WINFIELD – Green Team Southwestern was founded in 2008 in response to the growing interest in environmental stewardship on the Southwestern College campus in Winfield. In 2007, President Dick Merriman made Southwestern a charter signatory of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and students petitioned the administration of the college asking that a change towards a more environmentally conscious campus be made. At that point the college completed a greenhouse gas emission inventory that now serves as a baseline for tracking the institution’s energy consumption. In 2009, Southwestern College incorporated the phrase “to live by and teach a sustainable way of life” into its institutional mission statement.
In August of 2008, Jason Speegle was hired as the director of Green Team Southwestern and given the task of launching a program that would transform Southwestern into a sustainable institution. “Jason’s passion is contagious,” said Kelcie Parrish, the first student to join the Green Team. “I think we get to know Jason so well and we want to work hard so we don’t disappoint him.” The Green Team, with 23 students participating, is a student-based service learning program in which Southwestern students receive scholarships, learn sustainability principles, and put those principles into action through sustainable service projects. Green Team members are required to take coursework in sustainability. A minor in Sustainability and Environmental Studies, which involves courses from five different disciplines, was developed to offer students from all major fields of study a chance to become educated in the subject. Green Team members can choose from four subcommittees to serve on – Social Justice, Energy, Education or Resource committees.
The Green Team is heavily involved in campus sustainability education. Green Team members lead sustainability trainings in the residence halls and various institutional departments each year. They are also involved in community outreach sustainability efforts. In 2010, in collaboration with USD 465, the Green Team began a community garden in Winfield. The purpose of the garden is to emphasize the importance of locally grown food and to support the local food bank.
A visible symbol of the sustainability efforts has been added to the campus landscape – a wind turbine. Southwest Windpower chose Southwestern College to receive a free wind turbine through the Wind for Schools program instituted as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America program. “There will not be enough power generated from this turbine to provide electricity to the entire campus, but that isn’t the goal,” says Speegle. “Its greater purpose is that it will serve as a teaching tool for everyone who spots it up on the hill. It will emphasize the message of sustainability on campus.”
The Green Team has made huge strides in their campus recycling program. Last year, the campus recycled over 60,000 pounds of material. This year, a new single-stream recycling program has been introduced. Recycling has been implemented at campus sporting events and in the cafeteria. A campus recycling competition was implemented to motivate students to recycle. Another recent addition to campus is an energy monitoring system to aid in energy efficiency and conservation efforts.
Southwestern College was recently named to The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges. “We were especially pleased by the inclusion in the Princeton Review. Southwestern is trying to become a model of sustainability and it is wonderful to be recognized for our efforts,” Speegle says. To learn more about Green Team Southwestern, one can visit its website or its Kansas Green Teams page – kansasgreenteams.org.