Sustainability at Grand Valley State University began back in 2004 with an idea: that disposing of on-campus products could be done in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way.

“The first few years was, where are we on sustainability, then in the 2008 timeframe it was, how much progress have we made in sustainability, and now the question is, what is the impact that sustainability is having on campus?” said Norman Christopher, Executive Director of the Sustainable Community Development Initiative.

This progressive, step-by-step thought process by GVSU’s leadership has then been broken down into ten major areas, which has helped the university progress more each year.

Christopher pointed out how in the beginning, the university entered a major national contest called Recyclemania and placed near the bottom overall.

In 2010, GVSU had moved up to 128th place, in 2011 it had improved to 100th place. For 2012, GVSU had moved into 77th place overall out of 265 colleges and universities.

In the article on page one, it shows a breakdown of how the university continues to improve each and every year. The numbers show the economic impact the university has had but that is only half the story of sustainability at GVSU.

The most important aspect that the university has placed an emphasis on, rests in the education of sustainability to its students. The Sustainability Impact Report 2012 stated that the university now offers 386 sustainability-related courses, which totaled 116,991 student credit hours, or 18.4 percent of total credit hours.

Showing students the numbers is great and running promotions like the Zero Waste Football game and Recyclemania can be fun but taking the time to develop classes and teaching students the “ins and outs” of sustainability is taking it to another level.

Not only does that help promote sustainability at GVSU, it prepares students to be more sustainable as they move on from the university and into the real world. Sustainability at GVSU is one thing, but sustainability in the world is a completely different battle that students will hopefully now be more prepared for.