Food scraps from the Zorn Dining Commons used for compost, water-saving bathroom fixtures, a Reuse Room for recycled school supplies, presidential council devoted to sustainability, steam-heat plant, grounds department that uses minimal chemicals and pesticides and plans to install solar panels on the TDS Center roof: check, check and check. With the preceding list of initiatives Keene State College has tackled in recent years, it’s no surprise that the college took part in The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Tenth Annual Campus Sustainability Day Wednesday, Oct. 24.
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This day is set aside for college and university campuses to celebrate strides made in the area of sustainability and focus in on what’s needed to maintain the momentum. According to Eco-Rep Chelsea Shirshac, going green has broken into the mainstream, and is “becoming a trend” – a trend that KSC has been on the forefront of. KSC Sustainability Officer Mary Jensen called KSC “progressive,” and said for a small state college with limited resources, we do really well, and we’re able to manage a lot of the campus’ operations in a sustainable way. Jensen said KSC offers an incredible number of classes that either directly or indirectly relate to sustainability. She also said the student population is actively involved in the college’s sustainability efforts through the campus’ recycling program and working as Eco-Reps.
For Campus Sustainability Day, Jensen and KSC’s Eco-Reps lined the first floor of the student center with tables, offering eco-trivia, green home cleaning tips, bottled water vs. filtered water testings, information on organic food (with free samples), recycled newspaper gift basket making lessons and more. Eco-Reps are students with an interest in the environment who spread information regarding sustainability with students, faculty and staff on campus. Eco-Reps apply for the paid position and give presentations in residence halls, similar to the ones given in the student center on Campus Sustainability Day.
Eco-Rep Kim Christel said most of their events try to make people aware of what the consequences of their actions are. She said awareness is the area in which we could improve most. She cited a recent incident in her dorm where someone threw away an entire plastic bag full of empty water bottles. “Oh my god, who did this!” she cried, and proceeded to remove the bag from the trash and recycle the bottles.
This past April, KSC was recognized in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.
The dining commons plays a monumental part in the campus’ total waste, making up about a third. However in an attempt to reduce their ecological impact, the DC is currently composting all of their pre-plate scraps (waste produced while cooking) and hopes to compost 100 percent of their waste (including students’ leftovers) in the near future.
Jensen said they already tried composting all waste from the DC. However, they attempted to do so during 90-degree weather and ran into problems with maggots within three or four days, which forced them to pull the dumpster. Jensen said they will try to go full scale again around Thanksgiving. Learning from their past experience, they plan to use a number of smaller dumpsters compared to one large one, and empty it more frequently. “The dining commons has been great, they’re very concerned about making sure that everything is clean and that we do it well; we respect that a great deal. They’re very supportive of the project idea, and committed to moving forward on it,” Jensen said.
As well as tackling the big issues, such as the DC’s output, KSC is becoming ever more scrupulous with smaller forms of waste as well. KSC has replaced some urinals on campus which used a gallon and a half of water per flush with models that use one pint, according to the Chief Supervisor of Plumbing and Heating, Bill Rymes. The college is also saving water by renovating a number of the bathrooms in residential halls with less wasteful shower heads and toilets. KSC even incorporates sustainability into its recreational activities such as this years Pumpkin Lobotomy, where they composted the guts of 1,500 pumpkins that students carved for Pumpkin Fest.
According to Eco-Rep William Lorenzen, Hoot n’ Scoot uses about 6,000 water bottles daily. However Randal Hall recently installed a water bottle refill station, and Lorenzen said if all goes well there, Residential Life will consider placing them in all the residential buildings on campus, which will likely reduce that number.
Eric Walker can be contacted at email@example.com