By Greg Russell
It may seem like a small effort, but the Styrofoam cup that Kay Brackley foregoes
each day in favor of her own coffee mug is a large symbol that faculty and staff at
the University of Memphis realize the importance of going green.
“As an individual, I am concerned about the environment I leave to my children,” said
Brackley, administrative secretary in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics.
“As the population expands, our individual efforts become more important. Recycling
and reducing our ecological footprint will become more and more critical.” With roughly
240 workdays in a year, that artificial material Brackley saves from not using Styrofoam
would stretch longer than a football field.
Brackley hasn’t lost sight of the U of M’s responsibility either: “Since this is a
learning institution, we are role models.”
The University is taking an active role in creating a more sustainable community.
A Campus Sustainability Committee has been formed and will serve as a command post
that guides the U of M into a greener future.
With the current budget crisis, something as simple as switching off a computer at
night not only means a greener campus, it saves dollars.
“I turn my computer off every night before I leave; I leave as many lights off during
the work day as possible,” said Elizabeth Vollmer, secretary in the Department of
Chemistry. “I recycle every single ink and toner cartridge in the department and I
use e-mail notifications instead of sending out paper memos – I try to make this department
as paperless as possible.”
The Center for Multimedia Arts in the FedEx Institute of Technology has also become
“greener” and “cooler.”
Technology has also become “greener” and “cooler.” “We have added a new cooler and
greener — but not greenish — high-output fluorescent lighting setup for our video/multimedia
studio,” said Eric Wilson, multimedia producer/director in the Center. “The CMA has
cut power consumption dramatically, decreased the burden on the air-conditioning system
and made the studio cooler for the people on camera.”
This Week, the University’s internal faculty and staff newsletter, recently switched from hardcopy
to online. “We went green to save on costs and to also be more eco-friendly,” said
This Week editor Sara Hoover.
According to Hoover, going online saves about 118,000 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper annually.
On the academic side, Donalyn Heise, assistant professor of art, said she thinks of
sustainability when teaching her classes.
“I teach art education majors, and my ‘methods’ class includes training these pre-service
teachers how to teach art with no budget,” Heise said. “We create sculpture with found
objects, and engage in dialogue about reuse and repurposing of materials, as well
as its benefits for teaching at-risk youth. Transforming discarded items into a work
of art is an important concept for students.”
A number of other efforts are underway as well. A new Physical Plant computer-driven
pumping system that was recently introduced is expected to save the University more
than $400,000 a year.
The new women’s dorm that will replace West Hall will meet LEED Silver Standards in
terms of sustainability and design.
The well-publicized Terra House in downtown Memphis is near completion. Designed by
the U of M’s Center for Sustainable Design, the goal of architects is to produce a
“healthy, high-performance house that embodies the principles of sustainable design
and is complimentary to the neighborhood context.”
Last spring, the U of M partnered with Apple Computer to collect tons of old electronic
equipment during a citywide “electronics recycling day.”
Sustainability Committee Developing Strategic Plan
Just over a year ago, Dr. Shirley Raines, on behalf of the U of M, signed the American
College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which signifies a university’s
commitment to addressing environmental challenges.
“We want to become a leader in sustainable technologies and practices, acting as a
model for the community,” Raines said at the time.
Since then, the U of M has formed a Sustainability Committee. The 14-person committee
is currently developing a campus-wide plan that will serve as the central administrative
mechanism through which the U of M will seek to become a leader in sustainability.
“We envision a student and faculty/staff body that supports and participates in campus
sustainability efforts,” said Dr. David Cox, Sustainability Committee chair.
The committee is developing a strategic plan to expand on current campus efforts to
become sustainable, assist the integration of sustainability into campus policies
and curriculum, support the development of an environmentally conscious culture on
campus and work with the greater Memphis community to foster sustainability initiatives.
The committee will also encourage innovative interdisciplinary research that advances
knowledge about becoming greener. Campus and building design, recycling, ecology,
carbon emissions and energy consumption also will fall under the auspices of the committee.