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IU Northwest makes strides toward sustainability

Officials hope Big Belly Compactors will spark big appetite for recycling

Monday Apr 13, 2015

Over the past several years, Indiana University Northwest has stepped up efforts to implement a number of “green” practices designed to reduce the campus’s footprint on the environment.

Such a task can be challenging at commuter campuses like IU Northwest. Residential campuses are known for dorm challenges and the like, run by enthusiastic student groups who drum up excitement and hand out rewards for recycling. But students, staff and faculty at IU Northwest are determined to get more folks to take ownership of their campus. While students may not live here, we all certainly spend enough time here to warrant a significant investment in sustaining it for future generations.

An appetite for more recycling

While recycling paper, plastic and metals has been a priority at IU Northwest for some time, Kathryn Manteuffel, regional director of University Environmental Health & Safety, admitted that the campus was at a crossroads as far as its recycling efforts as recently as the fall of 2013.

“We were trying to improve our effort of collecting recyclables on campus but we didn’t seem to have an effective and highly visible way to draw attention to the importance of recycling or where to place the items in an outdoor environment,” Manteuffel said.

Manteuffel had learned about Big Belly Solar Compactors, bins which contain a solar-rechargeable battery that periodically operates a compactor inside. The compactor reduces the space taken up by the recyclables and decreases the need for frequent emptying. About 18 months ago, three of them arrived on campus thanks to financial support from both the Physical Plant and Environmental Health and Safety, which collaborated on bringing the bins to campus.

In addition to providing a highly visible place for recyclables, the compactors satisfied another important purpose. They also served as a vehicle for state-required communication about preventing storm water pollution.

“We are required by law to educate our campus community about what happens to the water that enters IU Northwest’s storm drains. Much of it enters untreated into local creeks, rivers and lakes,” Manteuffel said. “These bins provide a permanent billboard to remind folks to stop and think about proper disposal of their waste to protect our environment in more ways that just recycling.”

Tim Johnson, head groundskeeper at IU Northwest, said the bins yield about two cubic yards of recyclable refuse in a month, and the amount being collected, particularly in the one bin near the bus shelter, is increasing.

Manteuffel pointed out that college campuses in general have a responsibility to be early adopters of sustainability practices.

“We have a young population that is very open to new ideas and all the things our students, staff and faculty members do here, they end up taking home and implementing in their own communities,” Manteuffel said. “These are all things that can impact their lives for future generations. If we can impact the way they’re thinking today about resources, we have a greater impact on future generations as well.”

EV charging stations now available

In a substantial move that demonstrates the campus’s commitment to environmental sustainability, IU Northwest recently installed electric vehicle (EV) charging stations just outside the Savannah Center’s north entrance.

The two units accommodate four all-electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrid vehicles. The stations are available to those with an IU Northwest parking permit or a temporary permit. Temporary permits can be obtained for $2 a day at kiosks located at the north and south ends of the campus.

The cost to use the stations is $1 per hour for the first four hours of charging, enough for a typical recharge. Those who occupy the space for more than four hours at a time will be charged $5 for each additional hour.

Reducing consumption

In addition to recycling, the campus has also introduced “RedHawk Print,” a program which encourages better printing habits, as well as the addition of refillable water stations around campus, which make it easy to refill their water bottles and reduce waste.

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