Georgia Southern Environmental Network

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The Campus Environment





Georgia Southern University's strategic plan makes a strong commitment to a healthy campus environment, and GSEN strongly supports the framework established by this document. GSU faces a number of important environmental issues on campus. The material below is designed to provide information on these issues and to urge practical solutions. We invite readers to get involved (join one of our working committees) and work for the adoption of GSEN recommendations.

Be sure to check out the National Wildlife Federation's State of the Campus Environment: A National Report Card on Environmental Performance and Sustainability in Higher Education. To see the online version, click here.

Development on most college campuses in Georgia has long since reduced natural habitats to isolated patches. GSU's campus is uniquely beautiful because it retains significant wetlands and forested habitats as a natural backdrop to campus development. A greenway, a wooded trail extending from one end of campus to the other, offers a creative way to link and preserve these habitats while providing the campus community with many direct benefits.
Positives: GSU has preserved a largely continuous band of natural habitat running from Fair Road on the north end of campus to the bypass at the south end. A greenway would link these habitats and provide teaching, recreation, aesthetic, and conservation benefits to campus. A greenway would be unique among Georgia universities.
Negatives: Ongoing development is encroaching on the campus's last areas of continuous forest and wetlands. The window of opportunity for a campus greenway and its many benefits is closing.
GSEN Recommendations: GSEN urges students, faculty, and administrators to work actively for the formation of a greenway. Be a vocal supporter of the idea or get involved with GSEN's greenway planning process.

Water Use


A growing human population and prolonged drought have combined to place unprecedented pressure on south Georgia's water resources. As a state institution of higher learning, we believe GSU has an obligation to set the standard in the region for wise water use. Furthermore, intelligent water management offers a unique opportunity for teaching environmental science across the curriculum.
Positives: GSU is seeking funding for a gray water system. Several units on campus are involved in a federally funded study to better manage south Georgia's water resources.
Negatives: GSU has not abided by drought-imposed voluntary restrictions on watering of lawns and has no comprehensive water conservation plan. Proposed expansion on campus will involve the sinking of new wells into local aquifers. Lawn and sprinkler systems are still featured in many areas that could support alternative, water-friendly landscaping.
GSEN Recommendations: GSEN urges GSU to minimize water uses such as lawn sprinkling, to time necessary watering to reduce evaporative losses, to abide by any voluntary water restrictions that apply in the community, and to adopt and publicize a comprehensive plan for thoughtful water conservation on campus. Increased reliance on native plants for landscaping can also reduce water needs.  

Native Plants
Native plants provide a strong sense of time and place for a university whose mission is explicitly linked to serving the people and economy of south Georgia. Species such as live oak and longleaf pine are intimately tied to the economic, cultural, and natural history of the region. To this day, the stumps of "catface" trees used for turpentining in the early 1900s can still be found on campus. Furthermore, because native plants are adapted to the extremes of drought and heat that are common in south Georgia, native plants survive well, serve a variety of wildlife, and require a minimum of water.
Positives: GSU features native plants in campus landscaping. Parts of campus still support native plant communities, including endangered species such as Elliottia.
Negatives: Only a fraction of the native species that are suitable for landscaping are used at GSU. Draining of wetlands has led to the local extinction of pitcher plants on campus. Lawn continues to be watered, fertilized, and maintained in some areas that would better support native plants communities.
GSEN Recommendations: GSEN recommends that GSU employ the widest possible range of native plants in campus landscaping. Coordinating campus tree-planting with the botanical garden would unify and extend the garden's teaching mission. The university should have an explicit plan in place to insure the long-term replacement of longleaf pines on campus as large, historically significant individuals age and die. Native plants are a water-friendly alternative to lawn.

Because the Georgia Southern University Campus retains extensive natural habitat, we are fortunate to host a variety of wildlife unprecedented for most universities. The presence of a diversity of wildlife on the GSU campus reflects a healthy environment and represents an underused teaching and public relations opportunity.
Positives: The mixture of forest, wetlands, and open campus attracts a remarkable array of species. Over 100 species of birds have been documented on campus. A careful observer can see Gray Fox and Flying Squirrels at night. At least eight species of frogs can still be found calling in campus wetlands on a warm, rainy night. Federally endangered Wood Storks make periodic visits to campus wetlands.
Negatives: Development on campus and in adjacent areas has already caused the local extinction of some species, including Fox Squirrels and Eastern Spadefoots. Keeping campus ponds completely free of emergent vegetation limits their use by many species, as does mowing in temporary wetlands. Cutting and removal of understory in otherwise undeveloped areas limits wildlife habitat.
GSEN Recommendations: GSEN would like to see the campus support the maximum variety of wildlife possible through the encouragement and proper maintenance of natural habitats ranging from seasonal wetlands to bottomland forests to xeric sandhills (habitats that were historically present on campus).

The majority of waste generated by an institution like GSU can be recycled. Recycling saves landfill space, reduces pollution, and conserves energy and natural resources. Furthermore, recycling makes economic sense because GSU can generate income by selling items that have been recycled on campus.
Positives: GSU's Physical Plant has a recycling program in place. Facilities exist for faculty, staff, and students to recycle paper and beverage containers (plastic and aluminum). Recycling is expanding into dormitories and sports facilities.
Negatives: The majority of GSU buildings do not have a complete set of recycling bins, and many areas that receive heavy student use do not have any recycling facilities (Russell Union outdoor and indoor eating areas, Union Rotunda, etc). Styrofoam and other nonrecycled or nonrecyclable materials dominate most of the waste produced by dining facilities (particularly "to go" material).
GSEN Recommendations: GSEN urges GSU to make it easier for all members of the university community to participate in the recycling program. Collection of recyclables should be extended to all campus facilities, especially residence halls and sporting venues. Campus recycling efforts should be coordinated with those of Statesboro and Bulloch County. Dining facilities should dramatically reduce the use of non-recyclable material. (READ MORE)

Problems associated with automobile traffic and parking are pervasive on college campuses. The more universities grow and prosper, the more their traffic problems escalate. GSU is no exception. Peak hours on campus are characterized by packed parking lots and long lines on campus roadways. GSU needs to apply creative, long-term planning to minimize these problems.
Positives: GSU has taken valuable steps to limit auto traffic in the core areas of campus (e.g., closing Georgia Ave. to through traffic, eliminating plans for a roadway from Education to the new IT building) and a viable system of mass transit is now in place.
Negatives: Most roads on and adjacent to campus are not bicycle friendly. Students that commute to campus, many over short distances, rarely carpool and often make multiple trips to campus each day.
GSEN Recommendations: GSU should work with the city to promote more bike lanes in the campus area. Reward carpooling by offering prime parking areas only to high-occupancy vehicles. Consider a fee structure for parking permits that encourages local commuters (less than 0.5 mile) to walk or bike. Continue to limit roads and parking areas in a pedestrian-friendly core area on campus.


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