Millersville University (MU) prides itself on being an eco-friendly, sustainable campus. The Lombardo Welcome Center, an award-winning building that produces more energy than it uses, is a prime example of Millersville leading the way in sustainability.
But there are tips students, faculty and staff can use to make Millersville an even more sustainable campus for future generations of Marauders.
Recycling is one of the trickier things to accomplish for college students because recycling guidelines are different in different areas, according to Chris Steuer, sustainability director at Millersville.
Due to changes in the recycling industry, Millersville can only accept recycling from four types of items, “the Big 4”:
- Corrugated cardboard
- Plastic bottles and jugs with necks
- Metal foods and beverage cans
- Glass jars and bottles
“It’s super critical right now that people only recycle those,” Steuer said, because the cost of recycling has significantly risen in recent years. Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, the company that oversees recycling in Lancaster County, benefits from a clean recycling stream. “The more contaminations they have to deal with, the harder it is to recycle well. If they turn to Millersville and there’s a bunch of trash mixed in, we’re not helping them.”
The Big 4 items can be recycled in the same bin.
Reusable water bottles
There’s a heavy focus on cutting down plastic pollution in our environment, Steuer said. To do that means limiting how much plastic we use.
Unlike plastic, metals have a recovery rate of around 80%, meaning we can capture about 80% of our metals and turn them into new metals.
Plastic is only about 7%, and it’s typically only for a lower-value use, Steuer said. We might turn a plastic water bottle into a giveaway, and then eventually throw the giveaway out.
“That’s the real challenge of plastic,” he said. “Globally, we don’t do a good job of recycling it.”
A simple solution is carrying a reusable water bottle around. It’s simple, but adds up. Someone who drinks just two plastic bottles of water per week will use more than 100 bottles in a year. Even if they are recycled properly, only 7% of those bottles will be reused.
Know the carbon-neutral goal
The ‘Ville has a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2040 and has a climate-action plan on how to get there. It’s a goal that colleges and businesses around the globe are developing.
“It’s good to know that these goals exist and to share that information,” Steuer said.
Reaching the carbon-neutral goal means cutting back on energy. About 70% of Millersville’s greenhouse emissions are coming from energy use, Steuer said. Unplugging computers and phone chargers when they’re not in use, turning off computers and daylighting (using natural light) can all cut back on energy use.
The Lombardo Welcome Center, for example, was supposed to be 60% more efficient than any other building on campus, but it’s actually 70% more efficient. The building is producing what Steuer thought it would, but it’s also using less than originally planned.
“That’s coming from the behavior side such as using natural light and shutting off computers overnight,” Steuer said. “Those are things we can control.”
It might be quicker for you to drive from your residence hall to class, but it’s better for the environment to find another way.
Walking, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading — whatever form of transportation there is to use, it’s healthier and better for the environment than saving a minute by hopping in your car.
Commuters can also take advantage of public transportation and ride-share systems. Commuter Services of PA is an app that can partner people driving to and from campus and offer free Uber rides.
The Positive Energy Fund
Because the Lombardo Welcome Center is energy efficient, the University can apply for a rebate, Steuer said. The money gained through Lombardo and other energy efficient rebates were put into a fund and dispersed to students in micro-grants for projects that support the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
“These are how we define what it means to be a sustainable world,” Steuer said. “I want students to know about that as they come out of Millersville because they’re internationally accepted goals. Corporations are pursuing them, governments are pursuing them; it’s really valuable that we have a common set of sustainability goals.”
Deadlines to apply for funds from the Positive Energy Fund will come up in the spring semester. You can learn more about it here.