EPA says U is becoming eco-friendly campus

The Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized the U for its efforts to create an eco-friendly campus.

Major problems with campus recycling and water consumption in the past led U facilitators to make drastic changes on campus.

The EPA acknowledged the U as one of the top three most-improved, environmentally friendly campuses in the nation after students and state environmentalists pressured university officials to expand recycling and energy conservation programs, said Pieter van der Have, assistant vice president of plant operations for the U.

Drought-tolerant grass, native plants, and xeriscaping-a landscaping process using drought-resistant plants-have lowered water consumption by 20 percent in the past five years, van der Have said.

“This (award) is attributable to these irrigation changes,” he said. “It’s a remarkable improvement, but this is only part of what’s happening here.”

Two national recycling companies are assessing problem areas on campus and implementing improvements.

In a recent waste audit conducted in April, Charlie Scott of Cascadia Consulting Group, Inc., said 70 to 80 percent of what the U throws away is recyclable.

This summer, the company is assessing data collected in the spring, and plans to present the U with a comprehensive recycling plan by fall.

Successful programs are already in place at Utah State and Brigham Young University, where school officials report they are recycling more than 75 percent of their waste.

Along with recycling, U officials have looked into cogeneration, a method of generating heat and electricity from the same source at the same time.

“The U could see cogeneration on campus within the next two to three years,” van der Have said. This process, along with campus recycling improvements, will greatly lower total energy consumption at the U.

U facilitators are also making efforts to reduce the amount of pollution it contributes to the environment.

Last April, the U purchased $60,000 of wind-powered electricity from Sterling Planet, a national wind power energy provider.

Wind-generated electricity reduces the amount of air-polluting coal that has to be burned in order to satisfy the U’s electrical needs.

“The university is always looking to become more proactive in creating a healthy environment,” van der Have said. For nearly 16 years, the U has purchased hydropower as an alterative to coal-burning power.

“Hydropower is cleaner and more efficient,” van der Have said. “It’s a great alternative. It’s part of our duty as an educational institution to be aware of the alternatives.”

Overall, van der Have said he is excited about the national recognition the U has received and the new, environmentally conscious direction in which the campus is headed.

“It’s exciting for the U to have the opportunity to be globally friendly energy consumers,” van der Have said. “And it’s an honor to receive this recognition.”

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