More efforts being made to go green, save money

Ouachita began a recycling program just over a year ago that is continuing to grow and have an impact on the campus.

“We just sort of evolved into it,” said Brett Powell, vice president of Administrative Services. “Our facilities director told us we were looking at a pretty big increase in our utilities rates … so it started out as trying to find ways to save money.”

According to Powell, the longer he and the group he gathered together of faculty, staff and students talked and researched their options it became more “than how we could save money, it became more of an environmental awareness project.”

Powell said that the program continues to “change and grow.” The original goals have been met, and they are now looking at how they can increase and improve the ways in which Ouachita conserves its resources.

Students will have noticed the blue bags in their rooms at move-in. The bags were a way to easily differentiate between trash and recyclable materials during the first weeks back at school.

Powell said that the recycling program is not yet funded, so new recycle bins are added as money allows, but eventually all the buildings on campus should have a recycling center.

“We’re trying to grow it over time,” said Powell.

David Owens, energy manager for Ouachita, said “[the] faculty and staff have done really well this past year … this summer they were fantastic” in their conservation efforts. Owens was hired one year ago to provide “accountability and leadership to the environmental stewardship program,” he said.

He was specially trained by Energy Education, Inc. to work at universities on programs like Ouachita’s. The stewardship program is fully funded and is backed by a 100 percent guarantee from Energy Education, Inc.

An example of some of the more radical changes made by this program to conserve energy is the four-day week implemented for the months of June and July this past summer.

According to Powell, going to four-day weeks for those two months cut energy costs by 22 percent compared to the previous year.

Powell conducted a survey at the end of the summer that showed enough faculty/staff support to try the system again next summer. Because Ouachita’s campus is primarily residential, Powell said it is unlikely that regular semesters will shorten the week by one day anytime soon.

The new dorms were built with energy efficiency in mind, according to Owens. They have high efficiency washers and dryers, hot water systems that heat the water on-demand, and better insulation. Powell added that there is not a single incandescent light bulb in the buildings; all of the light fixtures are equipped with fluorescent bulbs.

Other goals of the program are replacing the vehicles used on campus to electric and hybrids, building a new maintenance plant, putting more energy efficient machinery into the older dorms and adding more recycling stations.

Some simple things that can be done to conserve energy and resources are easy. Powell and Owens gave the following list: Turn off lights when you leave a room. Unplug your computer when you head to class. Take shorter showers, taking off just two minutes per shower saves gallons of water and the energy used to heat it.

In fact, “the largest consumption of students is hot water,” Owens said.

Recycling paper, plastic, and aluminum when possible is also a great idea.

Students wanting to get more involved with conservation should “talk to their peers, build awareness about recycling,” Powell said.

For more information about what Ouachita is doing to go green, check out the Web site home.obu.edu/green.

“I’m just really excited about what’s happening at Ouachita,” Owens said. “The faculty and staff and students have really gotten on board with the idea of being better environmental stewards. I’m encouraged and excited.”

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