DePaul leaders push for sustainability, host town hall for community stakeholders


Jake Cox

Attendees at the town hall write down and post suggestions for ways in which DePaul can improve its sustainability efforts.

For the first time in more than a decade, a sustainability town hall was held at DePaul on Wednesday. The town hall was a chance for faculty, staff, students and other community stakeholders to share their vision and questions with university leaders in the fight for sustainability at DePaul. 

The efforts are currently being held through the “Just DePaul”, an office housed within the Division of Mission and Ministry. But the group’s main goal right now is to get their own Office of Sustainability at DePaul. 

“We did get money to fund a graduate student part time, but that isn’t enough for an institution of our size,” said Communications professor Barbara Willard. “We need a director or coordinator, which is what we had in our proposed Office of Sustainability plan [ given to President Manuel].” 

However, with the fall census showing a trend of decreasing enrollment and subsequent budget cuts– the group is looking for alternative solutions. 

“The budget cuts– is the writing on the wall,” Willard said. “How are they going to come up with 800,000 to a million dollars to fund three years of sustainability efforts at DePaul? I like the idea of having sustainability advocates… using the model that the DEI program has done”. 

Sustainability at DePaul has a growing audience, and the group hopes that by investing in it the university will expand enrollment. 

“We have all sorts of numbers on how incoming students are very interested in sustainability efforts and universities and they . . . say this could help with recruitment,” Willard said. “There are benefits like students, we could attract more students that way, if we really promoted our sustainability efforts”. 

Students are increasingly interested in getting involved in sustainability at DePaul. Many of which just wish there were more opportunities to take courses in the field of sustainability. 

“[Depaul could promote sustainability by] implementing new coursework for students, making that coursework more accessible, and making the subject of environmentalism just more intersectional across all majors, and disciplines,” said Senior Laura Murphy. 

Right now, the movement for sustainability at DePaul’s biggest crux is their ability to market and advertise the work they have been able to accomplish effectively. 

“Facility operations are so busy, they don’t really feel like they need to make PR efforts for their sustainability. But, people need to know about their shift to renewables, how we’re reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, how we’re putting up more solar, how all of our new buildings have green roofs. Few people know these things.” Willard said. 

As of 2013, DePaul was on track to reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by 2025 from FY 2002, via a report conducted by Carbonless Community

Besides DePaul’s operational advancements in terms of sustainability, part of the push is due to professor-developed curricula surrounding sustainability. 

“There are three master’s programs [in sustainability] that were developed in the last three years. Some of which, students can carry over start in their undergraduate years and finish graduate school here. So that probably is one of the most exciting developments,” said Willard. 

Originally known as SITF, Sustainability Initiatives Task Force, reformed as the President’s Sustainability committee in 2021. Originally SITF created “What Sustains Us?”, DePaul’s first institutional sustainability plan. The group is renewing their efforts and sharing what they believe is needed for sustainability at DePaul. 

“[With] the new university mission statement, marks a renewed effort to do what must be done. It is the committee’s hope that this third effort at creating an institutional commitment (financial and structural) to sustainability will result in success.” via handout distributed by Just DePaul at the Town Hall on Wednesday. 

Students also hope more of these events are held, so they are able to express their opinions and ideas regarding sustainability. 

“I wish they would have more of these, I would go to all of them. I think it’s cool they also let students go to something that’s a big issue like not because I think we’re experiencing all of this directly,” said Junior Isabella Eckardt.

Just DePaul did not discuss upcoming initiatives, but they plan on holding more town hall events, specifically targeted at the student body. More information can be found at @justdepaul on Instagram. 

Connect with Jake Cox: @jaketweets04