Green initiatives save, earn money

Tree leaves and other plant life on campus may be changing color as summer ends, but departments and organizations around Butler University are continuing to go green.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, Butler is also saving and earning money with its numerous green initiatives.

The two major points in Butler’s quest to become more green are recycling and energy saving.

Dick Hamm, director of housekeeping,  said several positive changes have been made to the school’s recycling program since 2006.

“There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I think if we look over the course of five or six years, we’ve come a long way,” Hamm said.

Butler’s recent partnership with ABITIBI Bowater and long-standing relationship with Ray’s Trash Service help the university deal with a large amount of its waste.

Green and yellow ABITIBI bins are in six locations on campus and are meant for the paper generated by the university. Hamm said Butler receives approximately $100 from ABITIBI every three months for the paper it recycles.

Two cardboard compactors are also located on campus. The university pays Ray’s Trash $100 to move the bins, but Ray’s then pays Butler between $200 and $300 per pull. This happens as many as three times per year, Hamm said.

Butler also has a scrap metal recycle bin, which Hamm said is pulled by Ray’s four to five times per year and earns the university up to $400 per pull.

“(Ray’s Trash has) been with us a long time, and it has been a good relationship,” Hamm said. “They give us above-and-beyond service.”

Some of the money earned through the recycling program is used to purchase other things for the program.

Concrete pads—each costing $1,200—needed to be placed underneath the cardboard compactors and were paid for with the money earned by the program.

Butler also received a $24,000 grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in 2008 to upgrade recycling stations on campus.

As much money as the university earns from its recycling program, even more money is being saved through Butler’s energy-saving practices.

Jerry Carlson, director of maintenance services, said switching Irwin Library from steam heating to decentralized power heating has saved the university $30,000 per year.

“It’s more about lowering your consumption than lowering your cost,” Carlson said.

Nearly all of Butler’s buildings are now heated by decentralized hot water heating systems instead of steam boilers, with the exception of Schwitzer Hall. Carlson said this prevents the university from having to spend more money on natural gas.

Butler’s two chemistry labs recently received new fume hoods allowing air to be contained within a filter instead of exhausting it outside.

Carlson said the change will save the university about $50,000 per year.

The money Butler saves through changes in energy consumption funds new energy-saving projects. Carlson said Butler officials look to take on projects that can be paid back in 10 years or fewer.

“It just makes sense to try to get those projects done and paid back in a hurry,” Carlson said.

Other energy-saving maneuvers adopted by the university include placing light sensors in rooms and Information Techonology’s changing servers.

The light sensors read the amount of sunlight a room is receiving so light energy is not wasted.

IT’s smaller servers do not require as much energy to run and generate less heat, which ensures less energy is needed to cool the room they are housed in.

Hamm and Carlson said the Environment Concerns Organization, a student-run program, has also worked to push green initiatives on campus.

ECO President Daniel French said that the organization has held water bottle drives (meant to reduce the number of water bottles used by students), had discussions about water conservation with students and cleaned the White River on canoes.

The organization also participates in Recyclemania, an annual spring recycling competition. ECO earned first place in the state in the event last semester.

French said that while faculty and staff may lean toward money concerns when thinking about green initiatives, the university is making smart decisions.

“I think they’re looking in the right direction,” French said. “Butler is really willing to work with students.”

French said President Jim Danko’s signing of the President’s Climate Commitment last April is one sign of this.

According to Butler’s website, the commitment is “a pledge to create a long-range plan to eliminate the campus’ net emissions of greenhouse gases.”

French said the work of Timothy Carter, director of the Center for Urban Ecology, has also been beneficial to green initiatives on campus.

Carter works with Butler’s campus farm and said the farm has saved the university money in multiple ways.

“(The farm) sells produce to people at Butler and local restaurants,” Carter said. “Also, a student recently turned vegetable oil into diesel fuel to run a John Deere vehicle, which costs much less (than gasoline).”

Despite the ongoing improvements to Butler’s green initiatives, Hamm said students need to be more aware of the university’s attempts to go green.

“I think the message needs to come from the students,” Hamm said. “I also think ECO can be instrumental in getting the word out to students.”

Carlson said Butler can and needs to continue down its current green path.

“I’m sure there’s always more that can be done,” Carlson said. “We’ve been on the cutting edge before it was popular to talk about green products.”

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