Environmental Leadership Office merges under MU’s Sustainability Office

Communications Manager Karlan Seville of MU Operations: “[The merge] just clearly defines the Sustainability Office’s role. I think overall, it just points everybody in the right direction.”

The Sustainability Office has absorbed the Environmental Leadership Office in an attempt to divert confusion and keep focus on the mission of both offices.

“It’s confusing to everybody, and it has been for a long time, that we have a Sustainability Office in Virginia Avenue Garage and then we have an Environmental Leadership Office in the Student Center,” Communications Manager Karlan Seville of MU Operations said. “I think this just helps everyone understand that we all have the same goal.”

The Environmental Leadership Office has run many programs on campus regarding sustainability, including Mizzou Bike Share, Tigers for Community Agriculture and the Bike Resource Center.

“It’s the student arm of the Sustainability Office and it’s paid for by student funds,” Seville said.

The Sustainability Office holds numerous events on campus throughout the year to promote its mission of creating a more sustainable campus.

“The mission is to make the university more sustainable along social, environmental and economic lines,” Sustainability Office Manager Srinivasan Raghavan said.

With the goals and priorities of both offices being so closely related, Raghavan said the merge was made “primarily to avoid the confusion of two offices that seem to have similar missions.”

With the merge, the Sustainability Office has taken on the many projects and programs of the ELO, including Mizzou Bike Share and the farmer’s market, and will continue to work alongside students.

“We still have a staff member who focuses primarily on students,” Seville said.

Because sustainability is such a large issue on campus, the merge of the two offices will most likely alleviate the confusion of the missions of each as well as bring more efficiency to the Sustainability Office.

“[The merge] just clearly defines the Sustainability Office’s role,” Seville said. “I think overall, it just points everybody in the right direction.”

Becoming more efficient is especially important as the Sustainability Office prepares to submit this year’s STARS report.

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System report is a system used to measure sustainability on college campuses. The report is reviewed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Eight hundred eighty-four institutions participate in STARS worldwide.

“The most commonly used benchmarking tool within higher education in the United States is STARS,” Raghavan said. “So that tool provides an assessment of where a university campus stands with regards to sustainability.”

The last report, submitted in 2015, made the university one of two schools in the Southeastern Conference and one of 76 overall to receive a gold rating. The Sustainability Office is getting ready to submit the report again this year.

“It’s kind of a report card of where the university is,” Seville said. “What STARS does is compares it, basically, to other universities.”

Besides the gold rating from 2015’s report, the university also earned four “best practices” designations for programs on campus, including the Campus as a Living Laboratory, Support for Underrepresented Groups, the Energy Strategies Student Advisory Group and the Mississippi/Missouri River Advanced Biomass/Biofuel Consortium.

According to the MU STARS Status Report, there are still plenty of ways MU can improve its sustainability practices.

“[MU was] unable to claim more than 15 points in [academic research], and this will take a considerable amount of time to remedy,” according to the report. “We are certain that we can improve this score by capturing all of these relevant classes, programs and other sustainable practices by implementing a central reporting system.”

The university has been looking to improve sustainability knowledge among students, waste minimization and diversion among other issues on campus since the 2015 report. Raghavan hopes the new report will help alleviate some of these issues.

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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