Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Environmental initiatives bloom during a green year in sustainability

It’s been said that nothing stifles a good idea faster than a committee, but DU’s Sustainability Council emerged from the 2008–09 academic year boasting a slew of “green” accomplishments and an eye toward more in the coming year.

Chief among the committee’s to-do list was the creation of a plan for achieving carbon neutrality for the University, required as part of DU’s membership in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.  DU has agreed to be carbon neutral by the year 2050.

But while that document will guide the University going forward, it’s hardly the most publicly visible undertaking council members and individual departments undertook.

One of the most visible initiatives was the massive overhaul of recycling on campus, pushing the “Get Caught Green Handed” campaign to such high levels that Director of Facilities Jeff Bemelen reports regular trash collection has dropped to the point that offices should collect trash in central locations rather than having custodial services remove individual trash can liners for just the few items remaining. Blue recycling bins that accept all recycled materials (no more separating paper from cans) are spread across campus and are at virtually every work station.

“The trash volume has gone down dramatically since we’ve started our aggressive recycling program,” Bemelen says.

Other green initiatives that reflect DU’s commitment to sustainability in the past year include parking spaces designated for certified “green” vehicles, new energy-efficient lighting in the Ritchie Center, development of a community garden, creation of a “bike library” that will morph next spring into a citywide bike sharing program, and the addition of a new undergraduate minor in sustainability open to most majors on campus.

The council also opened a new Web site at which includes a free online market called “Pete’s List” where departments can swap unneeded items rather than discard them.

Looking ahead as outgoing Chair Fred Cheever passes the gavel to Lyndsay Agans, council members say they have big plans for the coming year.

Moving forward, the campus can expect to see DU investigate implementing a green purchasing program, installing recycling bins outside to compliment the bins inside campus buildings, developing a kitchen waste compost program, gardens that showcase native Colorado plants and reduce outdoor watering needs; and in the coming summer months, reducing the amount of air conditioning by slightly increasing interior temperatures.

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