U members offer feedback on sustainability goals through forums

Coordinators say the dialogue is helpful in moving forward

The University of Minnesota Sustainability Goals and Outcomes Committee will meet Friday to consider feedback from the University community regarding its sustainability plan. University students, faculty and staff attended forums at each campus in April. They also submitted comments online and offered feedback to the committee on the first draft of a plan to make the University more sustainable. The forums and online comments tie in with the proposed communication goal that is part of the first draft of the plan. The plan was originally released on April 14 and forums were held at each University of Minnesota campus throughout April. Amy Short , sustainability coordinator at the University, said there were about 50 students at each forum, which was a lower turnout than she had expected at the Twin Cities forums, held on April 27 and 28. Of the attendees, many âÄúdid not comment, but were glad to see [the plan] happening,âÄù Short said. Short said energy issues were a noticeably hot topic at the events. Students raised questions about energy conservation on the campuses and how to fine-tune buildings to make them more energy efficient. Forum attendees also questioned University landcare practices. Students were worried about the environmental effects of the pesticides used, but Short stressed that landcare at the University has already been testing organic pilots for more environmentally friendly alternatives. These methods have not been as effective as past pesticides. Another way for students to comment on the plan, which is still open for feedback, is the online forum at the âÄúSustainability and UâÄù Web site. The online comments were parallel to the on-location forum comments in that energy issues reigned. Short said approximately 15 percent of the comments brought up energy, with issues mentioned varying from energy conservation on campus to the possible âÄúrecommissioningâÄù of campus buildings in order to make them use less energy. These forums were not the first opportunity for University students and staff to discuss environmental issues on campus. For Beautiful U Day in April, Energy Management staff held an energy forum titled âÄúEnergy Matters âÄî It All Adds Up.âÄù Robert Bauer , a member of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group , helped organize the event. Although he was disappointed with the attendance at the forum, Bauer said âÄúcommunication is very goodâÄù for events such as this on campus. EcoWatch Vice President Michael Weitekamp also helped organize the Beautiful U Day event and presented for his group. âÄúThis [forum] is a fantastic opportunity to expand the dialogue between students, facilities management and University Administration. By collaborating, each party is able to bring something unique to the table,âÄù he said. Despite few major changes resulting from student feedback so far, Short said she is happy to see students caring about the campusâÄôs sustainability efforts. âÄúIt is the grassroots excitement that really is the key,âÄù she said. The committee is currently taking all comments into consideration as members set the goals for the sustainability plan and will meet Friday to review the feedback and determine any additional work that needs to be done. Comments will be open online until mid June and the committee will meet with the Board of Regents in the fall. After this meeting, implementation committees will be established on each campus to carry out the final goals.