Current Programs of the C4S
Aquinas College hosts several Economicology Forum events throughout the year. The educational events engage the internal and external community in learning around sustainability and Economicology with expert speakers from the West Michigan region.
Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse
Alongside Blue Sphere, Inc., GVSU, Sustainable Research Group, and the Ecology Center, the Center for Sustainability is a team member on the Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse project.
The overall goal of the Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse, funded by a three-year grant from the State of Michigan and hosted by the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College, is to accelerate green chemistry awareness, innovation and investment in the State of Michigan by creating and enabling a community of green chemistry advocates that are connected and informed. The Clearinghouse aims to be a dynamic and interactive on-line source of information, resources, databases, learning opportunities and interactive tools for citizens, business and industry professionals, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs and others.
The Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College provides project leadership in managing the grant and assuring effective team contributions for project success.
Addressing Climate Change at Aquinas College
Former Aquinas College President C. Edward Balog formally signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment in September 2008, committing to the development of a strategy to greatly reduce the college's carbon footprint. "The American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is a high-visibility effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate." The ACUPCC is now known as the Climate Leadership Network, and Aquinas signed the Carbon Neutrality Plan in 2015.
Since 2008, Aquinas College has completed a baseline greenhouse gas report, a Climate Action Plan (an institutional action plan for Aquinas to reach climate neutrality by 2040), several progress reports and updates to the campus carbon footprint. The Center for Sustainability is working diligently to meet our mid-range goals laid out in the Climate Action Plan.
Participation in RecycleMania Competition
RecycleMania is a 8-week national recycling and waste minimization competition among over 600 institutions of higher education, aimed at promoting waste reduction activities. Aquinas has competed in RecycleMania since 2009 with varying levels of performance. During the 2016 competition, the College finished 10th in the Country, and first in the State, in the Grand Champion Category. The Center for Sustainability is largely tasked with promoting, tracking campus waste flows, and submitting the information to RecycleMania coordinators.
The C4S regularly assists individuals and organizations looking for insights and resources related to their sustainability journey. For example, a group of Aquinas' Sustainable Business students are helping City High/Middle plan the school's Earth Day festivities, and will lead two separate activities. C4S staff recently met with a group of students from Davenport University to provide information on green jobs and Aquinas' journey into sustainability. Director of Sustainability Jessica Eimer is currently a board member of the USGBC West Michigan Chapter, RecycleMania Inc., and the Community Sustainability Partnership.
C4S has partnered with a number of organizations to help sponsor events that provide insight and enthusiasm for sustainable business practices. Sustainability research opportunities are supported, coordinated, and initiated by the Center for Sustainability. Contact the Center for a list of research incentives and mentorship opportunities.
Metrics and AASHE STARS
As part of the Aquinas Sustainability initiative, the Center for Sustainability has kept a full inventory of Aquinas processes, practices, and curricula in the areas of social, environmental, and financial capital since 2005/06 (FY). The inventory tasks have also been built into class assignments and student internships. The inventory is a multi-functional activity we expect to identify areas of opportunity and "low hanging fruit," and provide insight and measurement to guide the success of future sustainability programs. Sustainable Business students have contributed to the inventory's development and completion through course-work as well as the efforts of Sustainability Initiative interns.
To be consistent with reporting in higher education, Aquinas adjusted all metrics to be consistent with the AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) STARS program in 2015. STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance against other institutions. Schools can receive one of four levels of achievement including bronze, silver, gold and platinum. In August 2015, Aquinas College received a Silver rating from AASHE STARS. Achieving the silver rating is a testament to the hard work of so many people at Aquinas who are commitment to advancing sustainability.
Aquinas College Sustainability Initiative
The Center serves as a central node for the networked activities of the Aquinas Campus Sustainability Initiative. Three standing sustainability committees, as well as a joint committee, were created in fall 2006 by the three college governing bodies. The result is a collaborative sustainability effort by staff, faculty, and students. From recommendations offered by Mitch Thomashow, the college is currently piloting a new integrated committee structure focused on the themes of community, learning, and infrastructure. These committees seek to not only incorporate sustainability but also the principles of Economicology. Each committee focuses on the following: LEARNING: Curriculum, interpretation, and campus aesthetic; COMMUNITY: Governance, investment, and wellness; and INFRASTRUCTURE: Energy, food, and materials.
Students Striving for Sustainability Club
Jessica Eimer serves as advisor for Aquinas' Student Striving for Sustainability Club which has joined C4S in hosting several sustainability-related events. The 30-member student organization represents an avenue for Sustainable Business students to take a proactive role in the business, social and environmental progress of the Aquinas College campus. The club also furthers students' understanding and application of sustainability theory through discussions, conferences, fieldtrips, projects, and other activities.
Past Programs of the C4S
The Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College, Cascade Engineering/Quest Sustainable Solutions, and Florida-based NextLife are working with dmStrategists to develop an innovative suite of resources for helping companies of all sizes move toward sustainability. The Web-based assessment tools, business applications (BizApps), training and on-site support services are designed to help companies find ways to drive cost savings, performance gains, and market traction opportunities through the deployment of sustainable business practices. Aquinas College and its Center for Sustainability contributes its expertise and innovation in sustainable business education as an Alliance Partner.
Professional Development Certificate Program
The non-credit Sustainable Business Professional Certificate offered by the Center for Sustainability provides an opportunity for managers and executives at all career stages who wish to deepen their understanding of the fundamentals of sustainable business. In addition to foundational courses, active learning modules focus on topics that will enhance the ability of workplace professionals to deploy new tools, frameworks and organizational strategies, as well as help them serve as change agents to move their organizations to the forefront of sustainability efforts.
To learn more about the certificate program, please visit our homepage. This program is approved for the No Worker Left Behind Program of Michigan Works! and may be eligible for other worker retraining programs.
Focus the Nation 2008
All across the U.S., schools, churches, civic organizations, and businesses organized a national teach-in on global climate change solutions called Focus the Nation. A variety of events for Focus the Nation were planned, including a green fair, a local lunch, showing of the 2% solution web cast, and lots of informal education. The week of activities culminated on January 31st, 2008 with a political roundtable discussion at Calvin College.
Community Recycling Day
In association with Comprenew Environmental, the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College hosted a free Community Recycling Day on October 17th, 2007. All Aquinas employees, students, and neighbors were encouraged to drop-off unwanted electronics- anything with a battery or cord. Office paper, junk mail, phone books, news paper, and cardboard were also accepted. We receive a great response for this event, collecting a total of 5,221 pounds of waste in a 4 hour period! Information about Comprenew: Comprenew, a not-for-profit, is an electronics recycling company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All electronics that can be fixed, are repaired and sold in their store. Other materials are stripped into component parts and sold/given to local suppliers for reuse. Comprenew also operates an on-site Enviro-Academy for inner-city students.
Emerging Green Builders Competition
Sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Emerging Green Builders (EGB) Competition is an annual design competition for students and young professionals. Specifically, competition winners from local USGBC Chapters continue to the National competition each Fall. Jessica Eimer, Program Director at the Center for Sustainability, served on the EGB Committee for the West Michigan Chapter competition (2007/08). The competition featured Brookside Elementary, part of the Grand Rapids Public School district. For more information on the Emerging Green Builders Competition, please visit the web site below.
Social Responsibility Committee of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
C4S is assisting the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum through its service on this group's Social Responsibility Committee. C4S Executive Director Dr. Deb Steketee is working with student interns and the committee to develop a guide to best practices in social responsibility being utilized by area businesses. Working with the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, Aquinas hosted and helped design the program for "Discovering Sustainability: A West Michigan Conversation" in 2009 and again in 2010.
The events involved inquiry, discovery, dialog and development of knowledge within the groups working and promoting sustainable business practices, with the intent of creating an asset mapping tool, sharing knowledge and creating a long-term strategy for a Sustainable West Michigan.
Sustainable Business Sherpa Series
C4S offers a Sustainable Business Sherpa Series, a three-part series providing an introduction to sustainable business, insights into social capital and practical approaches toward incorporating value-producing sustainability practices into organizations. The series, which is planned to be offered on a continuing basis, will feature faculty experts such as Dr. Matt Tueth, Chairperson of the Sustainable Business Department at Aquinas, Dr. Deb Steketee, Executive Director of the Center for Sustainability, as well as sustainability advocates such as Bill Stough, CEO of Sustainable Research Group. The intended audience of the Sherpa Series is regional business professionals from small- and medium-sized organizations seeking knowledge on the fundamentals of sustainable business.
Sustainable Business for Non-Profits
As a part of our outreach activities, C4S aims to help guide businesses and non-profit organizations along their journey toward sustainability. As our Sustainable Business for Non-profits Intern, sustainable business student Liz Ivkovich developed an Environmental Management System for Pilgrim Manor, a Grand Rapids retirement community. Using information gathered during this trial period, we expect to expand our "Sustainable Business for Non-Profits" Program by offering teams of faculty-directed Aquinas students as a "mini-consulting firm" to tackle specific sustainability challenges within organizations.
Urban Organic Waste Management System
Aquinas College participated in a small-scale pilot project aimed at testing the feasibility of an urban organic waste management system in the City of Grand Rapids. The project brought together 10 area businesses, NGOs, and governmental organizations. Aquinas College performed an extensive food waste audit in 2006 to better understand the College's waste stream. This data, in addition to information from other organizations, was used to evaluate the feasibility of a full-scale urban organic waste composting facility in an eco-industrial park located within Grand Rapids. The project was abandoned in 2007 because no party was able to take on the business venture. Jessica Eimer served on the project's steering committee.
Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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