NIU Green Team makes sustainability plan


NIU Green Team makes sustainability plan

By Morgan Fink

DeKALB — The NIU Green Team is gearing up to help the university become more environmentally friendly by creating a campus sustainability plan.

The NIU Green Team is a group of faculty, staff, students and community members who contribute to on-campus improvements including energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling expansion and sustainable transportation, according to the NIU Green Team website. The team is hoping to further their mission by establishing a plan to create a more energy-efficient campus and community. The drafting process for the plan began this semester and will take up to two years to complete, said Melissa Burlingame, NIU Green Team chairperson.

“We are looking at ways to get the university different constituencies to be collaborating more in terms of sustainability, and in order to do that, we need to have a plan in place,” Burlingame said. “We are looking at how to move the university forward in a sustainability aspect more so than we already are.”

The initiative is meant to be collaborative and involve many stakeholders, Burlingame said. “We’ve only just started the process,” Burlingame said. “The first step is getting people aware that we are already doing environmentally sustainable activities here. We have a very efficient heating and cooling system on the campus [and] efficient electricity in many of our buildings.”

The organization has applied for funding through the Student Engagement Fund for next semester, Burlingame said. The funding will allow the group to have a team of students deliver presentations to student organizations and departments to increase awareness of the plan and gain additional support.

The money that could be saved through the sustainability plan is yet to be determined, Burlingame said.

“We haven’t started that work to identify what the goals are and how it would save us money,” Burlingame said.

However, sustainability initiatives already implemented across campus are estimated to have saved the university $4 million to $5 million dollars through performance contracts, which are established when one organization agrees to pay another after finishing a project they were employed to do.

The Green Team has a performance contract agreement with Energy Systems Group, an energy efficiency on-campus sustainability group. Energy Systems Group installed LED exit signs, compact fluorescent lamps and occupancy sensors on campus during the past ten years to increase energy efficiency, according to their website.

The performance contracts were funded with the aid of grants from the Department of Energy and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Equal Opportunity, according to the NIU Green Team website. The $4 million to $5 million dollars being saved because of the new lighting systems will be used to pay back the Energy Systems Group, Burlingame said.

“It’s like taking a no-risk loan because our payments don’t change, and then after the contract is done, those savings become ours,” Burlingame said. “It is a really interesting way of doing improvements.”

The Green Team has approached the University Council, the Student Association, the Faculty Senate, the Board of Professional Staff Council and the Operating Staff Council to get their support in writing the plan for the university and continue to address sustainability issues.

“So far, they have all been in support and very excited about more collaboration,” Burlingame said.

Junior communications major Jehvania Whyte said NIU is already doing a good job with being energy efficient.

“I’ve never seen anything crazy on campus,” Whyte said. “Everything is always clean and environmentally friendly. If they plan to do more, that’d be great.”

The sustainability plan is important, as it helps keep the university environmentally comparable to the rest of the country and other universities in Illinois, Burlingame said.

“This is an issue that is important to students when they are looking for a university to select, and this is an issue that is important to faculty members when looking to join an institution,” Burlingame said. “This is something we are passionate about and want to see this plan be successful in the future.”