Chancellor Mike Martin
photo photo photo photo
Eddy Perez | Photographer | Office of Communications & University Relations

University celebrates Earth Day, makes efforts for a greener campus

The world celebrated Earth Day on April 22. The University, which is making strides in becoming a greener campus, took part in the holiday by holding several eco-friendly activities throughout the week. The goal: to teach the community about recycling and reducing negative impacts on the planet.

While students, faculty, and staff enjoyed an Earth Day celebration Wednesday, sustainability groups met for a panel discussion on ways to keep improving the local green effort. In March and early April students worked together to conserve energy in their dorms and recycle.

LSU Earth Day
The Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) hosted the 4th annual Earth Day celebration on the Parade Grounds, featuring a solar powered stage with live music from local bands.

Visitors could participate in several environmentally friendly activities from calculating their carbon footprint and planting trees to making paper and climbing a rock wall. Booths were set up to feature student organizations and teach visitors about fair trade and composting.

Results from the inaugural Unplug Residential Life Energy Conservation Competition were announced during the event.

Students living in nine residence hall communities on campus reduced their overall energy consumption by $13,763—an average of 18 percent—during the UNPLUG Competition, held in March. The contest compared the March 2009 electrical meter readings with those from March 2008.

Translates to:
East Campus Apts 35%
Annie Boyd, Evangeline, Highland, Louise Garig 29%
Herget, McVoy, Blake 21%
Miller Hall 17%
Broussard, Pentagon 14%
West Campus Apts, Residential Colleges 12%
Laville, Acadian 3%

LSU’s Office of the Chancellor, Department of Residential Life, and Office of Facility Services partnered with the LSU chapters of ECO and Students in Free Enterprise to coordinate the competition.

The program demonstrated to the LSU community how much money and energy the campus can save in a one-month period and served as a pilot for future energy efficiency programs.

As part of the competition, students were asked to make small adjustments in their daily routines in an effort to greatly impact overall energy consumption in campus residence halls and apartments. These adjustments included using task lighting and natural light whenever possible, adjusting the temperature in their rooms, unplugging nonessential electrical devices whenever possible, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and taking shorter showers.

For more than nine years, Residential Life has made facility improvements to increase energy efficiency in on-campus housing. New lighting systems in 11 halls, new hot water heaters in four halls, and window replacements are expected to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent this year. The newly constructed Residential College Complex is also saving energy and money while providing newer and more modern spaces for students to live on campus. The complex uses approximately 30 percent less chilled water and 65 percent less electricity over six months than previous housing options.

The students’ efforts during the campaign compliment Residential Life’s commitment to completing its 12-year investment to modernize its housing facilities and make them even more energy efficient.

In addition to the local competition, LSU participated in a national competition for university recycling programs known as RecycleMania.

Data collection for the competition began at the end of January and continued over a 10-week period. While there were several categories in which to compete, LSU challenged other universities in two different categories.

In the “Per Capita Classic,” all of the weekly recyclable tonnage was entered and divided among the LSU population. The University placed 108 out of 293 schools, with an average of 13.46 pounds recycled per person. In the “Gorilla Prize,” schools calculated the total amount of recyclable tonnage regardless of campus population. LSU finished 25 out of 293 schools, recycling 475,940 pounds of material.

The University recycling program, “LSU Recycles,” encourages the University to discard recyclables into any of the outdoor dumpsters or blue recycling bins. Materials such as newspapers, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans can be mixed in the recycling bins.

On Wednesday, the Center for Energy Studies hosted a conference, “Alternative Energy 2009: Sustainable Development in a Challenging Economy.” Several representatives from different universities were at the conference, as the event was open to everyone.

The conference agenda featured many sustainability topics, such as biomass cofiring, compact nuclear reactors, and geothermal development opportunities.

There was also a campus energy panel, which featured a roundtable discussion among individuals working in sustainability. The panel was made up of Mark Orlowski, director of Sustainable Endowments Institute; Chris Stripling, director of engineering services at Emory University; and Leith Sharp, author of Green Campuses.

Chancellor Michael Martin introduced the panel, making a point that campuses can be a great experiment in energy conservation.

“I want LSU to be a University of 21st century energy,” Martin said. “It isn’t as simple as it seems, but we have to adjust to the adjustments.”

Martin said he is optimistic about the ways people can come together to find solutions.

“I get to be a cheerleader for a place that I think is a winner,” Martin said. “The curiosity we spawn today will create the solutions of tomorrow. This is always about the future, so thanks, in advance.”

The panel members introduced themselves, answered questions about specific solutions, and discussed options about sustainability with the audience.

Sharp said she was introduced to environmental issues during her undergraduate studies in environmental engineering.

“The same university that was teaching me these issues was also causing them,” Sharp said. “If universities can’t address this issue, who will? Who can?”

Stripling said he is always looking for the most efficient solutions to funding, new technology, and conserving energy problems.

“There are different solutions for different institutions,” Stripling said. “We can look to the students for help, because they are the future.”

The panel polled the audience on programs to create a green campus. Sharp advocated the “living lab” approach, following Martin’s comment on using the institution as an experiment.

Sharp suggested two different solutions to integrating sustainability education into the curriculum: either implement new courses into existing degrees or offer a degree in sustainability.

While several large, innovative solutions were presented by the panel, Stripling narrowed down a few easy tasks to help conserve energy.

“I always look for the biggest bang for the buck. You really have to be creative in looking for solutions,” Stripling said. “Sometimes it’s just about solving current problems, like water fixtures, lights, or windows. It seems simple, and truthfully, it is.”

Looking Ahead
On Thursday, April 23, the Campus Committee for Sustainability, CCS, met to recap recent sustainability efforts and present upcoming projects.

PhD candidate Matt Moerschbaecher, who is calculating the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, presented his finished research to the committee. The research covered scope one emissions: University fleet, refrigerants, agricultural sources, and animal husbandry; scope two emissions: purchased electricity; and scope three emissions: faculty, staff, and student commuting, directly financed air travel, wastewater and solid waste.

Although Moerschbaecher’s presentation showed East Baton Rouge Parish as the leading parish in carbon emissions, the University is fairly energy efficient compared to other universities.

Moerschbaecher said the University has several measures already in place to help reduce emissions such as a highly effective co-gen plant. The research also showed students have an average commute of four miles to campus, which Moerschbaecher said was short, compared to other universities where students lived further away from school. The Easy Streets have also helped keep cars from the core of campus, encouraging more students to walk and ride bikes, and the weather helps since buildings don’t have to heat as often.

It is possible more universities will start doing these sorts of calculations and sending their results to the Federal Government, however Moerschbaecher is unsure when they will set a standard.

The CCS is also in the beginning stages of planning for more bike racks. After a study on campus they have created a bike parking master plan, which takes into consideration the number of bikes on campus, where the racks are needed, and the design of the racks and parking areas.

Holly Ann Phillips & Aaron Looney | Writers | Office of Communications & University Relations
April 2009