Southern Utah University has been named the 2011 Outstanding Green Business of the Year by the Cedar City Area Chamber of Commerce. This award is given annually to individuals, businesses and organizations that make extraordinary efforts to improve the community and the environment through the use of sustainable practices.
SUU president Michael Benson will accept the at the 61st annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Thursday, January 12, though he credits campus-wide efforts, led by the recently established SUU Center for Sustainability, for the University’s standout success.
Established in 2011, the Center for Sustainability serves as point of contact and leader for the campus and community on environmental issues. The Center provides general information, conducts seminars on environmentally friendly practices, educates the general public concerning sustainability concepts and coordinates activities with local recycling groups.
It has also fast become a central drop-off point for the recycling of all materials, with the exception of glass.
In the past five years, such efforts have made a noticeable and positive change on the campus and across SUU’s surrounding community. However, Denise Tomer, coordinator for SUU Sustainability, says that the past year has shown the most effective and widespread changes.
Said Tomer, “Our recycling program has really taken off. In six months, we have accomplished everything that it has taken other Utah universities five years to do.”
Tomer credits SUU’s fast strides to a strong commitment at all levels of University administration to improving the University’s environmental efforts. Said Tomer, “Funding in such matters is a huge issue. Everyone wants to do right by the environment, but it is a very expensive undertaking.”
According to Tomer, the cost for a single recycling bin can run anywhere from $20 to $400. She adds, “It is not as simple as determining where bins should be placed; we have to find money to place every receptacle. And since recycling generally only works among the general public if it is convenient, we have to have a strong presence across campus – pretty much everywhere there is a garbage can as alternate. This is a challenge because garbage cans are much less expensive.”
In the fall 2011 semester, SUU Sustainability placed over 50 new bins around campus. And that is just the beginning. They also increased their workforce from one recycling assistant to three and have added a mixed materials compactor.
Tomer and her colleagues look forward to the increased information they will be able to gather with the new compactor, which allows for the processing of all materials except glass. They will soon begin weighing total recycled materials, which Tomer anticipates “will be very helpful as the University establishes new benchmarks and better charts the completion of [its] goals.”
Above all, Tomer says they have “really been headstrong on making it easy for people to do the right thing.”
In addition to increasing recycling drop-off points, both large and small, the University has improved water efficiency with the installation of xeriscaping and drought tolerant plants; waterless urinals; a Maxi-com irrigation system that waters only when necessary; and heightened new construction standards for water efficiency.
SUU has decreased fuel consumption, thanks to an increase in campus-wide carpooling and video conferencing. It has also reduced harmful air emissions through a preventative maintenance program that ensures all mechanical equipment is running as efficiently as possible. The heightened standard building and maintenance practices, along with recent campus emission reports and an aggressive plan to plant 50 new trees on campus each year, all illustrate air quality as one of SUU’s top priorities.
More broadly, the University has increased renewable energy and conservation projects, including the heightened use of solar power, LED and CFL light fixtures, steam powered condensate pumps, light retrofitting and facility upgrades for maximum operational efficiency, utility tracking by building, smart lighting controls, and reduced steam pressure.
Tomer views the Chamber’s recognition as “proof positive that we are changing the culture across campus and the community when it comes to recycling and sustainability.”
Tomer anticipates 2012 will bring more of the same in terms of sustainability successes. She says they will continue to promote recycling as a community drop-off point for everything from old cell phones, batteries and toner cartridges to cardboard and plastic.
The Center also plans to increase its education component through assemblies within local schools, community classes and outreach programs and campus events and recycling campaigns to continue shifting habits for the better.
Given this focus on community inclusiveness, Tomer encourages campus and community members to contact SUU Sustainability anytime with questions and suggestions through firstname.lastname@example.org or 435-586-7828.