Going toward the green

By Amy McDonald - 7 Apr 2009
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The administration at BYU believes it has a responsibility to be wise stewards over the earth and its resources, according to the Y Facts Web site. Consequently, BYU pursues efforts toward sustainability in areas of energy conservation, building materials, recycling and water conservation.

BYU’s sustainability efforts are largely because of student involvement. Last fall, BYU Recycles, a student organization, initiated the campus-wide effort to add plastics to recyclable items. The effort saves the university thousands of dollars each year. The group also provides opportunities for students to reduce waste and consumption, according to its Web site.

BYU Sustainable Build and Design Club is a student organization with goals to educate and motivate students to become leaders in sustainable building design.

Dave Robinaugh, president of Sustainable Build and Design, said the club allows people all across campus to focus on their specific areas of expertise while working jointly with students of other niches to make the community more sustainable.

“We have a lot of different students from different backgrounds,” Robinaugh said. “Once students start thinking beyond themselves, they realize what they do as an individual or what they’re going to be doing in their careers really does have an effect on people on the other side of the world.”

James Marshall, a junior from Bountiful studying entrepreneurship and business management, took on a sustainability effort when he started the Go Green Initiative last fall. The Go Green Initiative offers curbside recycling pick-up to apartment complexes near BYU campus.

Wanting to start a small business they could run while attending school, Marshall and a friend found many BYU students feel strongly about recycling, but were frustrated at the lack of recycling services available in Utah.

“We were delighted to find an idea that has turned out to be not only a great learning experience for us, but has also benefited the community and the environment,” Marshall said.

He said although Provo offers curbside recycling pick-up with a similar monthly fee, the city’s program is not available to apartment addresses.

“If students wanted to recycle, their only option was to sort and haul their recyclables up to campus or drive them to a recycling center,” Marshall said. “A few students were motivated to do this on their own, but not many. Our goal was to make recycling as easy as possible to encourage more people to do it.”

The Go Green Initiative, also known as One Man’s Trash, serviced 95 apartments

during Fall Semester and is currently serving about 250, Marshall said. At an average of five roommates per apartment, this recycling program serves about 1,200 students.

After finishing their first semester in the business, the Initiative made a goal to recycle 20,000 pounds during Winter Semester. Marshall said they have recycled an estimated 18,000 pounds so far.

“We’ve been impressed with the effort students are willing to make in order to protect the environment,” he said. “We are also impressed with the great job BYU recycling has done on campus. It seems like there are more recycling bins than garbage cans now!”

Other student initiatives include BYU Earth and Eco-Response, similar student organizations involved in educating students, faculty and administrators about opportunities for the campus to become more sustainable.

BYU has recently adopted infrared technology, allowing physical facilities and engineers to take photographs showing building heat loss in the winter and cooling loss in the summer. This technology helps identify missing insulation, inefficient HVAC systems, radiant heating and more that cannot be seen by the naked eye, said Brooke Bancroft, HVACR automation specialist for BYU. The information attained from looking at these pictures allows the university to make buildings as energy efficient as possible.

Physical Facilities has also made a goal to dramatically reduce energy consumption in 15 major campus buildings by replacing incandescent lights with fluorescent lights, upgrading roof insulation, replacing light switches with motion sensors and other measures.

Randy Heward, supervisor of the electric shop at BYU, said one of the biggest sustainability changes being implemented on campus is switching older lights with newer, more energy-efficient ones. The university has already done this in the Wilkinson Student Center, which has saved between 25 and 30 percent of that building’s power bill.

Heward also said his department is encouraging other departments to turn off computers at night.

“Anything we can conserve, like turning off computers or lights, can help us,” Heward said.

The university has made an effort to purchase energy-efficient materials including biodegradable soaps and cleansers, environmentally friendly custodial supplies, paint, carpet and furniture that reduce landfill impact.

Dining Services is also

integrating locally grown and organic foods as well as recycling food waste and offering “greenware” — biodegradable plates and flatware — to

customers. The Blue Line Deli, for example, uses only

zero-waste, biodegradable plates and napkins.

BYU also recycles cardboard, materials from building

demolitions, food waste, used grease and oil, plastic, carpet, sawdust, paper products, batteries, toner cartridges, newspapers, steel and chemical waste.

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