UH moves toward greater environmental awareness with green initiatives
As the United States positions itself to cut powerful greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming, UH has launched numerous green initiatives to help the community cut down on negative environmental effects.
After UH received a grade of “D” on the 2008 Campus Sustainability Report Card issued by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the University changed its approach to sustainability. Since then, UH has installed 300 outdoor recycling bins, tray-less dining in the campus dining halls and a broader “green movement” throughout the UH community.
In 2008, UH participated in RecycleMania to help raise awareness about recycling and its green initiatives. Among participating institutions, UH ranked third in accumulating the most recyclable trash, according to UH Plant Operations.
UH first established its Campus Sustainability policy in 2009, which committed the University to follow campus sustainability guidelines from the UH Board of Regents and the UH Sustainability Taskforce. The sustainability priorities for 2014 and 2015 include projects for sustainability in the workplace, energy management, reduced water use and integrated solid waste management. The University also hopes to engage active student learning, outreach and education.
When it comes to energy management, the University wants to establish a goal for reduced building energy use intensity. This means reduced electricity use for the campus with adjustments in response to weather conditions, a reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions and development of a capital plan for the University’s central utility plants.
In the initiative to reduce water use, UH plans to reduce grounds-associate water consumption, prepare to reduce building-associated water consumption, support University stormwater management and innovate the central plants to reduce infrastructure-associated water use.
The drought of 2010 and 2011 altered the approach of facilities management in regards to grounds care. Irrigation now occurs every two to three days, and UH’s use of mulch has increased in terms of volume. To counteract this, the University will analyze the activity to formulate a plan to reduce campus water use in the building, grounds and infrastructure.
According to UH Sustainability, as of April 2014, an additional 86 BigBelly solar compacting recycling and waste bins were installed. This aids in reducing our greenhouse emissions by reducing the amount of trips to empty the bins, and each bin displays real-time data about its current free capacity.
Houston Public Media reported that each bin fits five times more trash than a regular bin, and it sends a wireless signal to the monitors when they hit full capacity.
“I see recycling bins everywhere,” said hotel restaurant management senior Shining Wang. “At the UH Hilton Hotel, there’s plenty of recycling. I recycle copies of The Cougar when I finish reading them.”
With 61 new water bottle filling stations around campus, UH has reduced its carbon footprint within the community. Wang said that UH does a great job of promoting Cougar spirit as well as being environmentally friendly using the tumblers and the water refill stations.
“I recycle paper, plastic, glass and aluminum. I see most students and professors recycling their water bottles,” said psychology sophomore Tuyen Dihn. “I refill my tumbler at the water refill station every day.”
Over the summer, 244 new LED lights were installed inside Fresh Food Company in Moody Towers. According to UH Plant Operations, the new lights are expected to save money on energy, have longer longevity and reduce the use of air conditioning.
Lighting in the UC Satellite and Campus Recreation and Wellness Center were also changed, but visitors are unlikely to notice because the light output is similar.
“As a University, with the help of UH Sustainability, we are aware of the green initiatives and are more than willing to take part in the movement,” said mathematics senior Meghan Meriano. “It helps that there are recycling bins next to the trash bins so it’s convenient for people to dispose of trash and recycle at once.”
Meriano said that she hasn’t seen much about water conservation or water recycling, but that she believes it that increase the University’s ranking as a environmentally friendly campus.
The increase in recycling, integrated solid waste management and the reduction of energy and water use will continue to improve UH’s environmental footprint. With water use reduction in the University’s plan for 2014 and 2015, UH is primed to increase its rank as an environmentally conscious university.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected]