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Troy Withers and Kenton Franklin believe there is no issue more critical to the future than sustainability

Sustainability: From Experiment to Success

Troy Withers and Kenton Franklin believe there is no issue more critical to the future than sustainability.

Undergraduate majors in Roosevelt University's growing Sustainability Studies program, the two are a big part of the reason why the University's new compost and gardening program — engaging both campuses in reusing food and related resources — is off to a promising start, with a big growing season just ahead.

Withers, 33, president of RU Green, dedicated vegan and spring 2013 graduate, is the organizer behind the spread of compost and planting of several varieties of vegetables in two rooftop gardens located on the fifth floor of the new Wabash Building on the University's Chicago Campus. "This project is an example of what can be done to make us more sustainable," he said.

Franklin, 38, who graduated in December 2012 and is the first winner of the University's annual Outstanding Student Achievement award in Sustainability Studies, has been a leader and troubleshooter behind startup of the Schaumburg Campus' community garden, which is expanding in size and scope.

"I've tried to keep things organized and to steer our efforts away from being a mass of random things," said Franklin. "What I've learned through research is that the Schaumburg garden experiment has been a success in part because the people we have can work together. I predict more of the same will happen this season and for seasons to come."

While Withers aims to promote veganism as a brand of activism that can reduce energy consumption and the planet's carbon footprint, Franklin wants to research best practices for balancing use of resources with cost. Both agree that waste reduction/ composting by the University is a positive sustainability step.

"What we have been doing with sustainability, both on campus and in the classroom, is a breath of fresh air," said Michael Bryson, associate professor of humanities and director of the University's Sustainability Studies program, which has grown to 60 undergraduate majors in three years' time.

"I am proud of the efforts of these students, and I'm confident that it's only the beginning," he said. "Their work is symbolic of what we're trying to accomplish overall, which is to engage everyone in thinking differently about things like food, energy and waste, and how they fit into the big picture of our sustainability as a people and as a planet."

Last updated 06/01/2015