Stale bread and overripe fruit will only go so far in a college cafeteria -- no matter how hungry college students get.
But at Central Michigan University
college students are giving these "leftovers" new life in the soil at the
university's gardens. Every day this summer, 50 pounds of organic waste
will be diverted from the landfill and used as compost in the gardens,
thanks to the university's residential restaurants.
program is just one of many green initiatives focused on making a
long-term impact on the environment and the university's budget. In
fact, the university won a Going Green Award earlier this year from Corp! magazine
for its efforts -- many of which are student driven.
have lots of energy and lots of great ideas," says Jay Kahn, CMU's
director of facilities operations. "I'm kind of the clearinghouse --
they come to me with an idea and we try to make decisions based on
from the new composting program, students also are responsible for
other green initiatives like improved outdoor recycling bins, the
annual Recycle Mania challenge -- which pits CMU against other
universities to increase recycling -- and outreach efforts to help
educate their fellow students.
"We do orientation education
during Welcome Week, " says Heather Curtis, a student recycling
coordinator and senior from Flint. On a daily basis, educating fellow
students also has become second nature for Curtis. Recently, she saw a
man starting to throw away some cardboard instead of recycling it.
"'Hey!' I yelled, 'Don't do that!'" she says, smiling.
student-driven green initiatives are starting to make a noticeable
impact too, says Kahn. "The numbers so far are encouraging."
has decreased municipal solid waste -- which normally would end up in
the landfill -- by more than 1 percent. Recycling on campus also has
increased by 23 percent. And within the next three years, university
plans call for a reduction in energy consumption by 20 percent, water
usage by 6 percent, and a reduction in CMU's overall carbon footprint
by 10 percent.
Beyond the positive environmental impact, the
programs also are making a big difference for CMU's budget. The
university saves $18.34 for every ton of waste that is recycled instead
of taken to the landfill.Going beyond recycling
says the university's sustainability plans hinge on the three
well-known conservation prongs: reduce, reuse, and recycle. And while
recycling may be the most visible of the three efforts, he said the
first two actions are equally -- if not more -- important.
in that three-pronged equation means "receiving less on campus, generating less waste," he says. To
meet that goal, CMU has an organization-wide purchasing policy that
requires reduced packaging from vendors who do business with the
Reuse comes into play with CMU's surplus auction
every month, and with donations to local nonprofit organizations such
as Goodwill and Better World Books.
CMU's wood chip boiler also has played a major role in these green efforts. The university
purchases wood chips made from tree waste, such as tops and branches,
within a 50-mile radius of campus. The chips are then burned to create
boiler steam, an alternative source of heat for campus that is
considered a "zero-carbon" source. This saves the university up to $2
million per year in fuel costs.
Other sustainability efforts
also are taking root. New campus buildings follow LEED practices for
design and operations -- the Education and Human Services Building,
which opened in September 2009, includes a vegetative roof, which
reduces temperatures and provides a natural sound insulation. Many
campus vehicles have been converted to run on B20 biodiesel fuel. And
new energy-efficient light fixtures and faucets now are installed
around campus to reduce utility use.
But university officials
say perhaps the biggest impact of all is the one on students as they
deepen their understanding of what it means to "go green," and as they
develop innovative ideas to make a lasting change for the university
and for the environment.
CMU students Heather Curtis, Audrie Thelen, and Aly Szymanski are using bright ideas to recycle everything on campus -- from batteries to lettuce to lightbulbs.
Freshly discarded vegetables are placed on top of the compost pile near one of the on-campus gardens.
CMU students Heather Curtis, Audrie Thelen, and Aly Szymanski stand near their compost pile, which helps recycle much of the kitchen waste on campus.
The students keep detailed logs of everything they recycle so they can quantify their impact on reducing the university's carbon footprint.
Stickers on containers all over campus invite students and faculty to "go green" by recycling whatever they can.