While Thursday, Nov. 15, is America Recycles Day across the nation, recycling is just one part of year-around sustainability efforts at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“Since the start of the Sustainability Committee in the spring of 2010, our overall goal has been to make sustainability part of every aspect on campus by preserving natural resources for future generations,” said Amy Rundstrom, a member of the UNK Sustainability Committee “We work behind the scenes at every building on campus to monitor usage, and help increase recycling among students and faculty.”
Last year, a recycling competition was held in recognition of Earth Day. All of the trash from Men’s Hall and the Memorial Student Affairs Building (MSAB) was removed from the buildings, and sorted out into what was trash and what was recyclable.
According to Lee McQueen, UNK director of Facilities Management and Planning, the information gathered by the effort helped facilities to refine its solid waste handling processes. From the sample size of the two buildings, it was concluded that UNK’s current recycling effort reduces the waste stream by 5-10 percent and roughly 50 percent of solid waste is recyclable materials, for both residence halls and academic/administrative buildings. Plans are to conduct another recycling competition next April.
“Sustainability at UNK ranges from little, inexpensive, but more visible things like recycling on campus, to larger, more costly ventures like replacing old windows in residence halls with new, more energy efficient, modern windows,” Rundstrom said. "When the committee was formed by Barbara Johnson, she indicated that sustainability means different things to different people, and part of our goal is to bring the different notions of sustainability under one umbrella, so to speak.”
According to Rundstrom, sustainability at UNK is comprised of three overlapping elements—environmental, economic and social. The committee looks to improve the environmental strategies of recycling material, reducing the amount of material used, reusing material and buying products made of recycled material.
The economic element consists of examining the costs associated with buying products to make UNK a more sustainable campus. Lastly, the social element consists of educating the campus community and encouraging participation.
“Sustainability ranges from increasing the fuel efficiency of existing campus vehicles to replacing those vehicles entirely with flex-fuel or plug-in vehicles,” Rundstrom said.
The Sustainability Committee at the UNK recently became a reporting member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS).
As a member of AASHE and the STARS program, UNK now has access to an extensive collection of policy databases, best practices, planning and assessment tools, reports, campus profiles and many other valuable resources. This information allows the committee to compare performance with other colleges and universities across the country.
Members of the UNK Sustainability Committee members include: McQueen; Rundstrom, assistant director of Academic and Career Services; Dr. Robert Luscher, professor of English; Brandon Hammond, assistant director of Information Technology Services; Jeffery Nordhues, family studies and interior design lecturer; Scott Benson, assistant director of Residence Life; Jen Kacere, Residence Hall Complex director; Dr. Marc Albrecht, associate professor of biology; and UNK students David Cahill, Laura Juenemann and Andrew Limbach.
For more information about sustainability at UNK, visit http://www.unk.edu/sustainability/, or check the Facebook page.