The Forsyth County Commissioners and the Environmental Affairs Board of Forsyth County recently recognized the university for sustainability initiatives in two departments. The office of Waste Reduction and Recycling received a Special Environmental Award in July for diverting 44.6 percent of solid waste from the landfill during the 2010 calendar year. The university’s Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) department received a Special Air Quality Award for switching the Freon in several campus chilled water generation (chiller) units to a more environmentally friendly product that is less toxic and degrades more quickly in the environment.
Both departments submitted reports about their initiatives to the Environmental Affairs Board. They were selected from a pool of environmental award submissions from organizations and businesses throughout Forsyth County to receive these annual awards.
During the 2010 calendar year, one of the university’s older chiller units was retrofitted to operate with the environmentally friendly Freon that also has less health hazards for WFU maintenance employees should a leak occur. A new, more efficient, chiller unit was also added to the campus chiller loop to increase both the efficiency and the capacity of the system to generate chilled water to cool buildings throughout campus. The new chiller unit is larger and more efficient than older units, and at certain times of the year, it may be used to generate chilled water to cool the entire campus without the help of the less efficient units.
This is the second year in a row that EH&S has received an award from the county. In 2009, they received the Special Environmental Award for proactive hazardous waste reduction programs, including best management practices, improved chemical inventory control, inter-departmental redistribution of unused chemicals, neutralization of concentrated acids and caustics, and waste consolidation.
Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager Megan Anderson said her department’s award-winning waste diversion rate is the result of community efforts. “It was a group effort; this is everyone’s award,” she said.
One of the strongest areas of waste diversion this year was construction materials. The university’s commitment to construct all new buildings to a minimum LEED Silver standard played a big role in this accomplishment. More than 80 percent of construction site waste from the new Welcome Center was reused or recycled.
Anderson hopes to achieve higher diversion rates next year, but would also like to decrease the amount of waste generated overall. “Trash never goes away,” she said “but we can make an organized effort to produce less of it.”
One initiative designed to further decrease the amount of waste produced by the university is the new Surplus Property program. This ambitious program will allow offices and departments to release university-owned furniture and office accessories that are no longer needed to an on-campus storage facility. Staff can then shop at the surplus warehouse for “new” furniture and fixtures free of charge. Not only will this save the university money, but it will keep older furniture out of the landfill.
Facilities and Campus Services staff members are currently assembling the inventory for the launch of the program. Anyone with excess university furniture and office accessories should submit a pick-up request at http://www.wfu.edu/facilities/surplus/. The surplus program will be fully operational later this fall.
By Caitlin Brooks, Wake Forest Fellow