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Monday, September 25, 2017

RHA teaches representatives about sustainability efforts in residence halls

The forum featured representatives from sustainability organizations on campus.

The Residence Halls Association hosted a sustainability forum Monday evening. The event aimed to teach its members about MU's efforts to encourage environmental sustainability within the residence halls and to promote dialogue between RHA and those involved with sustainability on campus.

The event included presentations from representatives of the Environmental Leadership Office, Residential Life and RHA’s Executive Board. Following the presentations, RHA representatives had the opportunity to ask questions about each organization’s sustainability efforts and make suggestions about how these organizations could better work toward the purpose of sustainable residence halls.

“The idea for this type of forum, which is one of several I have participated in with different organizations at Mizzou, grew out of the frequent questions I am always getting asked about various issues related to sustainability,” Environmental Leadership Office adviser Ben Datema said during the event. “It is my job to connect students to environmental issues and show how those issues are involved in student’s lives.”

During his presentation, Datema outlined the Environmental Outreach Office’s sustainability efforts. They include operating a bike resource center, which offers free bike repairs to students once a week, sponsoring the SPROUT peer education program, which provides environmental sustainability presentations, and organizing a garden workday when students worked in several gardens at MU.

Residential Life Director Frankie Minor also spoke about his organization’s efforts to create more sustainable residence halls.

“At Residential Life, we talk a lot about stewardship in that students and their families are paying us a lot of money to live in our halls, and we are expected to be good stewards of that money,” Minor said. “Part of that is being a good steward of the environment and its resources, and we have been striving to do that for a long time here and are really stepping up our efforts to do so as the campus becomes more conscious of environmental concerns.”

During his presentation, Minor said he is focused on how Residential Life has become committed to building residence halls in increasingly sustainable ways.

“One of our big focuses has been on using recycled materials in the construction and renovation of our buildings,” Minor said. “Eleven residence halls have been built or renovated since 2004, and in our construction of these halls we tried to get most of our building materials from within 200 miles of campus and incorporate recycled materials as much as possible.”

One example Minor used is the rugs in the residence halls, which he said contain at least 50 percent recycled material.

Residential Life is also focused on promoting sustainability in existing halls through efforts such as constructing more bike racks, providing free laundry racks and installing units that conserve heat from showers and redistribute it through the halls.

A frequently discussed topic during the presentations was the Building Dashboard program, which provides information about energy use in nine residence halls in real time to inform students about their energy consumption and encourage conservation. One representative asked about the possibility of expanding the program to other halls, an idea Minor said he thinks will eventually come to fruition as the tool is used more effectively in the residence halls.

“Dashboard is a great tool, and it has the potential to really help in conservation, but I am not sure we have been able to find a way to promote it yet, and this has prevented us from using it effectively as an educational tool,” Minor said. “We need to come up with a comprehensive plan for using it as such before we expand it to the other halls. I think that’s something that will happen eventually.”

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