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Feature Story

Going Green

An Overview of Sustainability Efforts Underway at Longwood University

Kent Booty Associate Editor

When the Virginia secretary of natural resources spoke at Longwood’s convocation in September 2008, he praised the university for "coloring itself a deeper shade of green as it increasingly builds upon its record of environmental education and stewardship."

Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin, '07, serves as Longwood's first sustainability coordinator.

 In the past few years, Longwood has indeed intensified its efforts to promote sustainability. The campaign is led by Longwood’s first sustainability coordinator, Kelly Martin, ’07, and is assisted by the Sustainability Committee, an advisory body established in February 2006 by Longwood President Patricia Cormier. The university's definition of sustainability, taken from the United Nations-sponsored Brundtland Report of 1987, is "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

"Resources are finite, and we need to prepare for the future," said Louise Waller, Longwood’s real property manager, who co-chairs the committee, which is composed of faculty, staff and students. "A lot of people think of sustainability only in terms of environmental sustainability, which includes our carbon footprint, but there are three legs to sustainability. The other legs are economic sustainability, which includes renewable energy, and social sustainability, of which an example is Fair Trade. When you’re making a sustainable decision, you need to think about all three.

"We practice sustainability on campus in many ways," she continued. "By using sawdust for heating fuel, which we have done since 1983, we’re not burning coal or oil. Also, sawdust use promotes our area's economic sustainability in that it is a byproduct of local sawmills, and environmental in that it is a renewable resource. We also recycle. When we cleaned up Stevens Hall (former science building), we recycled as much as possible, including glass, metals and plastics, and all other items were sold and reused at a surplus sale. Our concept of surplus is a sustainable action; we try to sell old computers and furniture. In other sustainability areas, the business school does income taxes, free, for low-income people, and we support Fair Trade with coffee purchased by ARAMARK."

Kelly Martin, who attended Longwood as a non-traditional student, began as sustainability coordinator in September 2008, after working for a year as assistant coordinator of the Campus Master Plan office, which also involved sustainability. Her position is funded by a $138,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Foundation to support consolidating existing sustainability efforts into an expanded comprehensive program. Longwood has committed to taking over the position and keeping it going after the three-year grant runs out.

Sustainability will again be Longwood’s academic theme during the 2009-2010 academic year, as it was last year. It has been woven into all the Longwood Seminar classes and heavily promoted across campus. "It is the university’s goal to educate about, and raise awareness of, sustainability practices, not just quietly implement them," Waller said.

Longwood’s Sustainability Initiatives Include:

  • The interior windows in Dorrill Dining Hall were tinted with a solar window film in August 2008 to reduce solar heat gain in the warmer months by 63 percent as well as reduce heat loss in the colder months. The same type of solar film was installed on windows in the Curry-Frazer connector in April 2009.
  • The Cardboard CrewElectric, steam and water sub-meters, which keep track of utility usage on an individual building basis, are being installed in all of the residence halls, with plans to do so for the entire campus. The sub-meters are just one of many examples of the expansion and upgrade of the energy management system. Also, energy-efficient hot water heaters, called "instantaneous" heaters, which provide hot water only as needed, were installed recently in Curry and Frazer residence halls. Longwood has already exceeded its goal for Executive Order 48, which for State agencies that, like Longwood, met their goal under a previous plan, have been asked to reduce their annual non-renewable energy costs by at least 15 percent of fiscal year (FY) 2006 expenditures by FY 2010. The university’s goal was $199,500 (Longwood’s FY 2006 overall energy costs were nearly $1.33 million), and already it has achieved a cost avoidance of about $318,000. Longwood hired its first full-time energy manager, Mike Janos, who is a certified energy manager, in August 2008.
  • Longwood since 1983 has burned sawdust in its boiler plant, which supplies most of the heat and hot water to residence halls. This reduces harmful emissions and saves the university about $4,000 a day in energy costs compared to burning oil. In the last fiscal year the university reduced its fuel oil consumption by 100,000 gallons by increasing sawdust usage and fine-tuning oil equipment. Once the new heating plant opens in January 2010, sawdust will supply 100 percent of Longwood’s heating fuel, and the facility will be more efficient than the current heating plant, built in 1939. (See related story)
  • The dining hall’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system uses 150 geothermal wells that extend 300 feet into the field behind the building. The wells are economical and reduce greenhouse gases.
  • A thermal storage system used in the air conditioning process for Lancaster Hall, the main administration building, creates ice at night when electricity rates are low. The ice is used to cool the building during the day, when rates are higher, in lieu of electricity.
  • Trash AuditThe university recycles aluminum, plastics one through seven, paper, newspapers, and magazines. Plastics and aluminum are taken to the Vernon Street warehouse, a few blocks from campus, where they are put into a machine that perforates and crushes them, while paper, newspapers, and magazines are taken to the Randolph warehouse a few miles away. At both warehouses, the materials are baled separately, then sold to whichever recycling broker is offering the highest price. The last two years, Longwood has participated in RecycleMania, a nationwide 10-week competition among colleges and universities to see who can recycle the most.
  • All first-year students the past two years have been required to read the book Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth by Jim Merkel, which is again being discussed in this year’s Longwood Seminar, a required class for freshmen and transfer students. Merkel, an environmental activist who is Dartmouth College’s first sustainability coordinator, visited campus this year and last year in late August. 
  • Several other campus visitors in the 2008-09 academic year have spoken on sustainability themes. They include Céline Cousteau, international project coordinator for the Ocean Futures Society (and granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Cousteau); Jerome Ringo, a conservationist who is president of the Apollo Alliance and immediate past chairman of the National Wildlife Federation; environmental activist and writer Janisse Ray. Longwood’s 2009 Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow; and sustainability expert Dr. Henrik Selin, a faculty member at Boston University.
  • A section of the Longwood Seminar class undertook a "trash audit" in September 2008 to see how much of what ended up in the trash could have been recycled. Students in the class, taught by Dr. Maureen Walls-McKay, assistant director of the Counseling Center, sorted through two random bags of trash from each of four buildings, weighing what could have been recycled and what was real trash. Nearly 56 percent of the trash in Ruffner, 42 percent in the Cunninghams, and 31 percent in Greenwood Library could have been recycled, they found. Walls-McKay plans to repeat the trash audit, also called a waste composition survey, this fall. "It was a good learning experience for the students," she said. "Each year Americans throw away about 180 million tons of trash. The United States generates twice as much waste per person as any other country."
  • The sustainability office sponsored three student internships during the 2008-09 academic year that involve green themes. One (by Adam Kebeck, ’09) examined Longwood’s carbon footprint, another (Claire Thomas, ’09) looked at paper usage in the library, and the third internship (Colleen Whitney, now a senior) measured the effectiveness of signs in Hull Education Center prompting people to turn off lights when classrooms are not being used.
  • The Longwood Chemistry Club was one of only 25 organizations selected from approximately 900 active student affiliate chapters of the American Chemical Society (ACS) to receive the Green Chemistry Award for 2007-08. For Earth Day 2008, club members built recycling bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans, sponsored a seminar on biodiesel fuel by Ross Horner,’95, a science teacher at Cumberland County High School, and encouraged patrons to "go trayless" in the dining hall and take part in a "power hour" in which all non-essential electronics were turned off to save energy. The chapter also presented a poster on "Longwood University Goes Green" at the ACS national conference in New Orleans in April 2008 and helped a professor conduct "green" labs for organic chemistry lab students.
  • Dr. Cormier driving a PriusLongwood President Patricia Cormier is doing her part by driving a 2008 Toyota Prius, a hybrid that has been rated the most fuel-efficient car in the United States. The Longwood Foundation bought the car, which gets 48 miles per gallon, in June 2008.

Related Stories: Old School is New Again  | National Wildlife Federation Honors Longwood for Sustainability Efforts