Lehigh University
Lehigh University

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Campus marks Earth Day with a one-year progress report

Lehigh is marking Earth Day today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the front lawn of the University Center. President Alice P. Gast will kick off the university’s annual Earth Day Celebration and Fair with a tree planting and dedication at 11:15 a.m.

Organized by the office of sustainability, the event features games and activities, food, information on campus and community sustainability initiatives, and a free raffle. T-shirts are on sale for $5, and social media users can enter the Instagram photo contest at #LUEarthDay13.

The event also marks the first anniversary of the adoption of Lehigh’s first campus sustainability plan, which identified nine categories in which the university is seeking to reduce its environmental impact.

In the past year, says campus sustainability coordinator Delicia Nahman, the university has saved more than 1.3 million sheets of paper, recycled 30,000 pounds of electronic equipment, and utilized reusable mugs 3,856 times.

The nine categories in which Nahman’s office has set goals for improvement are purchasing, waste, food and dining services, the built environment and land use, energy and climate, academics and educational experience, community building and social equity, transportation, and water.

The university has made especially noteworthy progress in the first three areas, says Nahman.

The power of green purchasing

“The purchasing office has definitely helped Lehigh become more conscious of what it’s spending its money on,” says Jane Altemose, a member of the purchasing steering committee for the sustainability initiative. “We feel like we’re making smarter decisions and finding products that are more environmentally friendly.”

The purchasing committee made a study of common office supplies to determine which could be replaced with cheaper, greener alternatives of the same quality. It also found a vendor capable of providing cost-competitive recycled toner cartridges.

In the past year, Lehigh cut paper orders by 261 cartons, saving 1,305,000 sheets. Much of that success, says Nahman, stems from an annual $75 printing allowance Lehigh gives each student, which motivates students to monitor their printing habits. In addition, offices and departments are purchasing 100-percent recycled paper.

Don't waste, recycle

The waste steering committee reached all five of its first-year goals. These include expanding composting to five more sites on campus and undertaking the first campus-wide collection of used computers, printers, mice, keyboards and other electronic devices.

The waste team divided equipment into items that could be recycled and those that were still in working condition and could be donated. People who donated equipment, says Nahman, were assured that their data would be secure and their property recycled.

“This campaign was very well-received, and plenty of departments were willing to participate,” says Gary Falasca, chair of the waste committee. “We collected about 30,000 pounds of e-waste or about 14 tons.”

Greener dining halls

Food and dining services has made a commitment to eliminating the use of Styrofoam by implementing a program to reuse take-out containers. At the beginning of the semester, says Nahman, students can check out two take-out containers and exchange dirty containers for clean ones in any dining hall. The program is free, but students must return both containers or pay a $10 fee at the end of the year. About 700 students are enrolled.

“Students have really responded to the program,” says Nahmen. “It makes it convenient for them to take food anywhere they want and not have to worry about washing the containers.”

Dining services also set up a discount program for reusable mugs. Students who bring their mugs to dining halls can fill them with a drink of their choice for 99 cents instead of $1.29. The program was used 3,856 times last fall. And a reusable dishware program allows student clubs to check out plates, bowls, cups, spoons, forks and knives for events and return them later.

Story by Stephanie Perez '13

Posted on Monday, April 22, 2013

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