UCSD leads local green movement
by Lori Martinez
Feb 15, 2007 | 740 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The City of San Diego cannot afford to make recycling as accessible for apartment dwellers and businesses as it is for single-family residences, forcing many environmentally conscious citizens to seek out recycling drop-off and buy-back centers in the community.

Corporations and universities throughout San Diego are leading the green movement by setting a positive example of sustainable practices, oftentimes picking up where the city leaves off.

Local colleges are not only making recycling available to their students, but also reaching out to today's young people to promote environmental stewardship and going above and beyond in implementing "green" practices on campus.

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) was recently recognized for its green practices. UCSD has made great strides in energy efficiency by completing a retrofit project that changed the lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning in many campus buildings. Additionally, 85 percent of the university's energy comes from its own co-generation facility, which also helps cool and heat water on campus.

The state school owns electric and hybrid vehicles and recently purchased two "fast chargers" that charge electric vehicles faster and use less energy doing so.

The university also meets the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standards in all of its new construction and will be implementing LEED standards for existing buildings during future renovation projects.

"Because of our place in the education community, we definitely want to be leaders in sustainability," said David Weil, UCSD spokesman. "We want to be good stewards to the environment, but it also helps us save money in the long run, and that way it's a good way to keep student fees down."

The campus also utilizes the Flexcar, a national car-sharing program that rents ultra-low-emission vehicles and fuel-efficient hybrids to Flexcar members at an hourly rate. Flexcar provides gasoline, car insurance, parking and maintenance.

With Flexcar vehicles located on campus, Weil explained that students who carpool or take a shuttle to campus are no longer stuck without wheels.

"In total, we're reducing the number of vehicles on the highway and emissions," Weil said.

UCSD also has a single-stream recycling program, similar to the city's curbside recycling program.

"Right now we're diverting about 30 percent of our waste stream to recycling," Weil said. "We want to increase that."

He also explained that the campus has a drop-off location for metals, such as old pipe, rebar and other construction materials.

The campus is also exploring a partnership with University of California, Davis for a used-disk recycling program for CDs, Weil said.

"Right now, most people just throw them in the trash," he explained, adding that students often use them like Frisbees and trash them across the campus.

Weil also mentioned that UCSD's Environment and Sustainability Initiative focuses on research and academics and has worked to get more involved in research in various areas of sustainability.

"On the academic side, there's environmental seminars for students," Weil said. "We're trying to look at all aspects of it campus-wide."

One such seminar, a Senior Seminar on Sustainability, researched the benefits and drawbacks of both Styrofoam and paper cups, looking at which would be better for UCSD campus.

Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) has also developed a growing recycling program, thanks to the efforts of Celeste Howe.

Current recycling program manager Renee Robertson explained it was Howe who, after a trip to New Zealand, began to wonder why there was no recycling effort at PLNU.

"They have incredible waste-management programs in New Zealand," Robertson said. "They basically don't throw anything away or landfill anything. So [Howe] just came back and started calling every day the physical plant. She started calling the president "¦ and finally they said OK."

Robertson explained that what began as a volunteer student position to assist in the program's creation soon expanded into a paid position and the implementation of the Resource Stewardship Task Force.

The task force now brainstorms for recycling events, such as Creation Care Week, a week devoted to recycling and Christian stewardship principles, and RecycleMania, a nationwide college recycling competition.

Along with these events and its regular single-stream recycling efforts, PLNU has also implemented a food diversion program that collects food left on students' plates when they go into the dish cleaning area, as well as pre-consumer food waste, and hauls it to the Miramar Greenery, where it is composted with other yard waste and turned into free compost for city residents, Robertson said. The university also hands out free plastic travel coffee mugs to every student in order to reduce waste from paper cups for coffee and soda.

For these initiatives, PLNU was recognized by the city's Environmental Services Department in its 2006 Waste Reduction and Diversion Awards as a San Diego Recycler of the Year.

Private corporations are also doing their part. In September, San Diego-based Cymer Inc., a leading supplier of laser light sources, picked up the city's slack after grant funding for a municipal recycling event dried up.

Cymer hosted Cymer Cycle, a free electronic recycling event at Qualcomm Stadium, to give the community a place to take electronic waste, including broken and outdated computers.

According to Leonard Robinson, chief deputy of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, recycling such items is important.

"In computers you have lead, arsenic, chromium and various heavy metals and plastics that, once introduced into the environment, can cause contamination," he said.

Robinson helped kick off the department's Take-It-Back Partnership. The program is a collaboration between state, city and county governments with businesses, nonprofit agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide free, local and convenient ways for California residents to dispose of universal waste, according to the department's Web site.

Goodwill Industries was the first to join the Take-It-Back Partnership in San Diego County by accepting computers and computer-related items at all of their 24 San Diego County stores and freestanding donation centers.

"We are a location that is very convenient and people bring things to us anyway," said Michael Rowan, CEO of Goodwill Industries. "We can use computers, we can get them into reuse, we can sell the reusable units as well as the reusable parts, and we've linked up with responsible recyclers [San Diego-based IMS Recycling] to recycle what's left over."

According to Robertson, one of the best things about most recycling programs is that they basically pay for themselves "” a compelling incentive for the private sector in its pursuit of green practices, and perhaps one from which the city could benefit.

"We're pretty close to budget-neutral," she explained. "We save so much money and we get rebates for our recycling, which comes off of our waste bill, so that pays for paid positions and some of the other promotional educational materials."

For more information on Goodwill Industries of San Diego, store locations and hours, visit www.sdgoodwill.org. For information on the Take-It-Back Partnership, visit www.dtsc.ca.gov.
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