With major budget reductions, sustainability programs will likely be impacted, but a silver lining may be realized in maintaining the status quo with reduced funding.
Dave Barbier, sustainability coordinator, said the university will lose resources that contribute to its sustainability, but changing operations could spur improvements in health and wellness, waste stream efficiency and transportation. Centralizing waste collection, recycling printer paper, expanding composting efforts and carpooling in fleet vehicles are ways to reduce costs and improve sustainability.
“There hasn’t been a big drive to get these things implemented because it hasn’t reached a point of necessity,” Barbier said. “From a triple bottom line perspective, it’s good for people, it’s good for the environment and it’s good financially.”
Details concerning the budget are uncertain, but the university is expected to see reductions in custodial staff and building and grounds personnel. Having fewer staff may require a centralized waste collection system in campus buildings. This system, Barbier said, would encourage faculty to leave their desks and also increase individuals’ awareness of the kinds and amounts of waste produced.
“It gets you up and moving,” Barbier said. “As employees here, that’s something everyone should be able to do.”
Another area Barbier believes is worth exploring is carpooling in fleet vehicles when traveling to off-campus locations. The current online system for requesting vehicles does not provide a way of knowing if other faculty or students are traveling to similar areas. An ideal system would alert travelers of ride-sharing opportunities, thus reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
Printer paper recycling could be improved, particularly by eliminating faculty desktop printers and re-printing documents on blank sides of previously used paper. Collectively, desktop printers use more energy and ink than larger, centralized machines.
“Deskside printers are a big inefficiency,” Barbier said. “If you’re printing an agenda for a meeting, there’s no reason you can’t print that on recycled paper.”
Further savings could be found through compost expansion. Barbier said improving composting efforts would decrease moisture content of food waste and also provide soil for landscaping operations. Composting would also decrease waste-hauling costs and reduce the need to purchase soil.
If major cuts occur, operational changes will also need to take place. Barbier said some personal, organizational and social-norm changes will need to take place in order to adapt to the financial situation while adhering to the university’s mission of sustainability.
“These are things to be thinking about,” Barbier said. “No one thing is going to solve the whole problem.”
Junior Phillip Hass said he hopes potential budget cuts result in more appropriate use of resources, particularly in landscaping. Although he hopes for the best, Hass believes the cuts will not be beneficial overall.
“I would hope that we’d become more sustainable,” Hass said. “But seeing the way things are now, I don’t have much hope for the future.”
Senior Ryan Strand said he thinks the proposed budget could bring change that is overdue, especially in the area of waste stream efficiency.
“That’s common sense,” Strand said. “You should have to take out your own garbage to a main garbage collection.”