Tech graded ‘B’ for sustainability

The Sustainable Endowments Institute has given Tech an overall grade of ‘B’ on its 2009 College Sustainability Report Card. Up a letter grade from last year, this grade moves Tech into the Campus Sustainability Leader category.

“We have worked very hard all across Georgia Tech, in education, research and operations, to make [Tech] a leader in sustainability,” said Marcia Kinstler, sustainability director for the Office of Environmental Stewardship.

Currently, half a dozen Tech projects are registered as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects with the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Klaus Advanced Computing Building, which features 40 percent energy savings, 50 percent water savings and 60 percent recycled construction materials, was LEED Gold-certified this year.

According to Kinstler, energy use in existing buildings on campus has been reduced by 11 percent due to energy-efficient retrofitting of over 64 buildings, with features such as enthalpy wheels and motion sensors.

The Green Cleaning Program accounts for cleaning equipment that uses 70 percent less water and 90 percent less chemicals than traditional equipment. The cost of removing all the waste on campus is about $900,000 per year. “[Tech] is one of the top waste producers in the metro area, but we also have the best recycling program in the city,” said Cindy Jackson, program manager for the Office of Solid Waste Management and Recycling. Tech is the 2008 recipient of the National Recycling Coalition Outstanding College or University Program Award.

“I think the awareness in the past three years has really grown, with all the students coming in who are impassioned about the environment…. I think students can lead by example,” Jackson said.

Due to student push, the recycling program is switching to a dual-stream system, meaning students now only have to separate their recyclables into two categories. According to Carly Queen, fifth-year ME major and president of Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS), this will increase student participation in recycling on campus.

Recent partnerships with local farms have been made to bring organic foods to dining halls on campus. The Vegetarian Society feels food sustainability has been under-represented.

“People need to be aware of the economic, sociocultural, political and environmental effects, both on a local and global scale, of [their] habits and decisions,” said Samuel Tettner, fourth-year PUBP major and president of the Vegetarian Society.

According to Alec Manfre, president of the Environmental Alliance, Tech can commit more effort to decreasing energy usage and implementing more forms of alternative energy.

“Students can contribute by doing their part in talking about it. Walk the walk and talk the talk,” Queen said. Energy efficiency will be the main focus of SOS this year. Queen also stated that converting the Stingers and Trolleys to run on biofuels could be accomplished by next year.