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Green Efforts Gaining Traction at University University News
By Greg Russell

It may seem like a small effort, but the Styrofoam cup that Kay Brackley foregoes each day in favor of her own coffee mug is a large symbol that faculty and staff at the University of Memphis realize the importance of going green.

“As an individual, I am concerned about the environment I leave to my children,” said Brackley, administrative secretary in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics. “As the population expands, our individual efforts become more important. Recycling and reducing our ecological footprint will become more and more critical.” With roughly 240 workdays in a year, that artificial material Brackley saves from not using Styrofoam would stretch longer than a football field.

Brackley hasn’t lost sight of the U of M’s responsibility either: “Since this is a learning institution, we are role models.”

The University is taking an active role in creating a more sustainable community. A Campus Sustainability Committee has been formed and will serve as a command post that guides the U of M into a greener future.

With the current budget crisis, something as simple as switching off a computer at night not only means a greener campus, it saves dollars.

“I turn my computer off every night before I leave; I leave as many lights off during the work day as possible,” said Elizabeth Vollmer, secretary in the Department of Chemistry. “I recycle every single ink and toner cartridge in the department and I use e-mail notifications instead of sending out paper memos – I try to make this department as paperless as possible.”

The Center for Multimedia Arts in the FedEx Institute of Technology has also become “greener” and “cooler.”

Technology has also become “greener” and “cooler.” “We have added a new cooler and greener — but not greenish — high-output fluorescent lighting setup for our video/multimedia studio,” said Eric Wilson, multimedia producer/director in the Center. “The CMA has cut power consumption dramatically, decreased the burden on the air-conditioning system and made the studio cooler for the people on camera.”

This Week, the University’s internal faculty and staff newsletter, recently switched from hardcopy to online. “We went green to save on costs and to also be more eco-friendly,” said This Week editor Sara Hoover.

According to Hoover, going online saves about 118,000 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper annually.

On the academic side, Donalyn Heise, assistant professor of art, said she thinks of sustainability when teaching her classes.

“I teach art education majors, and my ‘methods’ class includes training these pre-service teachers how to teach art with no budget,” Heise said. “We create sculpture with found objects, and engage in dialogue about reuse and repurposing of materials, as well as its benefits for teaching at-risk youth. Transforming discarded items into a work of art is an important concept for students.”

A number of other efforts are underway as well. A new Physical Plant computer-driven pumping system that was recently introduced is expected to save the University more than $400,000 a year.

The new women’s dorm that will replace West Hall will meet LEED Silver Standards in terms of sustainability and design.

The well-publicized Terra House in downtown Memphis is near completion. Designed by the U of M’s Center for Sustainable Design, the goal of architects is to produce a “healthy, high-performance house that embodies the principles of sustainable design and is complimentary to the neighborhood context.”

Last spring, the U of M partnered with Apple Computer to collect tons of old electronic equipment during a citywide “electronics recycling day.”

Sustainability Committee Developing Strategic Plan

Just over a year ago, Dr. Shirley Raines, on behalf of the U of M, signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which signifies a university’s commitment to addressing environmental challenges.

“We want to become a leader in sustainable technologies and practices, acting as a model for the community,” Raines said at the time.

Since then, the U of M has formed a Sustainability Committee. The 14-person committee is currently developing a campus-wide plan that will serve as the central administrative mechanism through which the U of M will seek to become a leader in sustainability.

“We envision a student and faculty/staff body that supports and participates in campus sustainability efforts,” said Dr. David Cox, Sustainability Committee chair.

The committee is developing a strategic plan to expand on current campus efforts to become sustainable, assist the integration of sustainability into campus policies and curriculum, support the development of an environmentally conscious culture on campus and work with the greater Memphis community to foster sustainability initiatives.

The committee will also encourage innovative interdisciplinary research that advances knowledge about becoming greener. Campus and building design, recycling, ecology, carbon emissions and energy consumption also will fall under the auspices of the committee.

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Last Updated: 10/3/12