Keene State College currently has a silver S.T.A.R.S (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System) rating granted by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). Keene State College’s new Sustainability Director, Carry Gaunt, is eager to make that silver star gold.
“We take great pride in that we’ve gotten the silver rating…What makes me excited is that the college as a whole wants to go for gold,” Gaunt said.
Gaunt stepped in to fill the position which has been empty for just over a year. This is only her fourth week on campus, but she already has plans for Keene State.
“In terms of what I’ll be doing is trying to figure out how to create a culture of sustainability across the whole campus and infuse all areas of the campus from academics and student life,” she said.
Gaunt plans on doing this by expanding student involvement and the Eco-Reps program. According
to their website, the Eco-Rep mission is to teach students how their choices affect the environment and to promote environmental stewardship.
“Most of the other colleges that are in our peer group and that are our size have eco-reps, so a lot don’t have them, so we’re ahead of the game…we have nine right now and most of our peer group would have between fifteen and twenty,” Gaunt said.
Aside from expanding the Eco-Reps, Gaunt hopes to make existing programs such as Green Bikes more visible throughout campus. Gaunt wants to know what sustainability means to the faculty and students of KSC and what it’ll take for people to get seriously involved in it.
“I believe in shared leadership and shared discussion,” Gaunt said.
According to Keene State’s climate action plan, the ultimate goal of campus sustainability is to achieve zero waste – an ambitious goal. Keene State is currently working towards that goal by building eco-friendly academic buildings such as the TDS Center and the program known as Recycling on Campus Keene State, or R.O.C.K.S.
R.O.C.K.S. began as a largely student run organization in the 1970’s and achieved recognition and funding in 1986.
Keene State’s recycling coordinator, Heather Greenwood, has done some serious overhauls to make the program more efficient.
“The biggest overhaul was with the staff,” Greenwood said. “We didn’t do the buildings as frequently as we do now, we didn’t have uniforms…there wasn’t a really big training process…and the crew grows so close together and that makes it so much more efficient.”
R.O.C.K.S. is responsible for removing and properly disposing of all recyclable materials on Keene State’s campus. This includes but is not limited to materials such as aluminum and plastics, paper, cardboard and food waste.
In addition to cutting down on waste, recycling also helps the school save money.
It currently costs $120 to dispose of one ton of waste. This means for each ton of material the college recycles it saves $120 on disposal fees.
“It’s the highest (cost) I’ve ever heard,” Greenwood said.
One of the short term goals for R.O.C.K.S. is to make post-consumer compost disposal a possibility, Greenwood said.
R.O.C.K.S. employee Chris Stienbeiser described his work experience.
“R.O.C.K.S. is pretty good, it’s not too bad of a work environment and you get to teach people how to reduce reuse and recycle, so that’s good,” Stienbeiser said.
According to R.O.C.K.S. records Keene State disposed of 241 tons of recyclable materials July 2014- July 2015, 149 tons of it being corrugated cardboard and mixed paper which ended up saving the school $17,880.
During the same period Keene State disposed 675 tons of garbage, totaling approximately $91,000 in removal costs.
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