Every year, World Environment Day — which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 — is hosted in a different country. This year on its 50th anniversary, Sweden will host World Environment Day in June. It’s an occasion to raise awareness about sustainable steps and the importance of protecting the planet.
While the day of celebration is on the global level, it’s the small sustainable steps in the day-to-day by individuals and organizations that make the biggest difference. In fact, Ashleigh Lewellen, the director of Campus Recreation at Missouri State University, said it starts with valuing and demonstrating the importance of environmental wellness.
Then the second step is to look for ambassadors. “These are the people who remind you to shut down your computers when you leave for the day or unplug all the treadmills over winter break,” explained Lewellen. “They are the ones who champion sustainability efforts that tend to rub off on others. Starting small will eventually lead to making big impacts.”
Other steps leading to Missouri State’s Foster Recreation Center’s LEED Silver certification are:
- Switching to mechanical locks on lockers to reduce battery waste.
- Installing sustainable wood gym floors and carpet tiles.
- Using low volatile organic compounds paint.
- Installing refillable water stations.
- Buying cardio equipment that doesn’t need electricity.
- Using technology to program lighting, monitor energy and water usage, and more.
- Investing in LED lights in the gym and the aquatics center.
At Sonoma State University (SSU), one way the recreation center is pursuing sustainability is through product sourcing. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the lead Recreation coordinator, explained the building was built using LEED as a guide. Whether it was the HVAC system to furniture built out of recycled materials, the choices maximize energy efficiency and lower the carbon footprint.
SSU Recreation Center’s green features include:
- Has electronics connected to power strips which building supervisors turn off each day.
- Participates in the Terracycle program. This allows for the recycling of specific waste products such as energy bar wrappers and empty pens.
- Avoids purchasing toxic substance and any aerosol cans.
- Purchases Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool certified computers.
Fitzpatrick said however sometimes the best teacher is the rec center itself. “We learn the correct way to do things through some of our automated systems,” he said. “For example, having occupancy sensors in various locations helps us all to know when lights need to be turned on and off. That simple feature has helped many of us turn off the lights when we are not using them in a selected location, like one of our conference rooms.”
For the future, Fitzpatrick said they are looking to renew the local Green Business Certification, and dive into possible sustainability training for desired sustainability behaviors.
But sustainability doesn’t have to be complicated. Fitzpatrick said to figure out the low-hanging fruit initiatives and go from there. “Sometimes it’s a drop in the bucket, and sometimes that drop ripples into something more that everyone can get behind and work toward together,” he said.
And sometimes, all you need to do is ask your students for ideas. “Gen Z innately cares about the environment,” said Lewellen. “They have ideas, and more importantly, they want to be part of the solution. Working with student government and other organizations allows us to collaborate efforts. Our students have been the driving force in many sustainable efforts.”