For the past decade, The UMKC Sustainability Team has turned campus into a green powerhouse. UMKC recently received its second STARS Silver Rating in March 2014. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, or STARS, was developed by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The University received its first Silver Rating in 2012.
UMKC’s Student Union is LEED-certified—Gold status, the second-highest rating a building can receive—and the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center also features three solar panels atop the building.
Through its partnerships with Bridging the Gap, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Mid-America Regional Council, UMKC has established one of the top recycling programs in the nation.
Kaye Johnston, UMKC’s Sustainability Coordinator, is especially proud of the strides UMKC has made in terms of sustainable transportation.
“In 2007, there were only 100 bikes on campus,” Johnston said.
With the assistance of the Clean Commute program, students have access to loaner bikes, either semester-long or daily. RevolveKC, a bike shop located at 51st and Troost, also offers a quick and easy program to promote student bike ownership. Those interested in owning a bike can take an online bicycle safety course, followed by an on-bike training session, to demonstrate bike safety practices. The participant then pays $10 after completing the online course and in-person bike safety training in order to pick out a bicycle from RevolveKC. Participants can also earn a bike by volunteering for 10 hours.
UMKC also encourages students to use city transit. A UMKC student ID functions as a bus pass, and allows students to access city busses for free. A $14 fee is charged each semester under the student activities fee to cover these costs.
“Students can now come to campus and they don’t need a car,” Johnston said. This is especially important due to UMKC’s reputation as a commuter campus.
[one_third last=”no”] UMKC recently received its second STARS Silver Rating in March 2014. [/one_third]
Despite UMKC’s progress, Johnston still sees room for improvement.
“We could be at 100 percent,” Johnston said.
UMKC’s Sustainability Team believes this goal is possible. The team has even set a zero-waste goal for 2015.
However, there is one major detractor to the Sustainability Team’s goals: a lack of funds.
“Could we do a better job?” Johnston said. “In a perfect world, yes. But the money isn’t there.”
Johnston would like to see UMKC become a more sustainable campus, but acknowledges it won’t be possible without necessary funds.
“It has to make economically good sense, or else we can’t do it,” Johnston said.
Johnston mentioned the sustainability program at Johnson County Community College, where students pay green fees that fund their sustainability initiatives. To implement a similar funding system for the sustainability program at UMKC, students would have to propose an initiative asking for the necessary fees.
Johnston, a woman of many ideas, sees potential for the expansion of UMKC’s sustainability program. She stressed the importance of community involvement when it comes to sustainability efforts.
“Sustainability is not a one-person job. It takes a village,” she said.