The Sisters of Mercy who sponsor our university challenge us to “strive in our daily lives to approach everything we do with an awareness of our interrelatedness to all Earth life. For us, these are not just words. They are a call to action! As a result, when you visit Georgian Court University you will see something different.
As soon as you drive onto our campus you will see that many of our previously highly manicured lawns are now meadows of tall grass and wildflowers, abuzz with life. This is because we have implemented low-mow or no mow maintenance in many areas of campus. Since pollution from lawns is a major factor in deteriorating water quality in many aquatic ecosystems, we have also reduced use of herbicides and fertilizers on the remaining traditional turfgrass areas and moved to mulch mowing, as well as to mulching fall leaves. To help our grounds staff to implement these more labor-intensive, sustainable landscape practices, we have created a “Green Force” of volunteers to help with weeding, trail maintenance and other such tasks.
GCU is committed to reducing its carbon footprint annually and to be carbon neutral by 2050. Next to our main parking lot and on many roofs on campus you will see solar panels which generate nearly a megawatt of green energy. GCU also purchases renewable energy certificates equivalent to its annual electrical power usage. We are working to reduce our energy use too. If you look really carefully, you might notice the insulating ceramic window films that students installed on over 200 windows in one of our older classroom buildings this summer. You’ll also notice that we’ve replaced our old incandescent lights with LED or LCD bulbs and you’ll see fewer gas powered vehicles and more electric and hybrid vehicles within our campus fleet.
In another change, you won’t see trays in the dining hall anymore. This saves energy and water and reduces food waste. You will see compostable plates and flatware in our cafeteria which helps reduce waste production on campus. And you will see more vegetarian options on the menu, since meat production is a huge contributor to global warming and takes 90% more energy to feed people than a vegetarian diet.
GCU strongly supports both waste reduction and recycling. You will see recycling containers in all buildings and at all campus-sponsored events. In addition, GCU is a long time participant in the annual “Recycle Mania” contest. You’ll also see our “Pepsi Dream Machine” which encourages recycling by providing rewards for participation. And, to help members of our community to avoid buying bottled water, you will see a filling station for reusable bottles. Use of this station has saved over 16,000 plastic water bottles this year alone. Placed end to end, that many bottles would stretch for more than 3 miles. Our journey to a sustainable future may be longer than that, but we are striving to stay true to our path.
Guest post by Dr. Louise Wootton, Professor of Biology