Earth Day has come and gone, but Columbia College is greener than ever.
As anyone who has ever attended an Earth Day celebration can attest, there are many who talk the green talk. Few walk the walk. Columbia College is just hitting its stride with energetic recycling, green buildings, encouraging alternative transportation such as bicycling and busses, discouraging food waste, composting and more.
The college's sustainability committee, composed of concerned faculty and staff, meets quarterly to devise ways of becoming more green. The committee met in late March and agreed to order recycling bins for residence halls and install new bike racks this summer. The committee will be carefully weighing the pros and cons of cement vs. permeable surfaces.
Sustainability times 11
The committee has already ranked 11 sustainability goals:
- New structures/renovations
- Utilization of energy-efficient design
- Installation of energy-efficient lighting
- Use of alternative and renewable energy sources
- Intra-education of projects and ideas
- Generation of a web page with tips, ideas and projects
- Energy efficiency/conservation – building and renovation projects
- Efficiency in lighting
- Efficiency in HVAC
- Use of utility company efficiency incentives
- Windows for Hughes Hall
- Water use efficiency in restrooms
- Water use efficiency in residence halls
- Landscaping and other campus needs
- Proper disposal of hazardous materials
- Native plants
- Campus garden
- Minimal public exposure to pesticides
- Reducing noise, dust and exhaust from equipment
- Composting of leaves, grass and woody debris
- Food service
- Reduction of single-use dinnerware
- Purchase of local and organic foods
- Use of disposed food (for compost or livestock feed)
- Specialized majors in sustainability curricula
- Sustainability diffused throughout curricula
- Sustainability-related faculty research/publications
- Integration of sustainability to freshman experience and education
- Lead through ECO (student organization) and implemented through the Introduction to Columbia College course
- Solid waste
- Attaining a high rate of recycling
- Maximizing paper recycling
- Waste minimization
- Purchase of recycled paper
- Using contracts to minimize environmental impact
- Level of campus awareness of role of purchasing
- Institution-owned vehicle fuel efficiency
- Accessibility of public transportation
- Avoidance of institution-owned fueled-vehicle use
- Indoor air quality
- Smoke-free campus
- Freedom from indoor pesticide exposure
- Regular replacement of ventilation filters
Nathan Means, assistant professor of biology and a fervent environmentalist, is a driving force on the committee. "Energy and water-use efficiency, xeriscaping [gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate irrigation, especially with native plants], a higher rate of recycling and better air quality are vital goals for the Columbia College campus and the planet," he said. "And I think the development of a sustainability curricula is an exciting development I hope will come to fruition."
Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for academic affairs, is another driving green force. "I am very committed to this personally," Smith said. "I'm a life-long green; my parents, sister and I were green before it had a name."
What's being done right right now
Here is what the college is doing right, right now:
- Recycling cans.
The Columbia College Relay for Life team added a "Crush CANcer" campaign to this year's fundraising efforts. The team hopes to reach its 10-year goal of $100,000 in the fight against cancer soon. All campus users are encouraged to drop off empty aluminum cans each Friday at 5 p.m. at the parking lot on the corner of 10th and Rogers Streets on campus; members of the team are on hand to crush the cans. In one week, the team was able to fill four bags with crushed aluminum. This is no token green effort; recycling aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy used to make aluminum cans from virgin ore.
- Recycling paper.
Who's that coming down the hallways with a big smile and a gigantic wheeled trash container? It's Phyllis Grant, payroll manager, who has been collecting paper recycling for 20 years. And this container is heavy! The paper is then picked up by a recycling company. All staff who pitch paper into the blue not black bins save more than money, they save forests and water. It's estimated that making a ton of paper from recycled stock saves up to 17 trees and uses 50 percent less water.
- Reducing food waste.
Dulany Dining Hall recently weighed the amount of food wasted during one lunch period, with eye-opening results:
- 284 meals were served
- 70 pounds, or 13 gallons of food, wasted
- 25 lbs/30 gal. paper wasted
- Approximately 100 meals could have been served out of this wasted food.
Dulany is also experimenting with tray-less days for a very simple reason: hands can't carry as much, and thus waste as much as, as a tray. There's also substantial energy and water saved in not washing the hundreds of trays the cafeteria uses daily.
- Ground-source-water heating and air-conditioning system.
This is a big energy-saver for the college and quite pioneering when first done in the early '90s. Bob Hutton, executive director of administrative services and the man most responsible for transforming Missouri Hall into a gleaming showcase and the dusty, cluttered basement of St. Clair Hall into new offices, said the ground source for the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system that heats and cools about 70 percent of campus buildings is more energy-efficient that conventional systems. Hutton estimates the college's energy bills are about 15% less than if using other, more standard, systems.
- Lighting retrofitting.
Remodeling such as the ongoing St. Clair Hall push offers many opportunities, not least of which is installing more energy-efficient lighting. The college will also retrofit several buildings in the near future with new lighting for purely efficiency reasons. We have also implemented a program of replacing incandescent lights with more efficient fluorescent lights.
- LEED certification.
The renovation of Missouri Hall incorporated to the largest extent possible the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's Green Building Rating System. Certification is granted to buildings that meet standards of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Although he has yet to hear back from the U.S. Green Building Council, Hutton says he is hoping the building will achieve at minimum a certified score and perhaps a coveted silver score.
The college is looking into LEED-certifying more buildings on campus during ongoing renovations and new construction.
Another green initiative under active consideration is reusing water from our ground source HVAC water supply to irrigate areas of campus with sprinkler systems, thus saving treated city water.
All these initiatives aren't just about saving energy and money and reducing our environmental footprint. It's about making our campus a livable, sustainable place for the future.