October marks the unofficial beginning of autumn. This month is associated with cool, brisk evenings, foliage changing colors, football games, and costumes. It’s also Campus Sustainability Month. Here at the Indiana University Health Center, our mission is for you to have a healthy mind, body, and life. We’re also concerned with the impact of sustainability on a community’s health.
You’d have to your head buried in a landfill not to have heard of “sustainability” or “green initiatives” at this point. We generally think of this in terms of resources–reducing, reusing, and recycling to better steward resources and cut pollution.
What gets less attention is the effect of sustainability upon a person’s health. There’s a close correlation between human health and environmental health. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 million people die each year from urban air pollution. Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence combined, including war.
From the air we breathe, to the water we drink and use, life on Earth depends on the natural resources and the environment around us. The goal of sustainability is to promote healthy, viable, and equitable communities.
We want to lead the charge on sustainability, and we strive to have a “healthy planet, healthy people” mindset in everything that we do. Since 2010, we’ve had a Green Team consisting of representatives from every department. As a direct result of this, we’ve implemented many initiatives to reduce our ecological footprint.
Some of our successes include reducing the amount of biohazardous waste we produce annually. In 2010, we were producing approximately 3,600 cubic feet of biohazardous waste (that’s equivalent to 27,000 gallons!). This waste is disposed of by an outside vendor via incineration, which adds to air pollution.
As of last year, we had reduced that amount of waste by more than 66%. We put aerators on every faucet in the building in 2014 which reduced our water usage by an average of 1.2 million gallons a year since their installation.
Additionally, we’ve added water bottle refilling stations on each of our four floors. Since installing them, we’ve saved about 40,000 twenty ounce bottles of water from going in the landfill. We’ve also improved our recycling efforts dramatically over the past year.
These are a just a few of the ways we continue to better the University and greater Bloomington community in regards to sustainability. That said, we can’t afford to pat ourselves on the back. If we want to leave a healthier planet for generations to come, we need everyone to participate.
Today, you are students at Indiana University, but tomorrow, you will be the leaders and thought influencers of the world. Let’s make sure we all continue to work together towards a “healthy planet, healthy people” model for future generations. Celebrate Campus Sustainability Month with us by doing your part and living with a sustainability mindset!