Case Study – Housing and Residence Life
Housing & Residence Life has adopted a spirit of sustainability and formed a committee to research several aspects of how the department can be better stewards in this area. The four employee committee met for an hour five times during winter quarter 2008 to answer these questions:
1. Why is sustainability important and what is Housing & Residence Life’s role in that commitment?
2. What are the students looking for and how feasible are their ideas?
3. What is our department currently doing around sustainability?
4. What are some best practices that peer institutions have implemented?
5. What recommendations can the department offer for ourselves and the university?
The committee audited the department’s central office, facilities and programs.
Specific areas focused on included: paper use, energy conservation, bike racks and the creation of environmental department wide policies.
What Students Want
Housing and Residence Life distributed the Educational Benchmarking Inventory to all residents during fall quarter 2007. The call for more environmentally responsible practices within the department was evident in the students’ survey responses. For example, when asked the question “What services does Housing and Residence Life not currently offer that you wish it did?” Comments included, “More emphasis on educating students about how to create a greener campus!” and “better sustainability stuff.”
In total, students asked for: post-consumer food waste compost collection in the residence halls and at Bon Appetit, a community garden at each hall for students to grow food and flowers, environmentally responsible paper use, more energy conservation, more low-flow water fixtures, more vegetarian options and less food waste, secure indoor bike racks and bike rentals, expanded eco-awareness learning communities and the creation of sustainable department wide policies.
Recommendations that can be applied to all departments:
- Upgrade to double sided printers
- Require all paper products purchased contained recycled-content
- Train senior staff members on sustainability issues so they can model sustainable practices to students
- Transition to a paperless office within two years.
Recommendations were prioritized as short term goals if they could be implemented immediately with little or no costs and long term goals if they required long term planning and higher expenses.Tips for Forming a Green Team
- For your efforts to be successful, you need upfront commitment and support from your department head.
- Committee members should represent key functions and be open-minded. To avoid having to sell your coworkers on an idea, the committee should make the effort to gather input from everyone in the department. People are more apt to participate in change if they feel they were involved in the process rather than having it thrust upon them.
- Create a shared vision of the future. Instead of listing problems and griping, it is more effective for the group to visualize preferred futures in detail, how they would like things to be two, three and five years in the future.
- Resistance to change is a natural human state. Holding on to old habits, familiar patterns, relationships and structures is part of being human. To get past resistance, ask your co-workers to express it out loud. In order for a resistant person to be able to move forward with new ideas they need to let go of the past; this happens in its own time. Patience with your co-workers and a realistic idea that change takes time must underlie and guide the change process.
- Use systems thinking to analyze how the whole system works. Collaboration across university divisions is key. Simultaneous innovation in methods, procedures, improvements goes on constantly in organizations’ departments that act like silos and don’t talk to each other.
- Involve the Campus Sustainability Manager. She is available to facilitate the discussion by using systems thinking to find solutions; providing technical expertise and resources; finding the leverage point, identifying collaborators in other divisions, helping overcome barriers, promoting your success and ensuring your project can be maintained every year.