Sustainability by the Numbers
Assessing our progress towards making our campus a more sustainable place to learn, live and work often involves a lot of number crunching to see what quantitative reductions we’ve made in any number of different metrics. The goal of this Sustainability newsletter is to share some of these numbers to show the progress we’ve made and some of the challenges we still face.
Paper Use – We use less paper and better paper
Paper use on campus has decreased substantially over the past several years due to an increased reliance on electronic communication and access to appropriate tools to reduce paper use (copiers that allow scan to email; Moodle; PeopleSoft, tablet laptops etc.). As shown below, we use 33% less paper now than five years ago, and we’ve transitioned to buying and using paper that has more than 75% post-consumer recycled content. The info graphic shows the impact of our paper use in terms of readily understood systems. The smaller numbers for 2013 shows that we are saving a lot of trees and energy with the paper changes we have already accomplished!
Yearly SAVINGS - 2013 versus 2008
- 490 trees
- Energy use equivalent
of 5 houses
- Greenhouse gas emissions
equivalent to 7 cars
- Particulate matter emission
equivalent to 9 buses
Saving paper can be hard. We learned through the recent Print-Free Day that paper based homework assignments are still demanded by most instructors and there are paper intensive operations for which electronic approaches do not exist. But Print-Free Day did have an impact! Printing on the networked library and computer room printers was 60% less than the average daily paper use for the rest of the work week. Although it is acknowledged that there were some computer queue snafus that helped reducing the amount of printing, many people commented on their successful efforts to find alternative means to accomplish their tasks without printing.
We generate a lot of waste!
Trash on the Lawn Day on October 23rd really showed the amount of waste that we generate on campus. And most of it is related to Food. Food packaging, to-go boxes and cups, and food waste comprise a very large fraction of our campus’ waste stream.
But we need to eat! You can all do your part by participating in the new re-useable To-Go boxes, bring your own coffee cup, or re-fill your water bottle with healthy water rather than buying a soda. And most importantly, food can be eaten rather than tossed out! The amount of food waste found in the trash was substantial – over 1/3rd of the total weight of material sorted.
Anaerobic Digester – Can help to reduce impacts of food waste
Food waste can have some value when we use it to feed our anaerobic digester. Food from the Cheel Kitchen is feed daily to the digester to produce methane-rich biogas. The digester was feed an average of 138 lb/d of food waste in October. It is rated to handle 650 lb/d, so there is substantial capacity to divert more food waste from the landfill-bound trash to the digester. This will not only reduce cost and environmental impact associated with the landfill, it will also enable sufficient biogas generation to effectively make electricity and heat for the system. Students continue to work to find better ways to collect and transport food waste to the digester, operate the digester in an efficient manner, and convert the biogas to electricity and heat energy. Lots of learning and systems management is needed to make the most of the digester as a great campus resource.
Energy Efficiency Measures Make a Difference
The Campus Facilities Department under the Direction of Ian Hazen and now with the help of University Engineer Mike Tremper has been working hard to improve the efficiency of energy and water use in our buildings. We have added building area over the last several years, but the energy use has remained fairly constant. Improvements to the housing and lighting across campus have reduced our electricity use on a per square foot basis by 19% between 2007 and 2013. Water use has decreased by 32% over the same period! More efficient washing machines, low flow shower heads and sink aerators have all helped to improve the efficiency of our water use. The low flow sink aerators were installed by members of the SYNERGY Club, with the support of a grant from the Sustainability Fund and the NYSP2I Go Green on Campus competition.