Southeastern committee works to expand green efforts on campus
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
by: Tonya Lowentritt
HAMMOND – A Southeastern Louisiana University committee originally charged with
tackling litter on campus, has now taken on the task of expanding green efforts across
From the new geothermal energy projects on campus to wind turbines at Southeastern’s Sustainability Center, green efforts have taken center stage.
“This is a perfect example of what makes Southeastern so special,” said President John L. Crain. “I convened a group to combat litter. They not only addressed that issue, but also then began exploring ways to expand involvement and nurture a culture of conservatism across campus. Southeastern’s students, faculty and staff always go above and beyond. This is but one instance.”
With student organizations such as Reconnect and the Student Government Association leading the way, students are helping promote the use of refillable water bottles, new additions of recycling bins across campus, and adoption of community garden plots on the grounds at the Sustainability Center.
Southeastern students were also among the first to call for retrofitting old water fountains as reusable water bottle stations. Garrett Hall, D Vickers Hall, Dyson Hall, the Biology Building, Sims Memorial Library, Pennington Student Activity Center, North Campus main building, the Student Union and University Center are all now home to new stations with plans to convert all 117 remaining water fountains over time.
After conducting a survey of student perceptions regarding litter and conservation efforts on campus, committee members drew from the responses and added 30 new trash receptacles to parking lots and a few other campus locations identified as “litter hot spots.” Additionally, 40 more blue outdoor recycling cans were added to the campus mix. These complement the 130 indoor recycling bins for paper and cardboard distributed throughout campus buildings.
Southeastern has been focusing on conservation efforts for a while now. Since beginning single-stream recycling in 2012, the university has recycled 255.94 tons of paper, plastics and metal cans. Approximately 99.185 tons of cardboard have been recycled since Southeastern installed a cardboard baler in 2013. And, since collaborating with Print Cartridge Recyclers of America in 2014, the university has collected approximately 5.17 tons of used print cartridges and packaging for recycling.
The committee will continue to meet and has plans to look into such things as possibly partnering with campus food service provider Aramark on composting, providing vehicle trash bags to reduce litter in parking lots, coordinating “Clean Up” days for campus buildings and outdoor areas and making sure trash containers are available for all special events hosted on campus.
Southeastern’s Sustainability Center was created in order to save operating dollars and reduce waste going to landfills, while at the same time providing an invaluable learning component for students involved in energy, mechanical and construction engineering technology.
Among the elements of the Sustainability Center are solar panels on a number of university buildings that generate hot water, as well as electricity; a strong recycling program designed to reduce waste going to landfills by 80 percent; a tree and plant farm, in which the university cultivates its own plants and trees for landscaping on campus; a composting area that converts landscape waste into useable mulch and compost; and rainwater retention ponds that provide irrigation for plants and support a geothermal system for one of the center’s technology-rich classrooms.
Southeastern is undergoing the final phase of a student housing project that has been identified as the second largest project involving a hybrid geothermal energy system in the entire nation. Once complete, a total of 220 geothermal wells are anticipated to reduce energy costs by more than 50 percent. At the same time, they will also serve as a learning laboratory for real world experiences for Southeastern students in a variety of disciplines.
This ambitious construction project is the latest in a long line of efficiencies executed on campus with the lofty goal of becoming 30 percent “off the grid” by 2025.
Southeastern’s efforts extend beyond campus as well. This year marks the 24th straight year that Southeastern has conducted its recycled Christmas tree program. The discarded Christmas trees are deployed in Manchac and used for a wetland restoration rather than throwing them out with the trash. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program since that time.
For more information about Southeastern’s ongoing green efforts, go to southeastern.edu/admin/phys_plant/green/index.html.