302 colleges, universities sign climate agreement

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Kent State may consider signing in the future

President Lester Lefton can sometimes be seen zooming around campus on his white golf cart, weaving through crowds of students as they stroll to class.

But the small vehicle that gets Lefton to his next meeting across campus isn’t gas powered – it’s electric.

“They’re cheaper than running gas trucks, and they’re friendlier for the environment,” said groundskeeping supervisor Steve Renner, who bought the carts for his staff about five years ago.

These golf carts are just one example of the university’s commitment to make the campus environmentally friendly.

Environmental design

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said Kent State tries to be environmentally conscious.

Recently, college leaders signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment – an agreement to become carbon neutral, that is, to reduce carbon emissions to zero or offset them using alternative energy. To date, 302 colleges and universities have signed the commitment.

Creamer said he hadn’t heard of the agreement, but it might be something to look into.

The university looked into using wind power at the Ashtabula campus, but Creamer said it came to nothing.

He said an example of Kent State’s environmental consciousness is a wetland behind WKSU that acts as a natural filtration system for run-off.

Tom Euclide, director of the Office of the University Architect, said the design community has a commitment to “green,” or sustainable design, called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The commitment has a rating system that certifies buildings based on criteria, including “sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council Web site.

Euclide said new buildings on campus will comply with commitment standards, although they won’t be certified because of the high price of paperwork.

He said protecting the environment is something the architect’s office takes very seriously.

“We’re trying to be good stewards of the land,” he said.

Euclide said the campus is laid out to encourage bicycling, walking and the use of public transportation.

Creamer said the pedestrian walkways make it easier for students to get around on foot, and he said the bus system helps calm traffic, reducing pollution.

Thomas Dunn, associate director of energy for Campus Environment and Operations, said the power plant plays a role in reducing pollutants through natural gas fired turbines that generate electricity with steam as a byproduct. The steam is used to heat the campus. Dunn said this is an energy efficient process.

“The less we consume, the less we’re polluting,” he said. “Kent State’s a small piece in the global picture, but it’s nevertheless a piece.”

Recycling and Reusing

John Walsh, manager of custodial services for Campus Environment and Operations, has been using “green” cleaning products for four years. He said the chemicals don’t have toxins and are safe for the environment.

“The use of green chemicals provides a better learning environment and working environment for everyone,” he said.

Walsh said he is interested in using recycled paper towels, which he said are expensive.

Renner said the grounds department converts organic material, including leaves, flowers and branches into compost.

He also said the department doesn’t buy woodchips – they’re all recycled from branches.

The grounds department is also in charge of removing trash and recycling from the buildings.

Renner said it can be a problem if trash gets mixed into the recycling.

“Some people just don’t care,” he said. “You see people throwing trash in the road.”

Contact principal reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].