Many creatures share space with us on our green planet. Their homes are the woodlands and prairies, the rivers and wetlands, and the many other diverse ecosystems that make up the planet that we call home. The Earth’s marvelous biodiversity — from rhododendrons to rhinos, to bees, bats and bacteria — is essential to the overall health of our planet. Now more than ever, it needs to be protected and conserved.
Unfortunately, the organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit are also without a voice. They cannot talk or fight back against the injustices that challenge their existence and well-being. This is a shared planet, and it is the duty of those who do have the means to speak out and fight for those that cannot do so. These individuals are the environmental change-makers in our society: people like scientist-writer Rachel Carson, whose landmark 1962 book Silent Spring critiqued the pervasive use of toxic chemical pesticides in our homes, communities and farmlands; led to the passage of federal environmental protection laws; and re-energized the American conservation movement.
Having an Impact on Earth Day and Beyond
Behind the doors of Roosevelt University, and among its many alumni worldwide, there are thousands of innovators who are brainstorming and creating new ideas founded on the social justice principles that serve as the Roosevelt’s foundation. While the work of every pioneer deserves to be recognized and applauded, on #EarthDay we take a moment to recognize some of the work that has been done by students, faculty, and staff to ensure that Roosevelt stays true to its sustainability commitment and values of environmental stewardship.
When a group of students, faculty and staff got together in late 2014 to draft what would become the Strategic Sustainability Plan for Roosevelt, they identified waste and resources as one key focus area. A tangible goal here was to increase composting availability on campus, and that is currently underway with the composting pilot program that was launched in the Auditorium Building this past semester. Through the collaborative efforts of the Sustainability Studies Program and the Office of Physical Resources, this student-led pilot has been able to divert 125.85 lbs of organic waste from ending up in a landfill. The collected compost is eventually used to enrich the soils to grow vegetables and herbs in Roosevelt’s own gardens.
Roosevelt Grows Green
Both Chicago and Schaumburg campuses feature gardens that grow foods featured in campus dining centers. During the past harvest season, students were able to harvest more than 30 pounds of produce from the Wabash Rooftop Garden at the Chicago Campus. This student-led effort contributes to the dining center’s mission to source local foods whenever possible. Supporting a sustainable, local food system not only cuts down on the University’s carbon footprint, but it also helps foster resilient communities.
Building resilience means working to provide people with the highest quality of life possible. This is especially important for vulnerable communities that have been affected by various environmental injustices. Roosevelt was built on social justice principles that emphasize building strong communities through collaboration and direct participation. Students have the opportunity to participate in many service learning courses offered at the University.
One such course is SUST 350 Service and Sustainability, offered in partnership with Eden Place Nature Center located in the Fuller Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Founder Michael Howard identified a need in his community for a place where citizens can gather and form an intimate connection with nature. At Eden Place, visitors have the opportunity to learn how to grow and harvest food while getting up close and personal with some friendly farm animals and exploring the practice of urban environmental education. More broadly, by participating in one of RU’s many service learning courses, students have the opportunity to learn about social justice issues that affect vulnerable communities while also gaining hands-on experience creating meaningful change in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.
Making the Community a Better Place to Live
Creating lasting change is not easy work. It takes dedicated people who are willing to get down and dirty, and step out of their comfort zones to make a difference. Roosevelt is full of change-makers making an impact on their communities every day. Whether it’s cleaning up trash at Bubbly Creek on Chicago’s Southwest Side or creating a campaign to certify Roosevelt as a Fair Trade University, there are many ways that our students are working to make a difference and protect our planet and its resources.
We only have one planet. It’s the one that all of us call home. Let’s all do our part to protect it.