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Students' sustainability priorities examined in survey

by Deanne Puca

May 13, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU solar panels.
Renewable energy is priority for students
KALAMAZOO--Free filtered water dispensers, green roofs on buildings and a renewable energy infrastructure that includes solar and wind power are projects Western Michigan University students say should be funding priorities on campus.

These suggestions and others, such as more sustainable buildings and the conversion of cafeteria deep fryer oil into fuel, were top priorities for about 500 respondents to WMU's first Student Sustainability Survey. Details will be presented during a public forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, in Room 1220 of the Chemistry Building.

Students identified reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills, expanding healthy and sustainable food options and encouraging public transit, carpooling and non-motorized transit as among the most important sustainability actions for WMU.

The survey results, along with comments from the forum and input from President John M. Dunn's Universitywide Sustainability Committee, will help set priorities for the Office for Sustainability in 2011-12. Matthew Hollander, coordinator of sustainability projects for the Office for Sustainability, says the survey results are important.

"We met our target of a statistically relevant sample size and have gained solid data on students' opinions and preferences," Hollander says of the survey that was conducted March 21 through April 4. "As students become more familiar with WMU's campus sustainability initiatives, we hope for increased engagement."

WMU began collecting a student-supported Sustainability Fee in fall 2010. The Student Sustainability Survey is part of an ongoing effort to create an open, transparent, and collaborative structure for using the money effectively and in keeping with students' priorities.

For more information, contact Matthew Hollander at or (269) 387-0941.