MSU taking steps to 'Be Spartan Green'

Contact: Board of Trustees Vice Chairperson Melanie Foster, (517) 204-8052; or Terry Denbow, University Relations, (517) 355-2262, cell (517) 927-5821, denbow@msu.edu

Jan 18, 2008

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Go Green will echo beyond the athletic fields at Michigan State University with the rolling out of an expansive environmental stewardship effort presented to the MSU Board of Trustees today.

The board authorized proceeding for a new recycling facility on campus and heard the next steps for supporting environmental stewardship on campus, a comprehensive effort to make deep changes in ways the campus community addresses environmental stewardship – from recycling office paper and turning off lights to MSU’s place in the world’s carbon exchange.

The result: 26 recommendations to improve MSU’s environmental position.

“The MSU recycling facility is an important piece of the integrated environmental stewardship initiative I outlined last year as part of Boldness by Design,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “We are committed to significantly reducing MSU’s footprint by developing new techniques for managing this complex ecosystem of agriculture, research, office and living environments that constitute our campus community.”

The new recycling facility, to be located west of Farm Lane in the service district, will triple the amount of materials currently being recycled. A new comprehensive recycling program coupled with the new facility will allow the university to expand recycling collection in all buildings. Currently, the Office of Recycling and Waste Management reports that 14 percent of the white and mixed office paper, newspaper, cardboard and plastics are diverted from the landfill through the recycling program. The capture rate of five key materials is projected to double by 2010.

The facility is not intended to be a regional recycling facility. However, there is an opportunity to examine the marketability for processing certain materials in collaboration with other communities in the region.

The recycling facility will cost approximately $13.3 million and will pay for itself in 12 years.

Currently, MSU ships all of the recycled material it collects in loose boxes that have to be processed. The new facility will enable materials to be sorted and shipped in bulk. By processing the materials at MSU, they can be sold at a higher price to recycling facilities.

“The recycling center will eliminate handling steps to make us more efficient, generate greater return on the recycled material, reduce labor costs and increase revenue by changing the process that we use to collect materials,” said Ruth Daoust, the recycling program and education manager. “As someone said, these recyclable materials are not trash anymore - they have value.”

The 26 recommendations were presented by the Environmental Stewardship Systems Team, a group of faculty, staff and students assembled by Vice President for Finance and Operations Fred Poston, and designed to improve MSU’s environmental position.

The team looks at the campus as a system and researches ways to reduce inputs to campus, find new uses for materials, use better and more efficient energy sources, and reduce harmful outputs. Each of the recommendations has been supported by Poston and Provost Kim Wilcox.

“Some people say that the university is moving slowly, but I say that we are moving deliberately,” Poston said. “We are not interested in environmental stewardship ‘for the moment’; we want to set a path for behavior and culture change.”

Among the recommendations:

  • Reduce energy use in all of the campus’ 579 buildings by 9 percent through reducing heating, ventilation and cooling system running times. The recommendations report notes: “If everyone on campus changes behavior we would save approximately 23,000 megawatt hours, which would equate to turning off 1.5 million square feet, or the equivalent of the Library, Giltner Hall, Wells Hall, Engineering Building and the Wharton Center.”
  • Foster behavior changes by developing a “green” certification program for units and departments.
  • Improve the way the campus monitors and tracks material waste.
  • Schedule classes more efficiently to reduce heating and energy costs in buildings.

The recommendations were formed from research and pilot projects that explored recycling preferences; energy use in laboratory, administrative and classroom buildings; cost and return analysis of material source reduction; recycling behaviors and attitudes; and communication and education programs. The teams engage administrators, faculty, staff and students in research and exploring real solutions for campus.

The environmental stewardship program is being shared through a series of educational and informational campaigns with the message to “Be Spartan Green.”