Colleges and universities are often on the leading edge of social and environmental initiatives. Today sustainability is a major area of focus on campuses and many breakthroughs have burst forth from all around the country.
Universities have been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives for decades. Academics were among the first to recognize the damage that human involvement imposes on our planet and the potential devastating impact of pollution and the depletion of resources on future generations.
“Going green” should be a key objective for any company. A few of the rewards for embracing sustainability include a positive public image, cost savings and potential competitive advantage. Less tangible, but certainly real, is the heightened morale and sense of accomplishment that employees enjoy while participating in green projects. A culture of sustainability is important to the success of any initiative.
Worldwide, infrastructure is constantly expanding to support our growing population. Cities are constantly paving new roads and resurfacing old roads to accommodate increased vehicle traffic.
Without preventative care, asphalt parking lots will begin to crack and show age after a few years, especially when exposed to severe weather, heavy traffic, and overdoses of harsh sunlight. Planned preventative maintenance keeps parking lots looking great and saves money over the long haul by preserving the underlying substrate, thus delaying the costly capital expenditure associated with laying new asphalt.
The United Nations recognizes three pillars of sustainability: economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. One of the major hurdles for implementing sustainable practices are the perceived costs involved. Switching to environmentally positive fuel sources, improved management of toxic emissions, waste management and recycling, and the reduction of water usage typically requires a significant investment.
Full Commitment from University Administration
An impactful Sustainability Policy for any organization requires a strong commitment from top management. In a university or college environment, administrators and faculty must position themselves to support and mentor the execution of any strategic direction set by the policy.
Grants are important tools for implementing sustainability strategies. Naturally the most common grant categories grab the most attention and receive the most applications. Some others are important, yet less conspicuous. The United States Government is the biggest grantor of all, allocating over $4 billion in grants for environmental and sustainable projects alone.
Possibly the most profound statement that succinctly describes environmental responsibility is the phrase “pack it in, pack it out.” This message appears on campground signs throughout the country asking visitors to eliminate any trace of their presence as they leave. Sustainability may be defined with a similar message, but on a more global scale. We have a responsibility to preserve and protect vital resources so they may be enjoyed by future generations. But, unless the damaging activity of humanity reverses, this mission could become impossible.
Facilities managers faced with shrinking operating budgets can look to innovative capital improvement options to minimize their heating, lighting, and water usage costs over time. While some more drastic projects such as solar power installations, state-of-the-art windows and insulation, and maximum efficiency HVAC systems are more suitable for new construction projects, there are also low-cost options that can significantly improve efficiency of existing structures. The improvements discussed below offer the potential for significant progress toward an organization’s sustainability initiatives while markedly reducing operating costs.