Engineering Sustainable Change
Many colleges and universities accommodate populations comparable to small U.S. cities. Like cities, college campuses are responsible for providing an array of services such as feeding and housing individuals, facilities and grounds maintenance, and administrative duties. As campuses across the nation are continuing to increase student enrollment and expand operations, many are looking to reduce their environmental footprint through targeted conservation and resource management efforts.
From expanding curriculum, to dedicated sustainability departments, to implementing sustainability management plans, universities are increasingly becoming more invested in actively reducing GHG emissions, saving resources, and educating students and community members about the importance of environmental stewardship. Brendle group has collaborated with multiple universities to develop sustainability management plans for campus operations, and recently, as part of these efforts, we’ve been digging into university waste management practices. While researching best practices in the waste management arena, we’ve stumbled across a host of universities with innovative solutions to diverting waste from the landfill. As major players in their regional communities and economies, these schools are leveraging resources and diverting waste through student-run programs and collaboration with local and regional partners. Below are a few stand-out programs we’ve stumbled upon.
Ohio State University’s (OSU) Zero Waste Stadium is the largest in the country to achieve zero waste. OSU partners with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and The Vera Institute of Justice to handle all the recyclable materials from Stadium events. The partnership supports green and sustainable programs at ODRC, and has greatly improved Ohio State’s sorting and reporting capabilities.
The University of Arizona’s (USAU) Compost Cats program transformed University composting services into a successful business model. The student-run program offsets composting expenses through compost sales and avoided tipping fees. Since its launch, the program has expanded beyond the campus’s boarders and collects compost from 16 local businesses and hopes to soon donate produce grown in the campus garden to local non-profits.
Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-I) established a recycling program for its campus, complete with a processing facility to sort recyclables. Because BYU–I established recycling facilities before the City of Rexburg, where the University is located, had recycling infrastructure, BYU-I capitalized on the opportunity to provide recycling services to its greater community. The University leveraged the chance to collaborate with the City of Rexburg and provided use of the University’s processing facilities in exchange for the City providing recycling bins to its residents for free. The expanded recycling program created jobs for students while establishing the first recycling service to the residents of Rexburg and the residential recycling program is saving the City thousands of dollars each year in landfill fees.