View of the sustainability buildings from above

Sustainable Living at SLU

Chloe Mitchell ’21

Selected for its innovative ideas and sustainability principles infused into academic and student life, St. Lawrence University was named to The Princeton Review’s 2018 edition Guide to 399 Green Colleges for sustainability initiatives and advocacy across campus.

St. Lawrence students play an active role in the institution being selected by bringing an awareness to environmental issues in many diverse ways. These include encouraging and advocating for sustainable living through waste, food consumption, reusable utensils, and most importantly, educating the campus and community.

Jack Gillooly ’19 of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, is a member of the Low Impact Living Greenhouse, a theme cottage on campus which looks for ways to lead environmental activism and take on sustainability initiatives.

“We believe education through participation is the most exciting and practical way to encourage students to develop their own interest in sustainability, and every day we strive to do better in this mission,” Gillooly says. “We’re always searching for interesting new ways to teach people how to be more sustainable.”

One way is by hosting dinners for students every week. “We prepare meals using locally grown produce sourced from our community partner, Birdsfoot Farm,” he explains. “Our aim here is to eat locally, as well as seasonally, and show the student body what that looks like.”

Students prepare food at a Greenhouse cooking workshop

Students prepare food at a Greenhouse cooking workshop. Photo by Cece Rooney ’20

Students living in Greenhouse also hold one to three student-run workshops a week.

“Workshops extend to all disciplines of sustainable living, including activities from creating our own toothpaste to simple pickled beets recipes,” he says. “I think that’s some of the fun in the Greenhouse’s presence on campus—always dynamic, always improving.”

In addition to student opinion surveys, The Princeton Review selects schools based on institutional reporting and tracking. One example is the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System, or STARS, a self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure and compare their sustainability performance.

Earlier this year, the University received a silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education based on its STARS score. St. Lawrence received its highest marks in the areas of coordination and planning, diversity and affordability, and academic research for the number of faculty and students who are looking into issues of sustainability.

The Greenhouse is not the only student group on campus advocating for sustainability initiatives. The Environmental Action Organization (EAO) also is making large strides to make St. Lawrence a truly sustainable place.

Ella Nielsen ’19 of Wenham, Massachusetts, a club member, says, “EAO strives to create a more environmentally friendly campus, from promoting student composting to reducing use of disposable utensils and containers. We have been selling reusable steel sporks and reusable straws to students, which has been a major success.”

In fall 2018, EAO received funds through the Thelmoathesian Society to bring 10 students to the Group of 78 Climate Change Conference in Ottawa. The Group of 78 is an association of Canadians seeking to promote global priorities for peace and disarmament, equitable and sustainable development, and a strong and revitalized United Nations system. 

On campus, EAO organized a climate change rally to support 21 youths who are taking the U.S. government to court to stand up for their constitutional right to a safe future.

“We believe these events are helping to change students’ mindsets about sustainability,” Nielsen says. “Being able to see our action on campus helps people understand what EAO is doing.”

The Greenhouse and EAO are both hoping to be catalysts for change. As Nielsen says, “If we all work together, we can achieve the common goal of making SLU a more environmentally friendly campus.”