Green initiatives are becoming increasingly popular in our society. Green products, green buildings and environmentally-conscious groups are everywhere. Major corporations are taking green initiatives very seriously and taking great strides to go green for their consumers and employees. Academic institutions play a major role in our communities and it’s important for universities and colleges to also recognize their role in our environment. IUP, along with many other universities around the country, are beginning to look at ways to be more environmentally-conscious.
There are many ways that IUP can become a greener campus without inconveniencing the student population. It’s important for the University to engage the students in their greening initiatives to be successful in their efforts. One way universities around the country are becoming green is by constructing LEED certified buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED certified buildings use key resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings which are simply built to code.
LEED certified buildings have healthier work and living environments, which contributes to higher productivity and improved health and comfort. For example, at Duke University many dormitories called Smart Homes were built. These Smart Homes received a LEED’s platinum rating which is the highest possible rating a green building can get. These buildings have multiple features that cut uses and costs of energy as well as make for a greener environment. The building starts off with a green roof. In the case of the Smart Home, the green roof is populated with sedums that are low maintenance and drought resistant.
The green roof prevents heat gain, increases evaporation which creates a cooling effect on building, and buffers rain water so that it does not run off-site rapidly carrying pollutants. The Smart Home also has a built in irrigation system. The irrigation system for the Smart Home uses 100% captured rainwater.
This guarantees that no public water will ever be used to water vegetation on the Smart Home site. The rainwater is collected from roof run-off and stored in two 1000-gallon storage tanks for later use.In addition to these features the Smart Home is equipped with Photovoltaic Panels, the energy generated by the panels is connected to the public power grid and puts energy back onto the grid for use by the home and the neighbors. The panels also reduce total energy consumed by the Smart Home by approximately 30%.
Not only is the Smart Home environmentally beneficial after it is built, it recycles while it is being built. All waste generated at the Smart Home site during construction is placed in a single bin for convenience.When the bin is collected, it is taken to a sorting facility where the waste is separated into disposables and recyclables. Using this process more than half of the total waste is being diverted from landfills. The Smart Home is one example of a major university taking a great step to go green.
Here at IUP, there are many smaller initiatives the student body can launch to be more conscious of our environment. One consumer product that almost every student at IUP has is a cellular phone. Students go through cellular phones almost once a year in most cases.As electronics increasingly become part of the throw away culture in many developed countries, amounts of e-waste have dramatically increased while solutions have often lagged far behind. Less than 20 percent of all E-waste is recycled. There are many toxic chemicals in cell phones which make it very dangerous to the environment to feel our land fills with cell phones. A way to control E-waste in our community, IUP could hold monthly cell phone drives where students would bring there old broken cell phones to be recycled.Almost all of the materials used to manufacture a cell phone can be recovered to make new products.
Metals, plastics, batteries and the packaging materials can be recycled and turned into new products. Cell phones contain a number of different metals – gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, copper, tin, lead, brass and zinc – that can be extracted and recovered in the recycling process. Not only are there things that our school can do to contribute to the environment, there are many things that we can do to make our campus a greener place.
There are numerous things that students that live off campus can do to contribute. Students can use compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. IUP is not a very large campus yet many students still drive almost everywhere they go. If students would sacrifice the 5 minute drive for a 10-15 minute walk much less gas would be used.
Bottled water is one of the most popular drinks on campus. If students buy a water purifier and a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum not plastic, it will save them money in the long and it is good for the environment.The price difference between the two is staggering, bottled water can cost anywhere from 240 to 10,000 times as much as tap water. According to the World Watch Institute, “The environmental impacts of bottled water also need to be considered. Excessive withdrawal of natural mineral water or spring water to produce bottled water has threatened local streams and groundwater aquifers. And producing, bottling, packaging, storing, and shipping bottled water uses significant amounts of energy.
In addition, millions of tons of oil-derived plastics— mostly polyethylene terephthalate (PET)— are used to make the water bottles. For these reasons, universities represent a large sector of the waste producers in this country, and they are typically some of the larger institutions in every municipality. It’s important for administrators to launch environmentally friendly initiatives for students and staff. If such initiatives are communicated effectively to the university, and students are educated on the benefits of being green, we can successfully reduce the waste in our society. If schools embrace environmentally responsible behaviors, there will be an immediate impact on its community’s contribution to the local landfill.