Rocky Sustains

Think Purple, Think GREEN, Think Western.

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LEED – Is it a four-letter word?

Depending on who you talk to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) can be a four-letter word. When I was taking classes in the mid-1990s in Engineering Technology, my professors would openly tell the class, “Avoid that hippie environmental crap at all costs! It doesn’t last, it’s cheaply made, and it will cost you more money in the long run.” Unfortunately I think that mentality stuck with many folks along the way and they ask themselves the question, “Why should I pay more money for what is ostensibly the same thing when I know one specific item will work, and the other more-expensive item is unproven?”
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat…LEED does cost more in initial construction. But what are you paying for? Well, you’re not paying for magic dust that saves money. You’re not paying for cheaply-made gimmicks that ultimately look good for a short period of time, and then become un-maintainable. You are investing in a change of mindset. You are asking the contractors who build your building to recycle the cardboard, wood, and metals from the jobsite rather than throwing them in the landfill. You are asking the engineers who design the ventilation to specify components that save thermal energy while constantly bringing in fresh air, thereby saving money, and helping to ensure that the occupants don’t suffer from Sick Building Syndrome. You are asking the architects to specify course carpet fibers at the entrances to help keep dirt and dust from entering the building Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. You are asking manufactures not to use toxic glues when building your new cabinets. It’s not rocket science.
Now there are some people who want to over-simplify LEED. People ask me, “Why can’t we install a solar panel that powers one computer and have that count towards LEED?” LEED states that renewable energy must power a specific percentage of a building’s total use to be considered. In some situations, many variables such as location or the amount of renewable energy make those situations cost prohibitive. LEED is not something to be done simply for the sake of doing it. It’s something that’s done because it makes sense.
I am not saying that LEED is the be-all-end-all, but it is a reasonable process. WIU has stated that all new construction and any significant building renovation will meet at least LEED Silver criteria (LEED criteria ranges from a simple LEED certification to LEED Silver, LEED Gold, and ultimately LEED Platinum which become increasing more expensive the higher up you go.) We have even incorporated LEED standards into our University Design Guidelines. These Design Guidelines serve as a rule book for all design professionals, architects and contractors who complete work on campus. In essence, they must build/remodel/deconstruct to these set of guidelines, in which we provide to them. These standards ensure that even if we are not perusing the LEED official certification, the criteria are being met. Meeting that criteria may cost more in initial construction, but it means a longer more-dependable life of a building that saves money in maintenance and operating costs, while taking into consideration the occupants of the building, as well as the environment. In short, LEED helps us to achieve a balance.

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Horn Field Campus by Mindy Pheiffer

Nine years ago, I was offered the opportunity to become the program coordinator at WIU’s Horn Field Campus. And if you’ve read my colleagues’ prior submissions on this blog, a lot has happened at WIU in these last 9 years with regard to campus sustainability. I feel honored to have been a part of realizing the need for and implementing programs and activities to offer more sustainability education at WIU. : Environmentally minded WIU colleagues came together and began the environmental summit 12 years ago as a way to increase and encourage awareness of the triple bottom line. An RPTA graduate student envisioned it, and it is still carried out in 2014. And while the actions mentioned in the previous entries all sound relatively new in this millennia at WIU, I am only a very small part of carrying forward the legacy that has been “Horn Field Campus” for five decades. Yes, for almost 50 years, the sustainable values have been carried out in practice at the donated property that is a beloved local venue, and also one that has become known for environmental education and leadership development for many decades.

As I write this, I am viewing thirty 6-12 year olds from the Mt. Sterling YMC day camp utilizing this facility for an outing. Like any other group that comes to Horn for teambuilding and challenge course activities, I reviewed the full-value contract that we operate within with these youngsters upon their arrival. I explained that our values are safety, commitment, respect, accountability, and encouragement and we use our five-fingers on our hand to help us remember them throughout their time at Horn. After each value, I ask the youngsters what the value means.   The youngsters answered a couple of the questions referring to taking care of the earth. They were eager to talk about this concept. Then I thought about how most of us, youth and adults alike, do profess that it is important to take care of our environment. And the innocence of the children today reminded me that while we all talk a good talk, how do we help people to walk the talk. I find every day that many visitors to Horn Field Campus have little vision of what sustainability really is besides “recycling”. And most don’t actually know much about the recycling process. So what happens between the years of the innocent youth expressing our need to care for the earth, and the university members who must go out of their way to recycle, let alone think about energy and water consumption and media-driven consumerism. Do we as individuals only really become aware when we have to? I think of my ancestors who wasted nothing because there was nothing to waste. This is the same thinking that goes into maintaining and improving the program and facility at Horn Field Campus for five decades. How do we do it with no operating budget and no custodial or scheduled groundskeeping help? By the shear love and passion of those who believe that if we use our social capital, and are very conscientious of how our self-generated funds are being used, while teaching and taking care of our natural resources, it can happen.

Challenge by choice doesn’t only have to do with ascending the high ropes course. It has everything to do with how each action, each dollar, and each choice we make every day affects those other than us, locally, nationally, globally.

So after almost 50 years of “making due” at Horn Field Campus, it is time to be create awareness and gratitude for all of the people who believe in the importance of the mission of Horn, realize it’s value to the community and support it in as many ways as there are people.

And don’t think that one person’s actions can’t effect future generations….a faculty member from the recreation and park administration department had a vision in the late 1960’s for Horn Field Campus. That one person’s vision began the effort. And still today at Horn, the sun is shining, the birds are singing. It’s a great day to be alive.

AASHE Conference & Expo– Portland, OR

AASHE’s (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) annual conference & expo has opened their early bird registration!

The conference will be held in Portland, Oregon from October 26-29. Early bird registration fees are about $75 cheaper so make sure you get registered soon! Flights from the midwest have been approximately $215 ROUND TRIP!

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Environmental Summit Old and New

By Timothy Collins

WIU was fortunate to have Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection and author of The Seasons on Henry’s Farm (Agate Surrey, 2010), as our guest for this year’s Environmental Summit Lite, part of an expanded Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs’ (IIRA) Sustainability Brownbagger.

A day spent with Terra reveals a person who is passionate about the land and the people on it. You can read more about her and her visit to WIU in the Daily Yonder.

This year’s Environmental Summit Lite was part of the transition to an expanded Environmental Summit at WIU. The summit, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013, will now be held in the Fall Semester under the auspices of IIRA in conjunction with WIU Provost’s Office; University Sustainability Committee, WIU Libraries, Facilities Management, and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research.

The newly named Prairie Lands Environmental Summit will continue our tradition of showing off green activities in the WIU campus community. In addition, a series of sessions will be held to highlight the role of arts and humanities in sustainable community development.

Mark your calendar. The Prairie Lands Environmental Summit will be held October 22 at the WIU Student Union in Macomb.

If you’re interested in keeping up with the summit as it develops, Please sign up for our e-mail newsletter.


Terra Brockman at IIRA Sustainability Brownbagger. Photo by Fred Iutzi, IIRA.


Timothy Collins is assistant director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

It is the policy of Western Illinois University that all faculty, staff, and students work and study in an environment that is free from harassment based on sex, race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, religion, age, marital status, national origin, disability, or veteran status.

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A Look at Western’s Bike-Sharing World


When it comes to riding a bike we are all bombarded with facts about how cycling is good for your health, good for the environment, good for enhancing sustainable mobility and, all around just a good thing to do. Even though these facts are true and biking does bring with it many benefits, the greatest gift cycling gives is the sense of joy and freedom. Bike-shares support the joyful biking experience and allow all people to share in the fun. It surprises some that Western has its own bike share, called Rocky Bikes, which is free to anyone that has a WIU Identification number. For such a rural and modest university Western supports a sizable fleet of 13 bicycles that are currently used and loved by almost 90 renters.
Rocky Bikes offers so much to the WIU community for absolutely no cost. The Rocky Bikes fleet is lovingly taken care of by the folks at Rocky Sustains led by Sustainability Coordinator, Mandi Green.


Registration is fast and easy, we just ask that everyone treat the bikes with respect. To support the Rocky Bikes program and get your daily dose of cycling just follow the steps and recommendations below:
1.) Rocky Bikes is housed at the WIU Physical Plant that is located across the street from Thompson Hall, therefore, that is where you need to go to register, rent and return bikes.
2.) Visit the Physical Plant’s Rocky Bikes office Monday through Friday from 8AM to 4PM. Make sure to bring your WIU ID Card (pictured below) , you’ll need that to prove who you are!

3.) The Rocky Bikes staff will ask for some basic contact info and have you sign a waiver. That completes the registration process so now you are ready to rent!
4.) Have the Rocky Bikes staff help you pick out a bike that is perfect for you. The fleet includes a variety of bikes of different sizes and types from roadies to cruisers.
5.) After you’ve found your match then you are free to ride on! Just have the bike checked back in at the office within 48 hours while we are open.
We recommend you research basic bike safety and rules of the road before renting because that’s what good cyclists do, just sayin’. Feel free to ask any questions, it’s our goal at Rocky Bikes to make this a rewarding experience for everyone! Also, bring your own helmet, because the only thing worse than showing up late to class is showing up dead.
Have any questions or comments for Rocky Bikes? Feel free to contact Rocky Sustains at and we will do our best to answer your questions and make Western a better place to bike.

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The History of Conservation and Earthfest 2014

April is a wonderful time to reflect upon the history of conservation in the United States as well as continue building upon this proud tradition. Humans—like other animals—have put their immediate needs above those of other creatures or the planet. In the 19th century, some Americans (including Henry David Thoreau, John Wesley Powell, and Frederick Law Olmsted) began to raise awareness about the destructive impacts that such short-term thinking caused to the land and other living things as well as how it diminished us, as human beings.

The American conservation movement grew, in the late 19th century, in tandem with industrialization. While producing tremendous economic benefits, thoughtful humans could not help but notice the devastation. Air pollution in burgeoning industrial cities was horrific as coal dust and heavy metals filled the air. Water pollution also was shocking, as all sorts of human and industrial wastes were routinely dumped into the nearest body of water. In cities like Chicago, the nation’s largest meatpacking center, the byproducts of countless thousands of animals carcasses were deposited into the Chicago River on a daily basis. In California, hydraulic mining was using millions of gallons of water to literally rip apart mountainsides to extract gold.

A small but growing number of Americans wished to reduce such impacts while also sustaining the benefits of industrialization. These “conservations” wished to protect the land and its resources—to use them wisely and steward them so that future generations also could take advantage of natural resources. In this era, the government created the first-ever National Park, Yellowstone, in Wyoming. It’s worth reflecting upon this action. Never before in history had humans permanently set aside a (large) piece of land in order to preserve it in its natural—that is, pre-human—state. Americans did so because of the incredible beauty of place and its many geologic wonders—and despite the fact that it could have been harnessed for economic benefit. What became the first jewel in the National Park system has been called “America’s best idea” as nations around the world later set aside precious natural places. We also must credit the “preservationists,” who defended special places, notably in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, where the great John Muir, along with others in the first-ever environmental advocacy organization, the Sierra Club, fought to reduce human impacts on the planet in iconic places like Yosemite.

Of course, the great majority of public and private lands remained “open for business” and most Americans went about their daily lives without serious reflection of our impacts on the planet. As a result of putting short-term economic development ahead of environmental protection, more species went extinct and more lands were irreparably damaged.

Yet, starting in the 1960s, a resurgence in conservation occurred, now referred to as environmentalism. Scientists like Dr. Rachel Carson, author of the best-selling Silent Spring, pointed to the impacts of chemical and other industrial pollutants; most notably, the pesticide DDT had the side effect that threatened to cause the extinction of the very symbol of America—the bald eagle. As a result of growing concern, the federal government created a wave of regulations to steward the land and creatures along with agencies to ensure that businesses and individuals complied. For instance, the creation of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 gave the federal government the power to designate species at risk of extinction and create policies to ensure their survival. As a result, DDT was banned in the United States and—along with a decades-long effort of captive breeding and wild release—the bald eagle was saved from extinction!

In the same generation, in 1970, millions of Americans began to celebrate the planet and champion its protection in an annual event known as Earth Day. Officially April 22nd marks this anniversary, a time to remind ourselves of how wondrous and fragile our planet is. If we do not take great care, we literally could destroy the very planet that provides and sustains life for humans and every other species.

In Macomb, students and others in the WIU community have commemorated Earth Day for a number of years. Recently, the WIU Campus Greens, a student organization, have organized various Earth Day events—the past few years called Earthfest. Happening this year on Saturday, April 26th in Chandler Park, near Macomb’s Courthouse Square, this afternoon event seeks to educate people about the desperate need to act in a manner that preserves our environment for ourselves, future generations, and other creatures. Please join us in celebrating the planet and educating ourselves on how to continue protecting it!

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Sustainability’s History at WIU

Welcome to the WIU Sustainability Blog! Students, staff, and faculty will be posting stories, resources, and tips about sustainable events, projects, and opportunities for the WIU and greater western Illinois community.  We welcome your comments!

We thought it would be helpful to begin with a history of sustainability at Western. For years faculty, staff, and students have planned, supported, and implemented sustainable practices in every area of campus life.

Western’s first official commitment to sustainability was realized in 2005, with the creation of the Sustainability Implementation Team as an outcome of the 2005 Campus Master Plan. The Team made recommendations to then-President Al Goldfarb, who supported the creation of a sustainability committee (2006) and the hiring of sustainability coordinator Mandi Green in 2009.

Daily Sustainability on Campus: Behind the Scenes and in the Spotlight

In 2006, President Goldfarb signed the Green Governments Coordinating Council’s Illinois Campus Sustainability Compact with a gold-level commitment to integrate sustainability throughout Western’s campus.

In March 2007 the Board of Trustees adopted a comprehensive energy management plan for WIU. Some results of this plan include requiring Energy Star certified refrigeration vending machines, savings of $215,000 annually due to lighting upgrades on campus funded through DCEO grants, creating design guidelines for campus that conform to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards, converting all exit signs to LED lights, and installing vacancy lighting sensors in Seal Hall. So far, Western is home to two LEED Silver buildings: the Multicultural Center (Macomb campus) and the Riverfront Building I (Quad Cities campus).

While these initiatives often involve behind-the-scenes projects and savings, some of the more visible sustainability achievements on campus include the switch to biodegradable take-out food containers, water bottle refilling stations across campus, the popular Rocky Bikes bike share program, the annual Recyclemania competition, a university vehicle purchasing policy that states all future sedans purchased will be hybrids (40% of our sedan fleet currently), and our landscaping, which has achieved Tree Campus USA status for 2013 and 2014.

Strategic Planning

WIU has also made sustainability an integral part of strategic planning. In the University Strategic Plan for 2012-2022, under Goal 5: Social Responsibility, WIU will “reinforce institutional commitments to environmental sustainability” [Action 5] by: a) striving to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification in new construction and major renovations; b) supporting educational opportunities designed to raise awareness of social, environmental and sustainability issues; c) achieving statewide, regional, and national leadership in environmental sustainability within all aspects of University operations.

Culture, Education, and Student Life

Additionally, Western is a signatory of the Talloires Declaration, agreeing to create an institutional culture of sustainability, educate for environmentally responsible citizenship, collaborate for interdisciplinary approaches, establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools, and broaden service and outreach nationally and internationally.

As Western has formalized its sustainability commitments through the documents noted above, collaborations among various campus units and community partners have supported efforts to achieve the goals we set. For several years the sustainability committee has co-sponsored the annual Environmental Summit (now in its 11th year), and often organizes events for national Campus Sustainability Day in October, most recently a day-long speaker series called “From Sustainability to Savings: What We Do at WIU.” The Sustainability Brownbaggers series, organized through the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, has become a tradition each semester on campus, bringing together community members, faculty, staff, and students for talks and discussions tied to sustainability at the local and global level. Faculty, staff, and students regularly attend and present at various sustainability conferences like the AASHE Conference (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) and often hold roles related to furthering sustainability in their professional organizations. The Coneflower Project, an annual faculty development workshop modeled after other sustainability-across-the-curriculum workshops around the country, was begun in 2011 with participants from both Western and Spoon River College. Several student organizations on campus, including Campus Greens and HELP (Horn Environmental Learning Project) have also spearheaded a variety of sustainable events and contribute to sustainability literacy in our community.

The sustainability committee also supports the sustainability initiatives of students at Western and in the region. In 2012 and 2013 members of the committee worked with regional partners to establish student sustainability awards, which were granted to winning applicants in various age categories grades K through college who had initiated sustainability projects in their communities. In December 2013, the sustainability committee began the Student Sustainability Research and Project Development Fund to support WIU student research and projects related to sustainability, and has so far awarded funding to three students for sustainability-focused projects.

Updates and Changes for 2014

In January 2014, President Jack Thomas, Provost Ken Hawkinson, and VP for Administrative Services Julie DeWees signed the first Campus Sustainability Committee Charge. Also, in place of the Environmental Summit there will be a smaller event this spring—Environmental Summit Lite—on April 1, 2014 in Macomb. Though still co-sponsored by the sustainability committee, the new event will be organized by the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs and the Summit will transition into a fall event, “Prairie Lands Environmental Summit” in October 2014. Look for more about this event and other opportunities in the coming months!

This is a long post, and it’s only brushing the surface of what goes on with sustainability at WIU! Please share your comments on things going on around campus and throughout the region with respect to sustainability, and check out the sustainability webpage for information and updates too.


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