Sustainability Strives at New Stages With New Club and Initiative

Sustainability initiatives at Black Hills State University have only been in full swing for a little under a year, but the impact has been tremendous.

Last year BHSU was the first school in South Dakota to sign the Presidential Climate Commitment. Today, there is an Environmental Sustainability Student Organization also known as ESSO that meets on campus, as well as 14 regional businesses participating in the “Spearfish Local” initiative.

The goal of ESSO is to educate, encourage and motivate the public on how easy it is to be sustainable. One such way ESSO is fulfilling their goal is with the recent “Caught Green-Handed” campaign. This is a part of “Recycle Mania,” an eight-week long, inter-university competition in which BHSU is participating. South Dakota State University challenged BHSU in who can recycle the most.

BHSU sustainability coordinator Katie Greer keeps track of the weight of waste that is collected week-by-week. The average amount of waste collected since the “Recycle Mania” event started is 600 pounds of dehydrated compost material from the Hive, and 200 pounds of plastics from around the school. The results of “Recycle Mania” will be available at the end of April and will be compared to other universities.

“This is a campaign to have fun with recycling, and to get people thinking about, and aware, that you can recycle here on campus,” said Greer.

During the “Throwback — Don’t Throw Away” basketball game Feb. 13, the ESSO said 212 pounds of waste were collected — that’s 87 percent of waste diverted from the landfill. This was the second time that there has been a recycling event at a basketball game.

ESSO members also helped improve the way that the trash was collected at the game. Most of the trashcans were hidden so people attending the game had to choose from trash bins labeled “paper”, “plastic”, “compost” and “cans.”

The “Spearfish Local” initiative started at the end of 2014 as a way to celebrate local food. The businesses that currently sell or cook with locally grown food are on the “Go Green” section of the BHSU website. The “Spearfish Local” initiative is an effort of collaborative marketing and helps support the local economy.

Businesses who participate in the initiative receive a “Spearfish Local” badge to place on the front window of their business or shop. The idea is to start a conversation and create dialogue between consumers and business owners about the importance of eating locally grown food. By the start of summer 2015, an advertisement of the compilation of businesses that sell local products will go out.

Masters of sustainability student Tracy Sigdestad is doing a foodshed analysis as part of “Spearfish Local.” The foodshed analysis will analyze what geographic region our food comes from. It will also look at the food that is grown in our region, and where that food goes if it doesn’t stay here.

Sigdestad thinks that “Spearfish Local,” along with her foodshed analysis, will create a boom of food producers and more people will want to farm locally.

“I think it’s a wonderful project, because it assesses real world situations and needs of real people. It brings them together and supports the community,” said Sigdestad.

There has been a build-up of sustainability in action on campus recently. ESSO vice president Katerina Griffin has spent a lot of time ensuring the sustainability projects are effective.

“I’m sure with how much we’re informing the campus and talking to others, it gets a little repetitive and hopefully it sticks. I alsonotice in the campus apartments, the recycle bins are more full than last year,” said Griffin.

Upcoming ESSO events include Arbor Day on April 24 and Earth Day on April 22. Greer and Esso plan to plant trees in the community in areas that were damaged by Winter Storm Atlas. Check the campus calendar for more details. Contact Katie Greer at (605) 642-6298 or [email protected] for more information about sustainability on campus or to join the ESSO.