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From Green to Gold: Sustainable Efforts at Columbia

Columbia College Chicago on Oct. 23 won the Gold Level 2014 Campus Sustainability Compact Award, which recognized college campus efforts to integrate sustainability practices and meet established environmental goals.

Seven other Illinois colleges were also awarded gold, silver and bronze level awards from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, a part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

John Wawrzaszek, Columbia’s sustainability manager, said energy efficiency has never been a “buzz topic” for students, and the college’s efforts for renovation and going green have often been overlooked. Yet sustainability played a central role in Columbia’s 2006 upgrade of its facility at 1104 S. Wabash Ave.

Completed in 2014, the building was not only modernized but also became a big energy saver. Columbia installed automated light fixtures, windows that both retain heat during the winter and repel heat during the summer and a new, efficient boiler.

Wawrzaszek said he hopes spreading awareness of Columbia’s sustainability efforts will catch the attention of students.

“The biggest piece is student engagement,” Wawrzaszek said. “The more students see that we’re doing these things, their interest is piqued, and the more they will come up with their own ideas.”

Wawrzaszek keeps his office door open to students and said he is always willing to assist them in their class and extracurricular projects.

Saiyna Bashir, a graduate journalism student at Columbia, said Columbia’s campus environment is unique but students still need to make an effort to be conscious of sustainability issues.

“We have to know that Columbia is not like most campuses, it’s a very urban campus, and there isn’t enough green space or grounds for outdoor activities,” Bashir said. “There are still a few things that can be done, for example, have more indoor plants, or maybe have competitions of stuff that you can make out of recyclable material.”

Mitchell Gaddis, an undergraduate journalism student at Columbia, said students need to treat recycling as a lifestyle.

“Recycling is always good, but we should recycle more things we use every day, like a cell phone,” Gaddis said. “Use recycled photography paper, or recycled film. Maybe the fashion department could come out with recycled outfits.”

Wawrzaszek supports ideas like that of Bashir and Gaddis, no matter how big or small the impact.

“One, it helps us on campus, and two, it helps them,” Wawrzaszek said.

“Having information about sustainability out there and how students can be involved in their own practice, whether it’s tied into their major, tied into their classes or tied into their personal hobbies, that’s the win.”

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