Emory Report
March 6, 2006
Volume 58, Number 22


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March 6 , 2006
Looking toward a sustainable future

Barbara Stark is manager of training and communications for Campus Services.

What we do today—what each and every one of us does—affects the future. Some actions have greater or more noticeable impact than others, but we can all do our part to ensure that generations from now enjoy this campus, its grounds and facilities, are as or even more beautiful, functional and environmentally friendly as they are today.

When one refers to something as sustainable, he or she could be talking about any number of things. In the dictionary (specifically, dictionary.com), “sustainability” has the following definitions:
1. To keep in existence; maintain.
2. To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.
3. To support from below; keep from falling or sinking; prop.

What we do
President Jim Wagner and the University administration believe sustainability is a fundamental guiding principle for Emory. When it comes to building construction, campus maintenance, operations or energy consumption, we hope our current practices will uphold all three of these definitions for many years to come.

Emory’s Campus Services departments have sustainability in mind with practically every decision that’s made. The University’s goal is to lower campus-wide energy and utilities consumption by 25 percent per square foot over the next 10 years. Indeed, Campus Services’ Facilities Management (FM) department is drafting an energy and utilities conservation plan.

The Campus Master Plan continues with the theme of building a pedestrian-friendly campus, closing off more streets and providing bike lanes and easy access routes to encourage walking for all community members, be they student, faculty or staff.

Emory’s buses and many FM maintenance vehicles are alternatively fueled, operating on natural gas or electricity. FM has adopted a policy that, if a tree cannot be moved and must be destroyed, instead of planting one tree to replace it, enough trees are planted to account for the loss of leaf canopy. The University’s land use plan protects many of the green spaces, forests and creeks on campus; where possible, FM plants native species, which require very little maintenance.

But these initiatives are only on the surface of what the University does. Did you know that Emory collects rainwater in cisterns under buildings to use later for irrigation? Condensate water from air conditioning systems is recycled; custodians use only environmentally friendly cleaning products; FM’s painters apply low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) products, which release far fewer pollutants and are virtually odor free.Countertops, bench slabs and other surfaces can be found topped with recycled construction materials. Even some buildings’ elevators are floored with recycled tire material.

What you can do
There are many things individual employees and students can do to help sustain Emory long into the future, such as:
turning off lights in empty offices;
setting computers to sleep after 10 minutes (at most) of inactivity;
leaving thermostats set between 68 and 72 degrees;
dressing in layers to avoid use of space heaters;
using task lighting instead of overhead lights (and avoiding incandescent bulbs);
walking to meetings or using Emory’s alternatively fueled shuttles;
recycling paper, aluminum, glass and other recyclables;
printing documents on both sides of the page or communicate electronically. All of these actions, when put into practice wherever possible and aggregated, not only will reduce Emory’s environmental impact but will help the University save a considerable amount of money over time.

You may be asking yourself: “Why should I care if the University saves money here and there?” Think of it this way: The less money spent on electric bills, the more funding that can be allocated to provide financial aid to a student; to send a faculty member to a transformative conference; to hire an additional staff person to assist with workloads; or to ensure competitive compensation.

Not only that, but long after those of us on campus today have moved on, Emory will still be here—therefore it’s imperative we keep sustainability as a priority. Many years from now, when future generations are studying, researching, curing, teaching, operating, maintaining or simply enjoying the green spaces Emory has to offer, it will have been our actions today that helped make it possible.