The U.S. Department of Education honored the University of Montevallo as a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School at a ceremony held in Washington D.C. on July 20. Susan Caplow, assistant professor of environmental studies, who was instrumental in the process, attended the ceremony on behalf of the University.
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for all the work we have done,” said Caplow. “We have many ideas to continue our efforts in the future so it’s great to receive this recognition and encouragement for our hard work.”
The University was one of 11 higher education institutions honored with the award in the Postsecondary Sustainability Award category. Each institution was selected for innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, ensure effective sustainability education and improve health and wellness.
Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss and U.S. Secretary of Education John King previously announced the awardees on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.
UM was nominated by The Alabama Commission on Higher Education. The schools, districts and postsecondary institutions named were confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 27 state education agencies. In February, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) announced the University of Montevallo as one of the two 2016 Alabama Green Ribbon Schools.
The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Program is a federal recognition program created in 2011 that seeks to encourage and prepare students in the 21st century with the skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.
“We take pride in seeing our entire campus community contribute to the University’s sustainability efforts. We are honored to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School,” DeAnna Smith, vice president for business affairs and treasurer said.
The University of Montevallo has long been a leader in Alabama higher education for environmental stewardship and sustainability. UM has been specifically recognized for being the first university in the state to implement a Green Fund. Initiated by the UM Environmental Club and administered by the Sustainability Committee with support of student government in 2011, the Green Fund has contributed to the reduction of UM’s ecological imprint. This initiative generates approximately $30,000 per year, funding campus grants for projects that cut energy costs, decrease the University’s carbon footprint and reduce waste.
“We are very proud that UM was the first institution in the state of Alabama to implement a Green Fund and even more impressed that this request to collect a fee from students to further sustainability efforts came directly from our student body,” Smith said. “We truly believe that actions of our students demonstrate the fulfillment of our mission to provide an education for not only intellectual growth, but for ‘personal growth in the pursuit of meaningful employment and responsible informed citizenship’.”
UM’s recycling programs were also commended. The University recycles 3,000 pounds of aluminum and 65,000 pounds of paper annually. Computers, light bulbs and food waste from the cafeteria are also recycled. The “Table to Garden to Table” initiative reduces food waste by composting unused vegetable matter to fertilize the UM Organic Community Garden. The garden was initiated by the UM Environmental Club and is available for students and community members. Produce grown is donated to the Shelby Emergency Assistance to be given to families in need.
Beginning this fall, the University will offer an interdisciplinary major in Environmental Studies along with the already established ES minor. ES incorporates perspectives from the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities and business. Since the establishment of the minor, 610 students have enrolled in ES courses.