Sustainability initiatives educate campus community and save on costs

Sustainability initiatives educate campus community and save on costs

G eorgia College students, faculty and staff take sustainability seriously. Efficiency is at the forefront with recycling efforts, generating and using compost, the community garden and the newly built Integrated Science Complex (ISC). 

Lori Hamilton
Lori Hamilton

“There's a lot that goes into the planning stages of the ISC,” said Lori Hamilton, chief sustainability officer. “Several individuals on campus were included in conversations about the energy efficiency needs of the building. Those systems were selected for lower energy consumption and subsequent cost.”

The new ISC was built with sustainability in mind. According to Mark Bowen, associate director of Facilities Management, the following efficiency measures were taken:

  • Bio swales were incorporated into the landscape design to mitigate and filter stormwater through plant materials. 
  • A light and heat analysis aided energy efficiency while enhancing daylight in the building for users to enjoy. This approach informed the design of the glazing, frit glass and light shelves, as well as ensuring daylight could reach all of the internal spaces in the building.
  • All light fixtures use LEDs.
  • Motion sensors were installed to reduce lighting energy consumption.
  • Sedum trays were installed on the porch roof as a mini green roof.
  • Recycled glass provided by the Office of Sustainability was added as a soil amendment in landscaped areas.
  • An efficient fume hood design was implemented, where possible, with variable speeds to help reduce power consumption.
  • Native and pollinating plants were installed in the landscape. 
    The new Integrated Science Complex was designed with sustainability in mind.
    The new Integrated Science Complex was designed with sustainability in mind.

Georgia College has applied for the ISC to receive the Georgia Peach Green Building Certification—a rating system for high-performance energy modeling and environmental efficiency in the construction of state buildings.

In offices and classrooms across campus, faculty and staff are encouraged to keep the thermostat set between 68- and 74-degrees Fahrenheit. Although most spaces have thermostats that occupants can adjust, many of these are connected to the main HVAC controls system, which limits the range of adjustment.

“We focus energy saving efforts on bigger building systems and components that have a larger impact to the total campus energy cost,” said Ben Mason, director of Operations and Maintenance. “For example, we can adjust temperatures on the larger HVAC units serving the main building systems during low occupancy times without having to change the room temperature settings.” 

Another aspect of sustainability at the university is recycling. Georgia College works closely with Attaway Recycling and other vendors to recycle items. Standard blue recycling bins with the universal recycling symbol are located throughout campus for people to discard recyclables.

“We can recycle cardboard, paper, plastics—number 1 and 2—aluminum, metal and steel cans,” Hamilton said. “Those items are deemed acceptable by Attaway Recycling.” 

“It is important to teach students about sustainability initiatives to help them grow outside of their academic career,” Hamilton said. “And, it's not just limited to composting, gardening, recycling or the environment and how much money we can save: It’s about people taking care of people and doing the right thing. Once you put conservation measures in place, they provide students with a well-rounded experience.”
– Lori Hamilton

Georgia College staff takes the recycling materials to a larger recycling container. Waste Management, the local waste/recycling hauler, collects, weighs and transports the recycling materials to Attaway Recycling for processing.

Recycling began as a student-led project, which turned into a campus-wide initiative in 2013.

“At that time, we were recycling at about a 3% rate,” she said. “Currently, the rate is at approximately 12%. Any other recycling materials outside of what Attaway Recycling handles, we handle in-house with other vendors.” 

The Office of Sustainability also takes in used batteries, light bulbs and glass. The glass is crushed onsite and repurposed on campus.

Georgia College also has a composting unit on site that has diverted nearly 70,000 tons of food waste from landfills since the unit began operating.

“We work closely with Sodexo on getting food waste from The Max, and make sure that we do not have a lot of contamination like silverware,” Hamilton said. “The composter is efficient, and students enjoy working with it.”

The compost curing process takes around six months. After that, it’s used mostly in the West Campus Garden. The Landscaping Department uses the compost, as well. 

West Campus Garden
West Campus Garden

The garden is maintained by the Garden Manager intern. The intern with the Gardening Club solicits volunteers to assist with the garden. The Gardening Club has been involved since the garden was created. In addition, the intern sets schedules for planting, watering, maintaining and harvesting, as well as provides training and gives educational tours.

“A lot of students and faculty members with classes come to learn more about the garden,” Hamilton said. “As part of a pilot program, we’ve opened the garden up to faculty and staff to have their own area in the garden rent-free. So far, I cannot believe the number of people who are interested in coming out to work in their own areas. It has been amazing.”

Georgia College holds the Bronze Award for its sustainability efforts, from The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (ASHE).

Sustainability practices are good for campus, students and the environment.

“It is important to teach students about sustainability initiatives to help them grow outside of their academic career,” Hamilton said. “And, it's not just limited to composting, gardening, recycling or the environment and how much money we can save: It’s about people taking care of people and doing the right thing. Once you put conservation measures in place, they provide students with a well-rounded experience.”

Learn more about sustainability at Georgia College.