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Current green initiatives

Students Tending Cougarden


Look around. Almost everywhere you go on campus – classrooms, residence halls, offices, lobbies and commons areas – you’ll find blue recycle bins for recycling paper and cardboard, aluminum, and No. 1 and No. 2 plastics.

Thanks to the dedication of staff volunteers, paper recyclables in the administrative buildings on the main campus are collected weekly. Columbia College contracts with Civic Recycling to collect recyclables, and with New World Recycling to collect the college’s paper shreds.

But that’s not all! The Columbia College Relay for Life team proudly participates in a CANcer Crushing campaign, collecting and recycling aluminum cans from campus and donating the proceeds to the Relay for Life organization.

Check out the team’s stats from the 2013-14 academic year:

  • Cans collected: 259,522
  • Total bags of cans: 920
  • Total weight: 7,633 lbs
  • Money Raised: $3,995

How can you Go for Greener? Recycle! It’s as simple as that.

Consider the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • 70 percent of Americans recycle newspapers
  • 54.6 percent of Americans recycle aluminum cans
  • 30.8 percent recycle plastic bottles and jars

We can do better than that at Columbia College! With the abundance of blue bins on campus, it’s easy to recycle these items. Plus, we should aim to help the Relay for Life team raise even more money for the CANcer Crushing campaign in the 2014-15 academic year – just drop your aluminum cans in the blue bins!

Reducing food waste

The Environmental Protection Agency states that food accounts for the largest amount of any single material reaching landfills from municipal solid waste. On average, some 36 million tons of food reach landfills each year, where it rots and creates methane gas, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

That sounds pretty dire. Fortunately, by making a couple of small changes, Columbia College is doing its part to reduce food waste.

Reusable to-go boxes

Thanks to the Residence Hall Advisory Council and AmeriServe, reusable plastic to-go boxes have been available in Dulany Hall for diners on the run since February 2011. For an up-front, refundable $5 deposit, payable at Dulany Hall, you will receive a card to trade for a to-go box. Bring the box back dirty or clean to exchange for a fresh box, or to receive your card to trade for a box on another day. When the school year is over or you’re certain you’re done with the box, bring your card back to receive your $5 deposit.

Going trayless

And for those diners who have time to sit and eat, you’ve probably noticed the lack of trays in Dulany Hall. Since August 2011, Dulany has been trayless to encourage diners to take only what they can carry in their hands from the food line. Prior to going trayless, Dulany Hall weighed the amount of food wasted during a single lunch period:

  • 84 meals were served
  • 70 pounds, or 13 gallons of food, wasted
  • 25 pounds, or 30 gallons of paper, wasted
  • Approximately 100 meals could have been served out of this wasted food 

Dulany Hall experimented with the concept by implementing trayless dining on certain days and noticed that diners, without the ability to pile food on their trays that they may or may not consume, wasted less. Diners became more conscientious about what their food selections and food waste was reduced!

How can you Go for Greener? Easy! Take advantage of the reusable to-go boxes at Dulany. Make smart choices when eating at Dulany – take only what you know you will eat. You can always get seconds (or thirds!) if you’re still hungry.

Visit the Cougar Café to purchase a reusable coffee mug for just $10. Coffee refills are less expensive in the reusable mug, so the mug pays for itself in no time.

Off campus, reusable travel mugs and containers for food and beverages reduce waste, too.

Paper consumption

In 2012 Americans recycled approximately 65 percent of the 69 million tons of paper and paperboard they used.

So just how much is one ton of paper, anyway? One ton of paper is the equivalent of about 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, three cubic yards of space in a landfill and about two barrels of oil.

About 27 percent of our municipal solid waste is paper. Don’t you think we can be doing better? While recycling is important, reducing paper consumption to begin with is equally important.

Columbia College carefully monitors how much paper it uses on its main campus. Check out these 2012 statistics:

How can you Go for Greener? Columbia College is proud to offer free, unlimited printing to students. To help reduce paper consumption, just be sure you are printing only what you need, and print front to back whenever possible. Faculty and staff also can reduce paper consumption by utilizing front to back printing, electronic communication and taking advantage of the document imaging services provided by Mail, Imaging and Printing Services to help digitize and organize files.

Energy efficiency

Ground source water heating and air conditioning system

A groundsource heat pump or geothermal heat pump is a type of energy system that utilizes the earth’s heat to regulate a building’s temperature. During the winter, the pump pulls heat from the ground, and during the winter the pump dissipates heat into the ground.

In 1993, Columbia College became a pioneer in energy technology when it installed a groundsource heat pump for the entire main campus, replacing outdated radiators and window air conditioning units. Few campuses boasted this technology at the time, which provides year-round temperature control of 70 percent of campus buildings and has reduced energy costs by about 15 percent.

Lighting retrofitting

Responding to U.S. Department of Energy mandates phasing outT12 lamp fixtures beginning July 1, 2010, Columbia College proudly has converted nearly all of its less efficient T12 incandescent tube lights to more efficient T8 fluorescent lights. T12 and T8 refer to the diameters of lamp tubes, with the T8 having a smaller diameter that uses less energy. Additionally, T8 lights are manufactured to function using less mercury and are thus more sustainable.

There are simple ways you can Go for Greener on campus and at home that don’t require you to install fancy new underground systems or lighting fixtures:

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Close off vents in rooms you don't use often
  • Turn down the thermostat on your heating and air conditioning when you're not at home, or buy a programmable thermostat, which is fairly inexpensive, easy to install and pays for itself quickly
  • Unplug electronics when not in use
  • Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last for years and save money


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