Sustainability Committee introduces green changes

By Janelle Harb

Editor-in-Chief

Over the summer, the Undergraduate Student Association Sustainability Committee has been hard at work to make drastic improvements in the way the campus operates in regards to all things sustainability.  This issue has been a hot topic since December of last year, in which custodial workers and campus officials alike had been under fire in regards to how recyclable materials were being disposed. 

It was as a result of this issue that the Sustainability Committee has become a driving force in reformulating the way our College handles environmental issues.  Because of USA’s efforts, Canisius has introduced reusable cups, banned styrofoam from campus dining locations, and brought in the Reddy bikeshare program. 

The Griffin had the opportunity to speak with Senator and Chair of the Sustainability Committee, Clayton Shanahan ‘18, about all of these adjustments on campus.  One of the most notable changes has been the encouraged use of reusable cups at all of the dining locations.  

“At the end of last year we had this cup designed and we had met with Whirley DrinkWorks (a concession design and manufacturing company),” Shanahan explained, “and worked with them over the summer […] All of the new students, transfer students, international students, and residents on campus all got one of these cups.  I worked with the Commuter Student Association and gave cups to them to distribute to try and get these cups to as many people as possible, which is a challenge.”  

In addition to designing and distributing the cups, Shanahan had to confer with Chartwell’s about the promotion of the cups and how students could be rewarded by using them.  

“Last year if you used a reusable cup, you would have only been able to get 10 cents off at Tim Horton’s on certain drinks,” Shanahan recounted, “but now with our cup, every time you go to either Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, you automatically get 10 cents off, and every day of the week there’s different discounts that are provided at different times.  We scattered the discounts throughout the different locations to identify where and when students are using them the most.”

Shanahan stated that the goal for the money being saved as a result of the cups is to put it towards a donation pool for a local charity.  “That’s still something we hope to do possibly next semester,” Shanahan adds. “We wanted to have that done on time with the introduction of the cups, but there were just some hold-ups with Chartwell’s that they wouldn’t be able to do that right away.”

USA had ordered 2,500 of these cups for the student body, costing around $4,500 of student tax dollars in total, equaling to about $1.70 per cup.  Although, the New Student Orientation Committee aided in paying for 800 of the cups to use as favors during orientation.  If you did not receive a cup, Shanahan confirms that, as of publication of this article, they are still available in the USA office.  

In addition to these reusable cups, the Sustainability Committee has also played a key role in decreasing the non-biodegradable waste on campus through passing a resolution to ban styrofoam.  “The resolution went through Senate and was sent up the ropes [of College administration],” Shanahan explained. “I had a few conversations with [Chartwell’s] about looking into alternate resources of different plasticware and paperware, and now they no longer use styrofoam.  Their menu has also become more sustainable with more plant-based options, a lot of veggie burgers, and more vegan options, which just is a more sustainable food option for people in general.”

A final major change that the Sustainability Committee has introduced to the campus is the use of community bikes via the Reddy Bike company.

“At the beginning of last year, there were a few of us that brought up the idea of bringing a bikeshare to campus,” Shanahan said.  “We researched a lot of companies and Reddy was our ideal choice because we’re supporting a local business and they fit in our price range.  They’re very hands-on, they’re willing to come and do a group ride, and help students sign up with workshops.”

Shanahan went on to explain that “one of the main reasons why we wanted to bring this bikeshare to campus is because we’re located so close to a lot of really cool things, and by bike, it’s all so easy and accessible through a smartphone app.”

In July, Independent Health and Reddy released this bike program through the entire city of Buffalo, and the credit of organizing for it to be at Canisius goes to the Sustainability Committee.  The bikes themselves are very accessible to students, with a six-bike rack located by the Main Street side of Science Hall.  In order to promote the bikes, USA has been giving away and raffling off memberships at various student events.

On September 16 at 3PM in front of the Palisano Pavilion, USA will be hosting a group ride with Reddy bikes through Buffalo in order to promote the bikes themselves and get students acquainted with the city. All are welcome to attend.  

“My goal this year is to sustain a lot of the projects that we started last year,” Shanahan said, “so [that means] making sure that we continue an active conversation with the cups and the bikes.  Beyond that, we’re hoping to see the garden project resume from last year, as well as making sure we follow through with the sustainability policy brief that we passed last year.”  Shanahan continued, saying, “One of USA’s big overarching goals this semester is sustainability, and a lot of that is making sure we have dialogue between administration and students when it comes to promoting a lot of the sustainable practices, because that’s what makes the changes happen.”

The changes USA and Sustainability committee have brought about so far are undoubtedly important, but equally necessary is ensuring the College both implements and promotes these changes.  Students must be sure to hold administrators responsible for ensuring the efficacy of these changes, and for continuing to guide the school into an ever-more sustainable future.

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