USF Plants Seeds for a Sustainable Campus

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University of San Francisco alums aren’t the only ones striving to reduce humanity’s ecological impact and take advantage of more efficient “green” technologies. In the last year, USF has invested in a fifth array of solar panels, moved to shrink sales of plastic water bottles, and established an administrative-level Green Team to develop strategies for a more sustainable campus.

The largest capital outlay, estimated at about $375,000, went for new solar panels on top of renovated Kalmanovitz Hall. The installation, combined with panels already generating power on Cowell Hall, Gleeson Library, Koret Health and Recreation Center, and University Center, boosted USF’s solar energy production from a maximum of 71 kilowatt hours to 420 kilowatt hours, reducing the university’s carbon footprint by almost 330 tons a year, said Everette Ersery, assistant director of facilities.

“It has significantly reduced our carbon footprint and electrical bill, while reducing the amount of energy we and PG&E use,” Ersery said.

In addition, a growing number of eco-friendly initiatives are finding support from the Green Team, which first met in October 2007 with the support of USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. “The Green Team’s purpose is to look into how we can make USF more sustainable by lessening the carbon footprint of the campus so that we are a better citizen of the world,” said Glenn Loomis, Green Team chairman and USF community relations director.

green_earthday Among the projects the Green Team supports is the installation of water “refill stations,” water fountains with eight- to 10-inch curved spouts, around campus. The decision came in response to student lobbying and the launch of the student-led Trust the Tap campaign to eliminate plastic water bottle sales on campus. The campaign, which consisted of water taste tests, art exhibitions, and information handouts, highlighted the environmental harm caused by using disposable plastic water bottles.

Choosing tap water over bottled water helps reduce the 17 million barrels of oil and 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide needed to produce and deliver plastic water bottles for American consumption annually, according to Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group devoted to creating a healthy, sustainable planet.

The refill stations are intended to provide convenient locations for students, faculty, and staff to tap into San Francisco’s municipal water, among the cleanest in the country, as USF’s food vendor, Bon Appétit, and administrators work to reduce plastic water bottle sales for more eco-friendly refillable water containers over the coming months, said Holly Winslow, resident district manager for Bon Appétit.

Bon Appétit, already a leader in the eco-friendly food service industry, dishes up its meals on reusable tableware, rather than disposable plates and plastic ware at USF’s cafeterias, and has since 2005. Carryout cups, bowls, and utensils are made from renewable corn, sugarcane, and potato starch, all 100 percent compostable, Winslow said.

In addition, Bon Appétit buys more than 85 percent of its meat, vegetables, and other products from farms within a 150-mile radius, in an effort to reduce the amount of energy required to create the approximately 5,000 weekday meals needed to feed students. Bon Appétit closes the circle by sending 10 tons of food waste each week to be composted and distributed to area farms.

Beyond food services, the Green Team is working to increase the amount of recyclables captured in the university’s general waste stream from 65 percent to 75 percent. Recent inspections have shown that almost 25 percent of the garbage found in USF’s general waste could be recycled or composted, said Joe Murphy, environmental safety manager for USF and head of USF’s recycling efforts.

Other initiatives include an attempt to increase bicycle commuting to campus by raising awareness and installing additional racks for secure bicycle parking, a composting pilot program in residence halls, and the campus-wide installation of energy efficient light fixtures and light bulbs.

While still on the horizon, USF’s biggest commitment to creating a sustainable campus is a new $60 million Center for Science and Innovation that will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. Anticipated to break ground in the next few years, the four-story science facility, at the south end of Harney Science Center, is being designed to house labs and classrooms for all the sciences, including biology, physics, and chemistry. The state-of-the-art facility will incorporate the most efficient water and energy technologies, along with recycled construction materials.