By Ron Gregory
In a world of continually rising environmental standards, many universities are publicly affirming their commitment to achieving a goal of carbon neutrality. To reduce environmental footprints, they’re instituting recycling programs, promoting bike rentals, and constructing LEED certified buildings. These practices not only contribute to energy conservation and sustainability, but also help institutions conserve funds, operate efficiently, and anticipate energy and carbon mandates.
Facility management teams play a key role in shaping sustainable campuses. This Earth Day, consider how your team can help guide your school’s journey to becoming a carbon neutral campus. Here are five sustainability best practices to set you on your way:
1. Green up your spring cleaning
Keeping your campus clean shouldn’t pollute the earth. Unfortunately, some common cleaning products have serious effects on the health of building occupants and custodians — and they’re harmful to the environment, too. Today, a variety of cleaning products and methods offer the promise to protect human health without harming the environment. Choosing the right products is just the start. To keep students safe and healthy while maintaining a spick and span campus, it’s important to establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) unique to each building. These SOPs should offer clear guidance and processes for chemical handling and tracking, waste disposal and inspection programs. As with all environmental programs, keep board members, trustees, students and other stakeholders apprised of the latest practices regarding these chemicals to empower them as partners in your green cleaning efforts.
2. Ensure the “energy coast” is clear
In a typical college or university classroom building, lighting represents 31% of total energy consumed, while heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) use 28%. Implementing energy-efficient lighting and HVAC strategies can have a big impact on energy savings. Facility managers often use “energy coasting” to save energy by simply turning off heating and cooling equipment a few minutes before the official “after-hours” time begins. This practice — barely noticeable to occupants — can save tens of thousands of dollars annually on campuses.
3. Go local with landscape design
A sustainable campus landscape begins with design. To shape a stunning first impression while minimizing the environmental impact, consider how the natural features of your campus can play into the master landscape plan. The goal is to create an attractive landscape requiring minimal inputs of water, fertilizers, pesticides, labor and building materials. Native plants are fundamental to sustainable landscapes, as they tend to naturally resist insects, infections and fungus. Also important, they can withstand local weather conditions such as extreme heat, cold, or drought. Earth Day is an ideal time to revisit these practices.
4. Reduce, reuse, RecycleMania.
Your university may have already implemented a campus recycling program for paper, plastic, cans and bottles. To increase student participation in recycling, hundreds of colleges and universities participate in the annual RecycleMania competition. Over a period of eight to 10 weeks, institutions compete to see how much their students, faculty and staff can recycle. The competition provides valuable benchmarking information to help participants improve their recycling practices.
5. Promote sustainable consumption.
Reducing trash starts in dining halls. Often, students’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs. Many universities find that when they take away cafeteria trays, students are more likely to pick up only what they will actually eat—and that means less food waste and fewer resources used to clean trays and dishes. Many campuses have banned plastic water bottles, sometimes even providing students with long-lasting personal bottles and installing bottle-filling stations. Automated fill stations can provide a hands-free, sanitary source of water and tend to be popular among students.
Sustainability programs on campus do more than conserve resources today. They help shape the habits of the next generation of leaders, setting the path to a more sustainable world. Much more is needed to achieve carbon neutrality, and the potential is huge to incorporate facility management solutions that reap long-term benefits for your students, faculty and stakeholders. This Earth Day, consider what can be done year-round; more campus greening tips can be found here.
Gregory is executive vice president, higher education IFM at JLL and has more than 30 years of experience in the facility and operations management industry. He has held leadership positions overseeing facility operations including all aspects of facility management for higher education, retail management, and K-12. As an integral member of JLL Public Institution’s leadership team, Gregory provides program guidance for all of JLL’s Higher Education efforts. Prior to joining JLL, he served as region vice president of operations for higher education with Sodexo in Chicago. Prior to Sodexo, Gregory was with the Sears Holding Corporation holding various senior management positions in operations and facilities management.