By Kelline Linton, Staff Writer
Stephanie is the typical 20-year-old college student at ACU. She mostly walks to class, drives her car on the weekends, eats at least two meals a day at the Bean and lives in a two-person room in Sikes Hall.
She saves her water bottles and remembers to toss her exams into the paper-recycling bin. But according to her ecological footprint, just to sustain her and all the resources she consumes, Stephanie would still need nine acres.
An ecological footprint measures the human demand on nature by comparing consumption of natural resources with the Earth’s capacity to regenerate them. If every person was like Stephanie, a hypothetical college student, the human race would need two planets to produce all the resources consumed; however, the average person in the United States is not a typical Stephanie. According to the Redefining Progress Web site, most Americans for sustainability require 24 acres.
If an ecological footprint was taken for all of ACU students, faculty, staff and machinery, four planets might be needed to sustain such a community. But the administration’s recent lean toward greener initiatives has led to a reassessment of the campus’ impact on the environment.
-The Carbon footprint-
A carbon footprint is a measurement that determines the environmental impact based on the amount of carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gases, produced. The footprint considers the release of carbon dioxide by direct emissions (from energy used in house and through transportation) and indirect emissions (as the result of goods and services consumed).
Some scientists theorize greenhouse gases keep the warmth of the sun trapped in the atmosphere around the Earth causing overall climate warming.
“As carbon levels increase in the atmosphere, so have temperature numbers,” said Jim Cooke, co-chair of the ACU Environmental Task Force and professor of environmental science.
Cooke is leading this semester’s project to calculate ACU’s total carbon footprint by determining an energy and emissions inventory through utility bills, gasoline intake and historical records dating back to 2000. He is focusing primarily on consumed fuels.
“When you burn a gallon of gasoline, you put 22 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere,” said Cooke.
ACU uses electricity that is a 100 percent non-renewable product, Cooke said. “The question is how efficient are we with our use in this energy,” he said.
The purpose of ACU’s carbon footprint evaluation is to develop a baseline for reassessing energy consumption.
“We have a very disposable society,” Cooke said. “We need to think in terms of how we can make our world better.”
Cooke is using the free services of the Clean Air Cool Planet Web site for university- wide calculations and will have a report for the administration by summer break that will help determine how ACU can save resources through more efficient means.
-Current Environmental Savings-
In recent years ACU has placed a focus on green initiatives in construction, outside maintenance and indoor conservation to save energy and resources.
Recycling parking lot asphalt from the recently renovated Campus Center and Mabee/Edwards parking lots saved more than 2,000 cubic yards of asphalt, while the environmentally friendly asphalt AEP used in the construction prevented the toxic chemical kerosene from being introduced into the environment.
Physical Resources recently replaced most maintenance trucks with ‘Gators’ and electric carts that conserve more than 3,170 gallons of gasoline per year. These vehicles also produce low carbon emissions.
Maintenance employees recycle used oil from university vehicles, saving 425 gallons per year from waste disposal.
Energy efficient indoor lighting fixtures introduced throughout ACU save approximately 1.2 million kilowatt-hours per year in electrical usage.
The campus-wide recycling program started in 1999 collects more than 5,000 bags of paper, cans and bottles annually. The campus also uses natural fertilizers and reusable water, and the new front-load washers in the residence halls save about 675,000 gallons of water per year.
These steps are only the beginning for a university that is
constantly focusing on a greener future.
-Future Environmental Savings-
This semester ACU will launch a pilot recycling program in several offices on campus where employees will have the opportunity to separate paper and plastic into provided receptacle bins.
The university’s next step is to expand to students, said Bob Nevill, director of physical resources. As freshmen and sophomores move in and out of residence halls in the future, the administration is working to recycle the inevitably large number of disposed cardboard boxes.
Administration may consider campus-wide recycling in the future, said Monty Lynn, cochair of the ACU Environmental Task Force and professor of management. “We could also offer increased courses and academic programs that address creation care and sustainability [for students],” Lynn said.
Another “green” focus for the university is conservation design in the construction projects around campus. ACU is remodeling the dining area of the Bean this summer and is considering environmentally friendly steps to take.
Some university kitchens use a machine that compacts food waste by removing all the liquids and cubing the leftovers for use as a compostable product. Although physical resources sees this as a next step in recycling, “we’re challenged right now to control our budgets carefully so that constrains us a bit in what we can do and how quickly,” Nevill said. “We have to start fairly small and grow from there.”
Administration also contracted consulting engineers last fall to access the efficiency of the Central Plant’s use of energy. This facility consumes 30 percent of the power and natural gas on campus. “Any savings there is very significant,” Nevill said.
ACU continues to hire commercial vendors with environmentally friendly policies when available but is limited by economics, Nevill said.
“Is it worthwhile? Absolutely. Our challenge is to figure out how,” Nevill said.
With ACU focused on implementing more environmentally friendly programs in the near future, the upcoming 21st century student will encounter greater opportunities for conservation and savings.
Matt is the typical 20-yearold college student at ACU five years from now. He mostly walks to class, drives his car on the weekends, eats at least two meals a day at the Bean and lives in a two-person room at Edwards Hall.
According to his ecological footprint, Matt would need four acres to sustain himself and all the resources he consumes. If every person was like Matt, the human race would need 1.25 planets, not two. The difference between him and Stephanie – a greener campus.