Lately, the word “sustainability” has been thrown around in a way that makes it seem like a fad. Using no-straw lids for beverages, placing Earth stickers on laptops, and carrying around a fashionable water bottle — all making sustainability a statement.
Although these actions do inspire us to think and act sustainably, it still leaves multiple questions about what sustainability really entails and how we can make a difference in the world — starting with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s campus.
Fortunately, we have the Sustainability Working Advisory Teams (SWATeams) here at iSEE: teams of students, faculty, and staff who are not only answering these questions, but spearheading action plans to make this campus more sustainable through the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP).
The iCAP is a strategic plan to achieve climate commitments made by the University, the most important being to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This plan has been a part of the University since 2008, with the first iCAP in 2010, and has since been updated every five years.
The 2020 iCAP now aims to achieve enhanced student involvement as well as community involvement, which is being addressed through the Resilience SWATeam. Another goal is to make the plans less vague through making the outcomes more actionable and measurable.
Currently, the SWATeams are working on the 2020 iCAP, which includes planning within the themes of Energy, Land & Water, Resilience, Zero Waste, Education and Transportation. The teams are formulating ideas to eventually make into actionable plans; some of these are short-term goals, while others focus on the long term.
A few of these goals have to do with energy and water reductions. In the past decade, the University of Illinois has reduced its energy use intensity by 38% — which surpassed the 2015 iCAP‘s target of 33% — and reduced potable water usage by 30% as well.
And although these reduction numbers are the point of having a climate action plan, people need to know about the plan for the progress to continue.
iSEE Sustainability Programs Coordinator Meredith Moore says an important aspect of the process right now is to secure student involvement.
“This action plan represents the whole campus, not just faculty or staff. We really want to see student involvement to back that up and contribute to the efforts as well,” she said.
With future events such as student forums once per month and an online submission tab, Moore hopes to see students, faculty, and staff alike getting more involved in the iCAP planning process and taking on responsibility for carrying out the goals.
“Giving people not only the opportunity to give suggestions, but to also recognize those suggestions are being heard so they take ownership of making the campus more sustainable is important,” Moore said.
After these suggestions are heard, the SWATeams will begin forming objectives that are achievable and measurable by those on campus. After they are set in stone, the iCAP will go through multiple rounds of revision as well as approval, hopefully being officially signed by the Chancellor by Fall 2020.
So, what would you like to see on campus in regards to sustainability? This campus wouldn’t be possible without the students, and now is the time to step up and take the necessary measures to care for its future.
Becoming more sustainable starts with ideas, then turns into action, and the next thing we know we will have achieved carbon neutrality by 2050.
“I think it is definitely possible to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, if we progress and continue to have these very motivated individuals work together and stay open-minded. I think it’s certainly possible,” Moore said.
If you would like to get more involved with the iCAP, students, faculty, staff, and community members will have the opportunity to give ideas and plans for the 2020 iCAP at mostly sessions, which are free open to the public. Stay tuned to the Illinois Sustainability Calendar or sign up for our weekly newsletter for details.
— Article by iSEE Communications Intern Chloe Rice