APU Celebrates Earth Day and Promotes Environmental Stewardship

by Nathan Foster

In honor of Earth Day, Azusa Pacific University community members reflected on what it means to be a good steward of the planet in terms of practicing sustainability university-wide- and in day-to-day life.

Environmental Stewardship at APU

“When God created people, He left us in charge of the Earth. It’s ours to take care of,” said Toney Snyder, assistant director of Environmental Stewardship at APU. “We need to do a better job as caretakers with the daily decisions we make that affect the environment.” Since 2007, Snyder has spearheaded projects around campus that express this desire to preserve the planet.

One big aspect of sustainability is responsible water usage. Snyder replaced the old irrigation controllers with new smart versions that can be controlled remotely. This allows Facilities Management to turn off the irrigation whenever it rains, saving water. The Landscaping Services department of Facilities Management also made the move to switch 18,000 sprinkler heads around campus into rotating heads, which are much more efficient in watering evenly. Additionally, APU installed more than 15 filling stations around campus to encourage students and faculty to carry reusable water bottles, instead of single use plastic bottles that go to waste.

APU also made the switch to energy efficient light bulbs across campus, with more than 90 percent of the university’s light coming from LED bulbs that use less than half the energy of traditional versions. To conserve more energy, Engstrom and Trinity dormitories have also been retrofitted with smart thermostats that have motion sensors. If no one is in the room, the thermostat shuts down after 20 minutes and saves energy throughout the day.

Another way APU is making a difference is through recycling. APU recycles more than 50 tons every year. “It’s great to save waste from landfills, saving money on our trash bill, and we receive money for what recycled products we turn in, which goes to pay student workers,” Snyder said. “At the end of the year, when students move out and leave behind furniture, that is also recycled in a way, collected for free by the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.”

Recycling at APU includes composting with dining venues across campus placing their food scraps into 55 gallon drums, which are collected weekly by Facilities Management. These collections are then mixed into a composting pile which is later used as soil for landscaping across campus. Composting recently expanded to Bowles, University Park, and University Village in the form of green containers where students can empty their leftover food scraps. Athens Services collects these containers from the housing units and diverts them from the landfill.

Celebrating Earth Day

“Since Earth Day usually falls right before or during finals, we decided to celebrate it a couple weeks early with a full week of events. We wanted students to celebrate the earth in creative ways that teach sustainability, ” said Louise Huang, PhD, director of the Center for Research in Science (CRIS) and assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The events centered around the Community Garden located next to the baseball field on East Campus.

The celebration began on Monday, April 4, with a presentation titled “Electrifying a Brighter Future with New Batteries,” by Michael Drummond, PhD, an assistant chemistry professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On Tuesday, Men’s Chorale sang on Cougar Walk, performing songs about creation care, including one called “Shalom” about having the right relationship with the earth.

On Wednesday, students gathered to learn about the benefits of gardening and physical activities from three kinesiology faculty: Eric Sorenson, PhD, ATC, Jody Wilkinson, MD, and Robert Dudley, PhD (Cand). Students also had the opportunity to visit tables on Cougar Walk hosted by groups around campus including the Creation Care Council, the Environmental Studies Minor program, Sustainability Club, Club Social Work, Outdoor Adventures, Spiritual Life, and Association for Computing Machinery. “All of these groups were sharing different things community members are doing and students can be a part of to promote sustainability,” said Huang.

The celebration continued on Thursday at Marshburn Library with a Beauty of the Earth Art Drawing and Activity. “Students were able to use artistic methods to express what the earth means to them. There were many inspired creations,” Huang said. On Friday, the earth day celebration concluded with installing structures in the garden and a keynote address from Matthew Heller, PhD, an associate psychology professor, Dustin Van Hofwegen, PhD, an assistant biology professor, and Beth McCoy, PhD, a structural engineer. The keynote focused on the microbiology of soil, vermicomposting, and how to build structures that last in gardens. “It’s important to learn how to practice sustainability,” Huang said. “Both students and faculty benefited from the week-long celebration of Earth day in continuing their sustainability education.”

APU students can learn more about all of these conservation, sustainability, and recycling measures by pursuing the Environmental Studies minor. This program equips students to acquire the tools and experiences necessary for understanding and addressing the causes and consequences of the extraordinary environmental challenges in the U.S. and around the world.

Nathan is the public relations manager in the Office of Strategic Communication and and Engagement.