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As Off-Campus Recycling Starts, ISU’s New Sustainability Chief Plots Next Moves

ISU's Office of Sustainability program director, Elisabeth Reed
Office of Sustainability Website
Illinois State University
ISU's Office of Sustainability program director, Elisabeth Reed

Starting Thursday, Illinois State University students living in off-campus apartments will have access to recycling as a new Town of Normal ordinance goes into effect.

With that longtime priority off the to-do list, ISU’s new Office of Sustainability program director Elisabeth Reed is planning for the future.

She started the new job this summer after serving on the faculty in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. That’s where she led her own sustainability initiatives, such as the Fix-it Friday program, where students provide free basic sewing and clothing repair services on campus and in the community. Reed also helped form a committee to certify ISU as a Fair Trade University through Fair Trade Campaign USA.

High on her list of priorities is adding to ISU’s existing composting efforts. ISU now sends its food waste from dining centers to the Better Earth composting facility outside Peoria.

“I'm hearing from a lot of students that they would like to have compost in other areas on campus,” Reed said. “Takeout containers from the dining halls are actually compostable. We don't really have any place to put them, so they just go into the landfill or by mistake into recycling. So that’s something we’d like to investigate further and see if we can have some compost bins on campus.”

She said other opportunities are the creation of a green office certification program and better decision-making on purchasing, like what’s available at concession stands at Athletics events.

Reed said she plans on sending out a campus wide survey this fall to students, faculty, and staff, in part to find out how they define sustainability. That information would be used to develop a strategic plan for making the university more sustainable, she said.

Reed said she believes that sustainability efforts will save money and make ISU a better place for students.

“Sustainability is actually being very cost effective in many ways. It's reducing what you have. It's making things work more efficiently. And more than anything, the students are demanding it. As far as recruitment and retention (of students), we have to be listening to our students and moving forward in that way,” Reed said.

Listen to WGLT talk with Elisabeth Reed about her goals for making ISU a more sustainable campus.

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Amina Jinadu is a social media and online writing intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She began working at WGLT in summer 2019.
Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.