SGA addresses campus sustainability through action plan

The K-State Student Government Association proposed its Sustainability Action Plan to improve environmentalism on campus. SGA created a petition for students to sign in support of a plan. (Graphic courtesy of Sophia Cole)

The integration of natural grasses and plants, recycling bins and a smoke-free campus has not been enough for members of the Student Governing Association to call Kansas State a sustainable campus.

According to the Princeton Review, 66% of the 12,845 parents and college-bound teens who responded to their College Hopes & Worries Survey said having information about a college’s care for the environment would affect their decision to apply to a school.

Andrew Navarro, student senate member, said “students need to want” environmental change.

“The university reacts the quickest and the most effectively to student-driven initiatives,” Navarro, junior in Spanish, said.

The K-State Student Governing Association proposed a new plan and committee at its weekly meeting on Oct. 12. SGA will promote the idea with assistance from the student body.

At the meeting, Navarro said K-State is the only Big 12 school without an effective sustainability action plan and sustainability director on campus but the only Kansas institution with an environmental science program. 

“There is no unified effort to achieve the old plan and the university needs to make this a priority for them in the future,” Navarro said.

The proposal includes revamping the current 2025 plan across four fronts: education, facilities, landscaping and leadership by 2035, with goals of being carbon neutral by 2050. 

Navarro said implementing the plan will be difficult because there is no one in a leadership position to execute it.

“If the plan had received support from its beginning it could’ve been feasible, but it would’ve needed a lot of support from a lot of different areas,” Navarro said.

SGA implemented some initiatives, like becoming a tobacco-free campus, since the original proposal of the action plan, but limits in funding and support have paused additional efforts. A specific budget is not known at this time.

According to K-State’s current action plan, the overarching goal is that “K-State will leverage all its strengths to support a societal transition that addresses the sustainability challenges of our time through its capacities in Academics, Engagement, Operations, and Leadership.”

Programs at K-State like interior design teach students such as Kyndra McGinley about sustainable building and design methods. 

“To meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future, K-State needs to do better at practicing sustainable methods to better their future as a university,” McGinley, sophomore in interior design, said.

K-State SGA Sustainability Director Sophia Cole said Bigbelly recycling bins are a crucial step in campus recycling initiatives.

“These bins provide clear instructions that differentiate between landfill and recycling,” Cole’s action plan said. “ It’s vital for students to understand that if more than 10% of Bigbelly is contaminated with waste, or the incorrect type of trash, the entire bin becomes non-recyclable.”

“Sustainability had become a focal point of interest within the Student Government Association,” Cole, junior in finance, said. “There are many working parts to this plan involving water, electricity, recycling, landscaping, architecture green ratings and more.”

SGA started a petition at for students to show support of the sustainability action plan.