Tag Archives: CU/Green

Green campaign at my former school

A prefab modular home with LEED Platinum certification. Chicago should have its first Platinum-certified prefab residence in 2011. (Flickr photo from Heather Lucille. CC.)

Here are some links to my 2009 project to reduce Cedarville University’s environmental impact. I was collaborating with school administration to implement the project when I moved to Chicago to attend a more well-known journalism school.

CU/Green on transportation

CU/Green on clothing and consumer goods

CU/Green on building upkeep and construction

CU/Green on water use and landscaping

CU/Green on good air and energy

CU/Green on our refuse

CU/Green on everyday stuff

Before I left Cedarville University in May ’09, I was one of the founding members—vice president—of the environmental organization on campus. I got that gig in part because of the extensive plan I had proposed, above.

The plan took into consideration what was feasible for the college’s budget at the time, as well as what was socially responsible. One thing I stressed for administrators was that once our campus learns how to weatherize buildings, we should go into our community and do it for lots of residents there, many of whom are poor. Why? Free labor from students, minimal expense from the college, savings that make a big difference for families, and massive PR.

We could even serve as a knowledge hub for the community about “green” choices, and as a pilot program for similar universities across the country, I demonstrated.

P.S. — Here’s a link to an article on colleges who have voluntary student-funded offices of sustainability. Here’s a link to the only organization that evaluates colleges’ efforts toward sustainability and transparency, something the group considers essential to continuing sustainability.

Advertisements

CU/Green on the PR benefits of itself

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

PR Blitz

  • First and foremost we should remember we toil to take care of the environment, not to promote ourselves. But the PR department should also know their promotion could be as much a public service to the non-CU-population as it is marketing. What I mean is, people need to know that Christianity wholeheartedly backs the idea that the Earth should be well cared for. People need to know that it’s not just leftist protesters but many intelligent social conservatives who love nature and want to keep it — for our progeny and for its own inherent worth. Also I think in terms of “public service” when I envision CU serving as a force for more specific education, teaching our community about how to “green” their own lives.
  • That was the caveat — this is the fun part. I guarantee that if CU implements a third of my myriad suggestions over the past 8 days, our school could be featured on national news outlets. I can hear it now: The Christian University with the best student satisfaction is also the first ultra-green Christian University. If everyone has the talking points down (through lots of simple but fun internal educational materials), the media will come away with the exact story we want them to come away with. Get with Dr. Mark Gathany and Prof. Ryan Futrell, who teach the Honors Seminar “Reading and Writing the Literature of the Natural Environment” to help put together the philosophical justification about why Christians need be concerned with a healthy Earth. About how this so transcends partisan politics because it’s a Biblical mandate.  (The great thing is, that’s true — we’re not spinning it out of thin air. There’s scholarship behind it.)
  • I mentioned it before, but a huge part of CU/Green should be engagement with our local community — Cedarville Village specifically, but we could also focus on Greene County as a whole. Media organizations eat this up… maybe because it’s just the right thing to do. For example, once we all learn how to weatherize buildings, we can help do it for residents of the Village and save them some money on heating and cooling bills. And we can help Energize Clinton County, in the DHL-affected zone. Look how much media attention they’ve been getting. As Quinnipiac University has become the school for polling, we can become the school that turns the tide of public opinion in regards to Christians’ relationship to the environment.

CU/Green on everyday stuff

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

Okay, not all household chemicals are as hazardous as those trained to be withstood by the U.S. Army, as shown here. But some are close, and our government continues to let us use them! Flickr photo from Army.mil. CC.

Okay, not all household chemicals are as hazardous as those trained to be withstood(....) by the U.S. Army, as shown here. But some are close, and our government continues to let us use them! Flickr photo from Army.mil. CC.

Healthy personal choices

  • get rid of the rat poison around the buildings, maybe replacing it with natural alternatives
  • Replace all cleaners and solvents with environmentally-friendly ones. Maybe contract with Seventh Generation or Biokleen. Make sure we’re not using products with chlorine, ammonia, phosphate, petroleum solvents, harmful alcohols or other VOC’s, butyl, glycol ether, or those tested on animals or that use animal ingredients.

Educational paraphernalia

  • Set a requirement for using WebCT and other digital means for the majority of coursework. Ideally the only things that would be printed are those things that are absolutely, positively needed on paper. (Dealings with certain outside entities comes to mind.) This could mean getting faculty and graders e-readers like the Kindle. And, of course, any paper that is used should get stored for long-term or recycled.

CU/Green on our refuse

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

Spy Hill landfill. Flickr photo from D'Arcy Norman. CC.

Spy Hill landfill. Flickr photo from D’Arcy Norman. CC.

Recycling

  • mandate recycling of all recyclables, in all buildings. Why make it a hard rule? First, rules aren’t resented here as much as it may seem. Lots of people didn’t mind the dress code. (And this rule actually caters to the crowd that usually resents rules, so you’re covered there.) Second, we’ve had recycling available in some places for years — it hasn’t been used at a high capacity. Rules are one way of teaching. A huge part of CU/Green is an educational experience: learning why and how we should take care of the planet. But a mandate will require many more receptacles (and likely bigger ones) — essentially one next to every garbage can. And we’ll have to have a contract that allows all recyclables, like the Village has (or better).

Composting

  • We should start with the easiest switch — the cafeteria. Make sure we’re using compostable paper napkins and combine them with all food garbage. A harder project will be getting airtight receptacles for the dorms, but we can do that later. We’ll have to save our gathered leaves and some grass clippings to use when we need to adjust the composition for optimal heat. If we don’t use the compost on our own farm, it can be sold — or, better yet, given away to a nonprofit farm like the one being planned for Wilmington, Ohio. They’ll be giving all their produce from a 10-acre farm to food pantries.

Waste disposal

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Those are in descending order of importance, and nowhere on it does “throw away” appear. If we find we buy stuff that we eventually just throw away, maybe we should rethink what we’re buying in the first place. This concept is so contrary to American thinking at this period in history, but it wasn’t always this way.

CU/Green on good air and energy

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

 Wind turbines in Italy. Flickr photo from Sebastiano Pitruzzello. CC.

Wind turbines in Italy. Flickr photo from Sebastiano Pitruzzello. CC.

Indoor air quality

  • …is notoriously poor. Installing air cleaners may be just too expensive when trying to do the rest of this, especially considering the near-equal benefit of periodically opening windows, using HEPA-filtration vacuums on carpets, and getting plants that filter the air, like daisies and English Ivy. Take this into consideration when picking plants, and maybe switch out those vacuums we can afford to replace, with directions to get HEPA as the old ones wear out. Encourage window-opening for a minimum of 5-10 minutes per week.

Renewable energy

  • CU should develop a partnership with the village to get a wind farm for electric power for the both of us. Sound outrageous? Cedarville’s mayor, Dr. James Phipps (a Comm Arts prof), had tried to get wind power for the village a couple years back. It seemed all a go, but it fell through because the company we were working with decided they had bigger fish to fry — as in, they had too many projects going at once to bother working with us. However now, since the recession has hit, renewable energy companies are scrambling for work. Sounds to me like an opportune time to resume the quest.

Energy conservation

  • Eliminate incandescent lights on campus. I know they’re mostly gone anyway, but let’s put the nails in the coffin. Buy a few cases of normal-sized ones and donate them to students and profs still using incandescent lamps.
  • turn building lights off at night when no one’s using them. This would seem like a no-brainer. What about making the campus look nice? We can show people pictures of lighted buildings at night, with an explanation that “we don’t do this anymore — it’s stupid.” I think everyone’ll respect that.

CU/Green on water use and landscaping

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

The world's biggest desalinaation plant. The diameter of those membrane tubes is about the diameter of your hand. Flickr photo from Sasyl. CC.

The world's biggest desalinaation plant. The diameter of those membrane tubes is about the diameter of your hand. Flickr photo from Sasyl. CC.

Water supply quality

  • Commission the engineering departments to do a study on the Village water quality. I hear some professors are wary of the water around here. The state EPA guidelines do allow for variation in quality.

Water filtration effluent control

  • This site allows you to find those entities who have permits to discharge waste into waterways (although not necessarily treated human waste). This page details Cedarville University’s violations of its discharge permit. In summary, CU filters its water through sand filters before it gives it to us to drink. Periodically it flushes those filters and dumps the stuff that comes out of them (usually concentrated minerals like iron) into waterways. Well, CU violated acceptable levels of contaminant (like iron) discharge on these dates: June 30, 2008; Jul 31, 2008; Nov. 30, 07; Dec. 31, 07; Jul 31, 07; and a different type of violation on these dates: Feb 29, 08; May 31, 07; Apr 30, 07. The EPA contact who handles CU’s account said that it wasn’t human error and that we’ve fixed the problem every time. But we need to invest in better mechanical apparatus so violations don’t happen in the future.

Water conservation

  • replace all urinals with waterless urinals, which, opposed to common sense, are more sanitary than water urinals. They’re obviously less costly to operate. I’ve heard in several places that the reason everyone still uses water urinals is because plumber’s unions are very powerful and it takes half the work to install a waterless urinal.
  • install low-flow shower heads. These use about 1/3 the water of normal shower heads and aren’t really a sacrifice.
  • We may not want to try to tackle this right now, but greywater reclamation is always available. We could use it on our landscaping, but not a University farm, since the chemical from soaps, etc. aren’t good for food.

Landscaping and decoration

  • stop using lawn fertilizers and pesticides unless they’re very green-friendly, and then only sparingly. Allison McClain, President of the new environmental organization on campus, says she knows some students in the sciences who’re working on lawn-care substances that don’t wreak other habitats — such as Cedar Lake and its algae problem.
  • For that matter, commission the engineering department to do a study on Cedar lake — I’ve heard it’s not a fully-functioning habitat with natural equilibrium. Let’s make sure it’s as healthy for all native organisms as it can be.
  • We might rethink the types of grasses grown on the campus. Can we plant any that don’t require as much mowing or fertilizer or water?
  • reconsider the nature of the indoor plant contract. Maybe replace some of the more tropical plants that use lots of water and/or fertilizer with more flora native to this region. (Also for a plant tip, see the section on indoor air quality.)
  • revamp the tree-planting policy to reflect another mindset, one more like “why shouldn’t we plant a tree here?”

CU/Green on building upkeep, construction

CU/Green: Things Cedarville University should consider doing in order to be good stewards of the Earth.

A prefab modular home. Flickr photo from Heather Lucille. CC.

A prefab modular home. Flickr photo from Heather Lucille. CC.

Regular building maintenance

  • Get ideas from LEED and other certification standards when purchasing new parts for buildings. (Read on for alternatives to LEED)
  • Commission the engineering department to do a study on “green roofs.” Can our roof strctures support a few inches of soil and a bunch of plant life? It does wonders for water filtration and insulation.
  • Mandate that all new paints be free of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). That stuff is nasty — with high enough exposure to the right VOC’s (particularly for the painters), it can give you cancer and make your liver stop working.

Heating/cooling/insulation

  • install geothermal heating and cooling systems. If they pay off in 15 years or less, they’re a good investment because they last much, much longer.
  • have a weatherization inventory taken of all existing buildings. Supposedly this cost and the cost of actual weatherization is recouped very soon, as it tends to produce savings of about 30 percent on annual heating/cooling bills thereafter. Maybe this could be done before geothermal wells are installed, since their number could be lessened.
  • Commission the engineering department to do a study: If we removed the tint from the windows on campus, how much more thermal intake would the buildings have in winter? What could we do to increase thermal mass that could be heated by the sun during the day and keep buildings warm at night?

Future building projects

  • make a very serious effort on the next building project to engineer a building that is, if not LEED-certified, at least comes with lots of features of those that are. Now, you can be green without having LEED (as our newest building, to a certain extent, testifies to). But you can also have LEED while not truly doing well for the environment, as this article will tell you. So beware! (If you want additional resources on alternatives to LEED, the article there links to a few good ones.)