A Greener Future for the University
What I’d like to see in the future is a more sustainable campus. I realize the university has already set sustainability goals targeting climate change and energy consumption (http://facilities.vt.edu/sustainability/climate-action-commitment.html), but given the importance of moving towards a more sustainable future, I don’t think it’d hurt to reaffirm. The university should lead by example and is a prime setting for adopting more sustainable practices.
Some specific implementations I would like to see:
- staff training for proper waste sorting; the different waste bins are already in place, but the human implementations also have to be educated and complementary
- reducing paper towel waste in bathrooms especially in old buildings
- pool heating and other energy requirements fulfilled using renewable energy sources
- building retrofits
- greater rewards and incentives for transportation sharing to/from school
- rooftop gardens, which reduces runoff and could be used as leisure space for students and staff
April 22, 2017 @ 10:48 am
I agree that sustainability is crucial, and universities have a good opportunity to use best practices when it comes to sustainability, since students are often very passionate about these issues. When I was in undergrad, the students were always trying to push the administration to become more sustainable and I think a lot of concrete progress was made! By the time I left, students had to specifically ask to get to-go containers from dining halls (rather than have them be freely available), and an on-campus community garden was thriving.
September 23, 2017 @ 1:07 am
This is an interesting mix of institutional and “human factor” recommendations. The institutional recommendations are great, but we all know infrastructure investments take time and money to implement. I’ve lately been interested in the many ways we can ‘nudge’ people into more sustainable behaviour with low-cost, high-impact usability interventions.
1) You have separate waste bins, but does everyone know what kinds of trash go into which bins? For instance, most people know that aluminium cans and printer paper are recyclable, but is a napkin recyclable, or compostable? Is a styrofoam container recyclable? What about coffee cup lids? UofT recently started adding stickers on each of the bins with pictures of common items that would go into them. So if you’re not sure, check the picture!
2) Dryers are optimal, of course, but there are also simple human factor approaches. This is a really popular one: http://thesecomefromtrees.blogspot.ca/ Petition your university to add these or similar stickers to all the paper towel dispensers.
5) Transportation sharing: the university (or a campus group) could potentially provide designated parking, discounted parking or parking vouchers for carpool drivers. They can create and maintain a website or app for students/staff to find rideshares or partners for carpooling. They can encourage carshare programs like Zipcar by providing parking lots to these companies, or negotiating discounted signups and rates.
The above are intended as a few examples, but hopefully this helps think about how one can nudge or gamify improvements.
September 25, 2017 @ 10:30 am
I like the idea of building a more sustainable environment here at VT. Yes, absolutely, we face a number of different types of waste when on campus, and I definitely think the school could lead by example. I think you offer some interesting ways of doing so, such as the building retrofits and waste-sorting training. That said, I think more emphasis needs to be placed on better management and renovation of existing structures to facilitate sustainability. For example, my office is in Lane Hall. I understand it is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – structure on campus, and it shows. The building (I’m told it was a stable at one point (and it smells like it)) is literally crumbling – a portion of the ceiling in the ASPECT computer lab collapsed last year. While I acknowledge the need for the university to improve overall efficiency and to construct attractive new buildings to lure prospective undergrad/grad students (the new Sasaki Master Plan promises to do so), the university would *also* do well to take stock of the literal and figurative crumbling infrastructure that exists around campus.