Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sustainability at James Cook University

I was invited to give a talk entitled “Sustainability at Indiana State University” while I was visiting James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, Australia. The talk was attended by Adam Connell the director of sustainability for campus (which is a facilities management position here), Adella Edwards who is a staff member who is the director of the JCU Bicycle Users Group (, and Bob Stevenson who teaches about environmental education among others. It was nice to talk to them about sustainability on each campus and Adella took the time to give me a tour of the sustainability initiatives at James Cook University.

Adella is the staff sponsor for the Bicycle Users Group (called BUG). They had some facilities changes on campus that actually freed up space. They built a centralized chiller facility which should be more energy efficient and save them money in the long term. This consolidation also opened up a number of spaces around campus that used to be facilities for cooling units. BUG got one of these spaces as a long-term bicycle storage unit and repair shop. They can store bikes throughout the summer break (their three month break which runs from November through January). They also have waterproof storage lockers which bicyclists can claim on a first come basis. They have a small bicycle repair shop in this facility and have a student attendant at least two hours a day for people to come and get things fixed on their bikes.

JCU has been getting more bike racks on campus including these racks where the central post is made of recycled plastic. They also have a bike share program where students can check a bike out for $50 a year and they get $20 back if they return them at the end of the year. The bicycles are labelled with the JCU BUG logo so that they can be recognized around campus. They had started with about 15 lime green cruiser bikes that can still be seen around campus and then they went to conventional bikes that they had collected and repaired from abandoned bikes on campus.

JCU has also installed bike repair stations where anyone can come and use the tools to fix their bikes. This station used to have an air pump incorporated into it, but they found that the rubber tubing would not last in this tropical climate. They had to replace the tubing every year to keep it working, so that part of the repair station has been disassembled. They are working on another air pump alternative that is better suited to the climate and should last longer.

JCU also has a community garden on campus, which is maintained by a faculty member. They have actually designed their own raised bed system that is self-draining, but maintains a water reservoir for wicking moisture up to the plants through the soil. The managers of this garden maintain the plants, but allow anyone to come and pick produce as they need it. It really functions as a test case for many of the technological applications that are being demonstrated. They have the wicking beds mentioned above, and the manager has been reclaiming trampoline frames to make semi-circle shade frames for the gardens. It turns out that it is so warm and the sun is so intense, that the plants grow better here under some shade.

As mentioned in a previous post, JCU also works to maintain the native vegetation of a eucalyptus woodland that covers much of the campus. JCU maintains these native plants and preserves the woodland as they can. Along with 350 other institutions they have signed on to the Talloires Declaration which is an international agreement that is a “ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach at colleges and universities”.


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