How green are we?

By By Arthur Raymond

By Arthur Raymond

As the final pieces of the new, coordinated, campus-wide recycling program fall into place, many less-obvious efforts to soften the U’s collective impact on the environment are underway.

Craig Forster and Jen Colby have been tasked with identifying, collating and coordinating these efforts as part of their responsibilities in the new Office of Sustainability.

Forster, interim director of the office, and Colby, sustainability coordinator, both note that the number and variety of these mini-programs on campus might come as a surprise to many.

“We’re continuing to discover the quiet efforts of motivated individuals to lessen our environmental footprint as a college campus,” Forster said.

New wrinkles have been discovered in tactics to increase and expand the current recycling efforts.

Colby described a successful program by Red Butte Garden to highlight recycling during its Summer Concert Series. The popular outdoor events draw crowds numbering in the thousands and create a significant amount of waste. Numerous recycling containers, attended by volunteers, have provided a convenient way for the concert-goers to handle their trash responsibly.

Colby hopes this model can be transposed to the numerous campus-hosted events. By making a targeted recycling effort at large gatherings, the subsequent recycling gains could match the results of Red Butte Garden’s program, which Colby characterized as “very successful.”

Forster said that a program begun by the campus energy manager, Chris Atkins, to update campus lighting with high-efficiency bulbs and fixtures has been ongoing. In addition, a behavioral specialist is evaluating appropriate locations for energy-optimizing modifications such as motion-activated light switches.

A coal-fired electrical generator that once functioned as a back-up system for campus power has been converted to operate on recovered steam as a co-generating unit.

Other efforts include a community garden for residents of family student housing, as well as an association of the College of Humanities with Pax Natura, an organization committed to rainforest protection. In addition, Chartwells uses local produce and recyclable food containers and is implementing a new program to re-utilize fryer oil to power two shuttle buses.

Both Forster and Colby recognized that this list is by no means exhaustive and the number of individual projects points out the need for a sustainability office.

Their goal is to create a central information clearinghouse to coordinate the current efforts and find new ways to implement sustainable practices.

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