The end of the semester is the traditional time for award ceremonies, convocations and good old-fashioned pomp and circumstance, but this year a new tradition debuted, aptly enough, on Earth Day.

Jane Stewart, a senior in environmental management with a minor in studio art, and Campus Dining Services were the recipients of the first Environmental Caucus Sustainability Leadership awards.

“Through our annual awards, we want to recognize and celebrate key people who are truly making a difference in creating a culture of sustainability at NAU,” said Shelley Silbert, chair of the Environmental Caucus and director of Strategic Environmental Initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for Research. “This year, we had some exceptional examples of commitment, determination and creativity that led to major successes on campus.”

Presented by President John Haeger and Silbert, the awards followed an introduction by the president who noted the positive strides NAU has taken in sustainability efforts. Undergraduate Symposium keynote speaker Tony Cortese highlighted the evening at the High Country Conference Center last Thursday.

Stewart is known for her leadership skills, unflagging commitment and indefatigable energy. As president of Campus Climate Challenge, she led the effort to develop NAU’s Green Fund, which was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in March. The Green Fund will provide funding for projects that decrease NAU’s overall impact on the environment through a $5 per semester student fee.

Stewart also was an organizer for the 2010 Earth Day event, is a community mentor for the EcoHouse Learning Community, served as an intern last summer with Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems and was the administrative assistant to the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit in 2008-09.

Casey Fisher, marketing director, and Glenn Kvidahl, director, accepted the award on behalf of NAU Campus Dining. Photo by Paloma Ibañez

Casey Fisher, marketing director, and Glenn Kvidahl, director, accepted the award on behalf of NAU Campus Dining. Photo by Paloma Ibañez

Campus Dining has excelled in bringing sustainability action and awareness to the Flagstaff campus. It has reduced waste, increased recycling, carried out numerous health education campaigns, saved water and energy, participated actively in the Environmental Caucus, and in 2010, hired a sustainability specialist to join its team.

Campus Dining also instituted a major change at NAU by going “trayless.” This system saves an estimated 522 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day; 1,160 gallons of water daily; and a substantial amount of food waste. They are working closely with student groups to compost food—300 pounds a week—and open a “Sustainability Café” in the Health and Wellness Center to include a garden for growing food on campus.

Campus Dining donates and transfers to the Capital Assets warehouse used cooking oil for conversion to biofuel for campus buses and has increased its efforts to use organic, local and fair-trade products. They have eliminated bottled water in resident dining and are working to eliminate plastic bags at their facilities.

Campus Dining, through Sodexo as its parent company, has also committed to increasing the health of the campus community by supporting a registered dietitian and a graduate assistant to conduct education and counseling on nutrition.  Additionally, they support the Hooper Student Fund Sustainability Awards each year, giving opportunities for sustainability research to students.

The award was accepted by Glenn Kvidahl, director, and Casey Fisher, marketing director, on behalf of Campus Dining.

Handcrafted by a local company, InConcrete, the awards are made out of recycled glass and carpet fibers in a concrete base, the same materials found in the countertops in the ARD building made by the same company.