Elon University Assistant Director of Development Devlin Shaw walked to the McMichael Biobus stop, eager to learn more about university initiatives to promote sustainability.
Riding with four other members of the local community, Shaw took a tour of Loy Farm led by the Office of Sustainability.
“I’m trying to get as educated as I can about some of the opportunities that Elon is trying to utilize to educate individuals on ways we can best sustain ourselves and save money,” Shaw said.
Since joining Elon’s staff just a couple weeks ago, Shaw has actively explored opportunities to learn more about the university’s commitment to sustainable practices.
“It’s my job to learn all I can about initiatives like this one so I can educate other individuals on how they could really make an impact on the future if this is something that they’re interested in,” Shaw said.
While he has gone on several tours and will be going on several more in the near future, Shaw said Loy Farm made a major impact on him.
Office of Sustainability offers education
It is for people like Shaw that the Office of Sustainability holds events to educate the general public.
Jessica Bilecki, education and outreach coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, led the Feb. 12 tour hoping to show people how Loy Farm operates.
“It’s a great opportunity to get people out here and talk about civic engagement,” Bilecki said.
The university first purchased the farm in 2000 and primarily used it for storage and biology classes. Since then, the farm has had solar panels installed and has served as a host for research projects from both students and professors.
Today, Loy Farm also supports the larger Burlington community through Campus Kitchen and Allied Churches, both of which use food grown at the farm.
On the tour, Bilecki guided five people through the solar farm, urban studio and food and farming system operations.
“The food here is grown for educational purposes, but it doesn’t get wasted,” Bilecki said.
Waste reduction is central to the Office of Sustainability’s commitment to improving university operations and developing educational programs.
In addition to tours of Loy Farm, which are offered on the second and final Friday of each month, the office is promoting several other initiatives.
Students to participate in Phoenix Cup
Perhaps the most important campaign to educate the Elon community about sustainable practices is the Phoenix Cup, a series of competitions that changes every year designed to reduce Elon’s collective ecological footprint.
For the cup this year, teams or individuals earn points for actions that minimize landfill waste. Some actions include printing on both sides of paper, using reusable bags each time while shopping and recycling all paper, plastics, glass and electronics.
Students who commit to an action listed on a provided checklist are entered into a raffle for $25 in Phoenix Cash. The individual who earns the most points wins $50 in Phoenix Cash.
The team that earns the most points per person by the end of the three-week competition wins a participation bag, local restaurant gift cards and a choice of a solar-powered cell phone charger, a hammock or a donation on their behalf to one of four charities — World Wildlife Fund, United Way, Donors Choose or Adopt an Acre.
“There are a number of educational opportunities, but ultimately, what each participant takes away depends on the person and what he or she does,” said Elaine Durr, director of sustainability.
Durr said some students might form a daily habit of bringing a reusable mug to classes while others might track everything they dispose of in a week and change their behaviors based on that information.
Part of the goal of the Phoenix Cup is to highlight the importance of increasing awareness about environmental issues.
“Environmental issues do not just impact the environment,” Durr said. “They impact people, and in turn, the economy.”
As part of an environmental educational campaign, the office is also promoting Core Curriculum forums.
On Monday, Feb. 22 and Tuesday, Feb. 23, in LaRose Digital Theater, Professor of Sociology Thomas Arcaro will lead a forum about expanding upon Elon’s mission statement on how to be a global-minded citizen.
While there are several opportunities for students on campus to engage in sustainability initiatives through the Phoenix Cup and Loy Farm tours, the Office of Sustainability also works with its community outside of Elon.
Though there are several different interpretations of what it means to practice living sustainably, the Office of Sustainability defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In its simplest form, it refers to overall wellbeing.
“Practicing sustainable behaviors is a way to contribute toward the desirable goal of healthy people, planet and prosperity,” Durr said.
Influence extends beyond Elon
Elon is partnering with the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) Feb. 22 - March 18 to run a van service that takes people to and from Elon’s campus to the PART Route 4 Alamance Burlington Express Route bus stop at Alamance Regional Medical Center.
“The PART Route 4 Connection Pilot will help Transportation Services determine if this service should be continued,” Durr said. “Ridership during the pilot will be the primary determinate of this.”
Though Elon works beyond the town’s borders, its focus remains on increasing engagement from within.
On-campus organizations spark interest
Students involved in the Eco-Reps Program — a peer education program designed to promote sustainability and environmentally responsible practices — work with Residence Life and Fraternity and Sorority Life to incorporate sustainability into the respective programs.
Eco-Reps also visit Elon 101 and The Global Experience courses as requested.
Sophomore Azzurra Catucci said she decided to join the program to help educate the general student population.
“As an Eco-Rep, I help spread awareness throughout the Elon community about various sustainability initiatives and different ways to be more sustainable in everyday life,” Catucci said.
Students and faculty interested in learning more about sustainability initiatives taking place on Elon’s campus are encouraged to contact the Office of Sustainability, located in Alamance 213.