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New Program Helps Campus Offices Go Green

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Bowen Close, director of the Sustainability Integration Office, offers these tips to get started on green office practices:

  • Dispose of wastes properly. Most people are surprised to see how much can go in the blue recycling bins.
  • Change your computer settings. Set your monitor to go into sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity and your computer to go into standby/sleep after 15 minutes. Don’t use a screen saver--they can use even more energy than when you’re using your computer!
  • Turn off appliances and electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Turn off the lights! This one is so simple, but when I walk around campus in the evenings I see lights on in classrooms and offices all across campus.
  • Report building problems. Is your office too cold or hot, or is the cooling/heating/ventilation system running when it shouldn’t be? Report these problems to maintenance to reduce unnecessary energy use.

While recycling beverage containers and printer paper, flipping off lights, and carrying reusable bags have all become daily habits for many, there is much more that can be done to recycle, reuse and reduce. To help staff, faculty and students learn to engage in even more green practices around campus, the Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) has introduced its new Green Office Program.

“We were seeking a fun way to get staff and faculty involved in our sustainability programs, and to provide an easier way for people to understand how they could reduce their environmental impacts,” says Bowen Close, director of the SIO.

Offices can sign up for the program through the Sustainability Integration Office. A liaison visits your office to conduct an audit of your appliances, light switches, etc., and provides a Green Pack of mirror films, recycling bin stickers, light switch stickers, and sustainability tour and purchasing guide. Then, you will fill out a calculator with your office’s current sustainability efforts. The SIO will issue a one-year certification, ranging from one through four, based on your efforts, and your liaison will continue to visit monthly to answer sustainability questions.

Six campus offices participated in the pilot program during the spring semester. Pam Bromley led The Writing Center to a Level 4 certification. She says the office’s student Writing Fellows are interested in sustainability and “it just feels like trying to make our office greener is a simple and easy thing that we might be able to do to help the environment.”

Bromley and her staff changed all the settings on computers and printers to make them more energy efficient, and are planning on using soy-based inks and 100-percent recycled paper once their current supplies are exhausted. A plan is also in place to have one printer only use paper that has already been printed on one side.

One unique way the Writing Center is “upcycling” is by donating candy wrappers. “Thanks to a program Bowen found, we upcycle the wrappers, returning them to a place that turns them into cool new products like totes and wallets,” says Bromley. “We go through a lot of candy in the Writing Center—working on papers can be stressful for students and candy is just the thing sometimes!”

Similar sustainability challenges have been made in the residence halls, which have led to energy and money savings. Last October, reports Patterson, a residence hall energy use competition netted a six percent energy reduction and more than $2,500 in savings.

“Administrative and academic operations are a huge part of the College’s environmental impact--from energy use and waste management to purchasing activities--and in many cases, those impacts translate to financial costs as well,” says Close. “The College is committed to reducing our environmental impacts, and it’s our goal to get everyone on campus involved in our efforts.”

To enroll your office in the Green Office program, visit the program’s website for more information and email the SIO at