By Brian Boyd
Standard-Times staff writer
October 20, 2008
(Reprinted from the Standard Times)
DARTMOUTH - UMass Dartmouth is trying to practice what it teaches.
The university is boosting its recycling program, assessing its energy consumption and eyeing alternative energy sources. The activities are tied to sustainability, an approach defined as meeting current needs without hurting future generations' ability to meet their needs.
UMass Dartmouth offers a minor degree in sustainability, which is designed to educate students in other fields, from business to engineering, in the practice.
"That's very exciting, because there aren't many universities with sustainability minors or programs focused on sustainability," said Susan Jennings, director of the university's Office of Campus and Community Sustainability.
The university is working to create a master's program in the next few years.
Earlier this month, UMass Dartmouth was a recipient of the 2008 Leading by Example Awards, which are given by the Patrick administration to state agencies, municipal governments, and public universities and colleges. The awards recognize efforts in energy efficiency and other environmentally friendly initiatives.
UMass Dartmouth was lauded for a variety of efforts, including the creation of the sustainability office and its recycling and solid waste programs that cut solid waste removal by 550 tons in 2007 at a projected annual cost savings of $41,000, according to the news release.
UMass Dartmouth expanded its recycling starting in July through a partnership with the town of Dartmouth and the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District, said David Ferguson, the university's director of facilities.
"We all win," Mr. Ferguson said.
The refuse district paid for new recycling containers used to transport materials. The town bought bins for campus offices, and it trucks the materials to the recycling facility. The town keeps the money it earns from selling the recyclable materials and makes a profit, Mr. Ferguson said.
In another green move, custodial services have been switching toward more environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals and have almost completed the transition. Using less harsh cleaning agents improves air quality in the buildings.
Recently, the sustainability office held a farmers market on campus. Buying local helps the environment by avoiding the consumption of energy to ship food products thousands of miles, Ms. Jennings said.
Ms. Jennings said sustainability is a step forward in the environmental movement, balancing ecological needs with economic reality and social justice.
It provides a bridge to a future free of fossil fuels. The economy is now based on cheap energy, but cheap energy will no longer be available, she said.
Looking ahead, the university is conducting a comprehensive assessment of sustainability on the campus, analyzing the consumption of water, energy and food and considering ways to reduce the "carbon footprint," a measure of greenhouse gases produced, Ms. Jennings said.
Students in an undergraduate class on campus sustainability are helping out by counting light switches in classrooms and reviewing water bills. The study will be completed next spring, she said.
UMass Dartmouth also carried out over the summer a "green roof" pilot program, testing the feasibility of using plants on roofs as a way to insulate buildings and filter rain water. They placed on a roof different plants in trays with different roofing materials. Any actual installation of green roofs would be down the road.
Another possibility being explored by the university is construction of a wind turbine. They plan to set up a meteorological tower with instruments to measure wind speed, a necessary step to determine whether there is enough wind to make the project economically feasible, Ms. Jennings said.
UMass Dartmouth officials also are weighing the possibility of a biomass plant to convert wood chips into energy. The combination of a wind turbine and a biomass plant could cut the campus's carbon footprint in half, Ms. Jennings said.
When the state awards were announced, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said in a statement: "Public agencies' efforts to save fuel, reduce waste and water use, and promote renewable energy are opportunities to save money while saving the environment."