining halls that resulted in 53 percent reduction in beverage waste, 38 percent reduction in post-consumer food waste and 12 percent reduction in paper waste.
  • Reuse of more than 35 gallons per week of Ekdahl Dining Commons cooking oil for biodiesel production. Peanut oil from Wescoe Underground will be used similarly in the future.
  • Introduction of biodegradable or compostable service ware and recyclable take out packaging that begins to biodegrade in nine months.
  • Expansion of recycling to include plastic bottles, office paper, marketing materials and tin cans.
  • Introduction of employee training to encourage sustainable work practices.


Steve Goddard, professor of art history and senior curator at the Spencer Museum of Art, was recognized for his efforts to green the museum and improve sustainability for museum patrons. He has led recycling efforts within the museum, called attention to the environmentally unfriendly qualities of products such as dry-erase markers and is organizing the environmentally themed exhibition “Trees and Other Ramifications.” The exhibition, coming next year, will guide patrons to view the lives of trees in conjunction with their own while revealing their coexistence and codependence. It will be part of a semester’s worth of environmentally related exhibitions and commissions.

An avid cyclist, Goddard has also advocated for a bike rack at the museum and even offered to pay tickets for individuals who receive citations for chaining their bicycles to railings near the museum.


Sara Vancil, assistant director of the Office of Student Financial Aid, was recognized in the staff category for her efforts to boost recycling and energy conservation in her office. Before her arrival, the office recycled only aluminum cans. It now recycles plastic bottles, cans, glass, cardboard, chipboard, newspaper and magazines. She has begun encouraging staff to recycle batteries and electronics as well. In her personal time, she delivers collected materials to the appropriate locations.

In May 2007, Vancil initiated a “Green Day” for the office that was so successful, a committee called the “Green Team” was formed to expand the lessons and tips advocated at the event into every day use. With support from the team, the office has replaced disposable dishes with reusable dinnerware in its kitchen, eliminated unnecessary printing and begun purchasing recycled-content paper, among other initiatives.


Anna Hoard, a senior voice performance major, was honored with the student award. She was noted for her involvement in and advocacy for environmental and social causes. In September 2007, Hoard traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts to reform the farm bill to make it more helpful to sustainable farmers and less harmful to the world market. Hoard is also active in a number of campus groups such as KU Students for Fair Trade and Oxfam America that advocate for conscientious consumerism and lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice.

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