A village green: KU class investigates ways to unify campus’ green efforts

When leaders at the KU Energy Council and Center for Sustainability looked for recommendations to unify green efforts at KU, they didn’t seek expertise outside of Lawrence.

They didn’t even have to leave campus.

Instead, they turned to Bob Basow’s Strategic Campaigns class in KU’s journalism school.

The class, which allows students the opportunity to develop a real-life campaign for a client, has a reputation as one of the most research-intensive classes in the journalism school.

“It’s a legend at the J-school,” says Janelle McCoy, KU graduate student. “Everybody knows campaigns is going to consume your life.”

After conducting more than 30 interviews with student, faculty and staff leaders in the sustainability and conservation efforts on campus, students took several trips to universities across the U.S. to learn more about campus green initiatives. The class traveled to Kansas State University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University.

“From going to UNC and Duke, we learned from the masters about sustainability,” Basow says. “Also from going to other campuses, we were really able to see what is possible within a university community and that what KU can do is very much achievable, especially if we take three years to do it.”

The class recommended a three-year implementation of several green initiatives on campus for the Energy Council and Center for Sustainability. more participation in Hawk Week in August, and increased assistance from greek and student organizations.

“We want to pull together the student groups, greeks, athletics and typical students,” says Jeremy Viscomi, program officer for the KU Energy Council. “We want to use existing campus events and attach our name to that as well as promote events more effectively.”

McCoy, who now works as a graduate assistant for the KU Energy Council, says one of the most important parts of the campaign is uniting the different environmentally conscious groups and leaders on campus.

“I would say communication is crucial now among student leaders and the administration at KU,” McCoy says. “We found all these people were doing small things, but if they came together it would be much more powerful.”

Another important part of the campaign is somehow changing the mindsets of all students, faculty and staff by effectively informing them of green efforts.

While it is easy to add more recycling bins, Viscomi says simple messaging near the bins as well as informing incoming, prospective and current students about improving their surroundings through various campus events could help change behaviors.

An increase in student fees, which was suggested by many students in the class, would help develop the funds to create more messaging. While KU students pay only 50 cents a semester for sustainability, McCoy says UNC students pay $4 a semester.

“Sustainability isn’t just about helping the planet, and I think a lot of people have attached it to the green movement and maybe have a negative connotation,” McCoy says. “But when we bring it home to KU it’s about pride … we are proud to be Jayhawks, so why not make it better and do things to improve where we go to school?”

The two agencies and several students from the class have already formed a panel to formulate implementation processes for this semester, the summer and fall.

“What I would like to create is this sustainable culture on campus to where everything works together,” Viscomi says. “Administration gets it, staff gets it, and our research is conducive to sustainability.”