BYU is taking steps towards campus becoming more environmentally friendly after two decades of encouragement from community groups such as LDS Earth Stewardship.
The Sustainability Office and Sustainability Working Group at BYU was founded in 2021 to help create a long-term plan towards an environmentally friendly campus: utilizing solar panels, reducing C02 emissions and figuring out new ways to save energy on campus.
Members of the Sustainability Working Group come from all different corners of campus, including professors of plant & wildlife sciences, chemistry, civil and environmental engineering as well as the building, grounds and transport crews.
“At BYU, we recognize that sustainability and our stewardship to the earth is an important principle that is integral to our faith,” university sustainability officer Carr Krueger said. “The President’s Council recently determined there was an opportunity to align the many efforts across campus in a more coordinated fashion.”
Although the initiative began recently, the desire and move towards an environmentally friendly campus has been in demand for a long time according to Jaron Hansen, BYU chemistry professor who is part of the working group.
The recycling program, which has existed at BYU for years, allows students and faculty to recycle paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum cans and industrial scrap materials. About 1,400 tons of paper, plastic and metal are recycled each year, saving the university from large disposal costs and generating revenue.
BYU also participates in “Recyclemania” each year, a national recycling competition held for universities to reduce waste and increase recycling. BYU set a world record for the largest cardboard box castle built in 2012, demonstrating the campus’s emphasis on recycling.
The Sustainability Office is preparing for “Recyclemania” at the end of March to get more people involved in sustainability, said Jane Wilson, a student graphic designer who works for the office.
“Our office is so new that a lot of people don’t know about it and don’t know about the efforts that are going on. We’re on an upward trajectory,” Wilson said.
“Certainly, with the talents of the people on the committee, we are improving efforts around here. We’ve made great progress at this point, but I will say that BYU is not slouching in this,” Hansen said.
Various student-led initiatives already on campus are the Student Sustainability Initiative, the Environmental Science Club and BYU Earth Stewardship meaning many students are already involved in sustainability at the personal level.
The creation of the Sustainability Working Group became the next step. Krueger led the efforts to put together multiple entities on campus.
“The first step was to bring together a multidisciplinary group from academics and operations supported by students and lay out a long-term vision for sustainability at BYU,” Krueger said.
The Sustainability Working Group is only made up of professors and faculty, but student involvement is also going to play an important part in sustainability on campus, Hansen said.
“We recognize the importance of students in this whole process, and so some of the proposals that have been made deal with ways we can utilize the students on this campus and the innovative ideas they have,” Hansen said.
There are different approaches students can take to get involved, such as making personal decisions to reduce their carbon footprint, voting for legislators who support sustainability, eating less meat and composting, Wilson said.
Wilson’s major does not focus on sustainability, but she has found a way to use her design skills to help raise awareness about the environment: she runs the Sustainability Office’s social media.
“It can get really confusing to people and be overwhelming. You don’t need to know everything about the science, just approach it from wanting to learn more,” Wilson said.
An additional resource for students and faculty is the BYU Greenhouse south of Kiwanis Park, which allows people to compost any food waste they produce to be used as mulch or to become soil.
“You can take small steps to make your life better but also to create less impact. It’s just the little things everyone does,” said Whitney Kingsolver, an environmental science major and student employee of the office.
Kingsolver works on the Bike Share program at BYU, renting out bikes each semester to help students get around.
Students and faculty on campus may be wary of changing behaviors and policies at BYU to help in the sustainability effort because it’s not always convenient, Kingsolver said. “But most people want to make an effort and want to make changes in their own lives to be sustainable,” she said.
As sustainability at BYU starts to grow, the Sustainability Working Group and Sustainability Office are encouraging people to get involved with the initiatives on and off campus and to voice their opinions, Hansen and Krueger said.
“We hope that anyone who wants to be part of the conversation — students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni — will be. We’ve only just started, and we’re open to ideas for planning and implementation,” Krueger said.