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2008 News Releases

Longwood intensifies efforts to promote environmental sustainability

April 14, 2008

The Longwood University campus is getting greener all the time.

The university’s efforts to promote an environmentally sustainable campus have intensified in recent years. The campaign is coordinated by the Longwood University Committee for a Sustainable Environment (also called GreenCampus), established in February 2006 by Longwood’s president, Dr. Patricia Cormier. Longwood’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, real property manager, who co-chairs the committee. “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. This year we’re participating for the first time in Recyclemania, an ARAMARK-sponsored event in which colleges compete to see who can recycle the most in a 10-week period. 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. A student is doing an internship with the Campus Master Plan office looking at our carbon footprint, three students are helping with recycling, and we’re working with Sigma Kappa sorority on Earth Day, which is April 22.”

Sustainability will be Longwood’s academic theme for the next two years, beginning with the 2008-09 academic year. It will be incorporated 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.

The Health & Fitness Center recently was awarded a Gold rating – second highest of four levels ­– in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System from the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes energy savings for new and existing buildings. The HFC, which opened in August 2007, is the first Gold LEED-certified higher education building in Virginia and the first LEED Gold-certified student recreation center in the Southeast.

The building’s “green” features include waterless urinals, low-flow showers and lavatories to reduce water use by 40 percent; HVAC equipment free of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons and Halon; a carbon dioxide monitoring system to help provide adequate ventilation; walk-off mats at main entrances that reduce the amount of pollutants entering the building; adhesives, sealants, paints, carpet and composite wood products with few or no volatile organic compounds; and Forest Stewardship Council-certified athletic wood floors, casework and wood doors. Some 54 percent of all materials used were manufactured regionally; 28 percent of materials have recycled content; and construction waste management practices resulted in more than 98 percent of the waste being recycled rather than taken to the landfill.

The certification is not just for the building itself but includes the process in which the building was constructed. Dick Bratcher, vice president for Facilities Management and Real Property and the other co-chair of the GreenCampus committee, said the award “recognizes that Longwood has used construction methods that are environmentally friendly, and that goes all the way from groundbreaking through the recycling of construction byproducts and waste materials.”

“Other buildings on campus also incorporate sustainability,” Waller said. “These green buildings include the boiler plant, the parking garage, Dorrill Dining Hall and Chichester Science Center. By utilizing sawdust in the boiler plant, which supplies 90 percent of the heat and hot water to residence halls, we’re reducing harmful emissions and saving the university about $4,000 a day in energy costs compared to burning oil. The parking garage’s roof reduces greenhouse gases and stormwater runoff. The dining hall’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system uses 150 geothermal wells dug 300 feet into the field behind the building, a practice that is more economical and reduces greenhouse gases. Elsewhere on campus, in the science center, leaks can be self-contained, and there’s an acid waste neutralization system in the sinks. In the last six months we replaced and upgraded the chillers – devices that create cool air – in Willett Hall (gymnasium building), so now we have more efficient models. We’re starting a stormwater management system in which the corner of Race and Franklin streets (behind Bedford Hall) will be the area where water runoff is stored so that it can naturally return into the ground.”

Sustainability is not just practiced on a large scale. Longwood’s housekeeping uses sustainable products and services, including products certified by Green Seal, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally responsible products and services; the same entrance mats as in the Health & Fitness Center; and paper products made from recycled material. The Printing Services department uses office paper that contains 30 percent recycled content and chemical-free printing methods.

One of Longwood’s least visible sustainable features is a thermal storage system that stores the ice used in Lancaster Hall’s air-conditioning process. “The system creates ice at night when the electricity rates are low, then you use the ice during the day and thus aren’t using electricity when the rates are higher,” said J.W. Wood, director of Capital Planning and Construction.

Recycling is one of the most widely known and easily accomplished sustainable practices. For the most recent week for which there are figures, Feb. 17-23, Longwood recycled 6,880 pounds of materials, and some 9,031 pounds were recycled the previous week. The sustainability committee has received funding from the university to expand the recycling program. “Currently we recycle mixed paper, newspaper, cardboard and pockets of plastic, but it is not a campuswide policy,” Waller said. “Steps are now being taken to incorporate plastics and aluminum across campus in the recycling effort.”

Longwood also is promoting environmental stewardship and awareness through its affiliation with Clean Virginia Waterways (CVW), a statewide nonprofit organization for which the university provides office space and fiscal management. CVW’s mission is to “educate the public, schoolchildren and teachers about freshwater and marine pollution as well as measures needed to reduce pollution and enhance conservation of Virginia’s waterways.” CVW also organizes volunteers to remove debris from the state’s shorelines, waterways and beaches; collects and catalogs information on the amount and type of debris and uses that information to effect policy changes; and works with state and local watershed groups to develop water quality monitoring programs.

In addition, Longwood conducts environmental education and research at Hull Springs Farm. This facility consists of more than 630 acres in Westmoreland County on the Northern Neck, bequeathed to the university in 1999 by Mary Farley Ames Lee, a 1938 Longwood graduate. The farm, situated between two tributaries of the Potomac River a short distance from the Chesapeake Bay, is owned and managed by the Longwood Foundation.

The GreenCampus committee is a standing committee of about 20 faculty, staff and students. “As Citizen Leaders, it is imperative that we embrace our environment and walk boldly into a clean and green future,” Dr. Cormier said in forming the committee.