Going Green Gets Easier at Mason

Posted: October 8, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

students dig up plants
With Innovation Hall on the Fairfax Campus behind them, a New Century College class takes a rest after digging up native plants in an area that will soon be cleared for construction. The students will eventually move the plants to other locations on campus.

By Ryann Doyle and Daniel Walsch

There is a new word in the Mason vocabulary: “sustainability.” It refers to balancing sound economic, social and environmental policies to ensure the university is doing all it can to be an example for responsible stewardship in its interactions with the region, the commonwealth and the national and international communities.

Since President Alan Merten signed a climate commitment with other universities this past summer, Mason’s sustainability efforts have steadily moved forward on many different fronts.

Coordinating Sustainability

To help oversee a comprehensive initiative, Lenna Storm has been hired to serve as Mason’s first sustainability coordinator. Storm is optimistic about the potential in the university community and believes that by taking the first difficult steps in the right direction, Mason can make a big contribution to our environment.

Lenna Storm
Lenna Storm, sustainability coordinator

“I see this as a challenge that all of us share because first and foremost we are citizens of the world and have a responsibility of doing what we can to keep this world of ours healthy,” she says. “Universities must be leaders in this effort because communities often look to their colleges and universities for guidance on innovative concepts and as a resource. This is certainly the case here in Northern Virginia.”

“There have been many people working on sustainability issues across the university,” says Tom Calhoun, vice president for Facilities. “Whether it is a focus in classes, recycling efforts, energy management, new building design, purchasing or simply increasing awareness, many students, faculty and staff have been working on things to improve our sustainability. Lenna’s challenge will be to bring focus to all of these efforts and craft a university sustainability plan and program to ensure we are doing all we can.”

Storm is hoping to integrate sustainability activities into course work, promote student campaigns to spread awareness at the grass-roots level, work with department heads to discuss ways they can “green” their operations, coordinate a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory in support of Mason’s commitment to climate neutrality, develop a sustainability program budget, seek related grant opportunities, establish standards and policies that can be implemented at the university level, and use her business sense and her knowledge in environmental science and policy to educate at the executive level and suggest policy changes that will help balance the financial pressures of going green with realistic sustainability needs.

“I’m really excited to have a person of Lenna’s talents and experience to lead our sustainability efforts. She combines a passion for the subject with strong management and leadership skills. Both will be necessary as we build this program,” says Calhoun.

No stranger to the university, Storm served as a research assistant for the Faculty Senate’s green campus task force from January to May 2007, and has also completed her course work for a master’s degree in environmental science and policy. Storm received her bachelor of science degree in industrial management at Carnegie Mellon University.

She concedes this new position and its responsibilities are a bit daunting “because the position is so vast and covers every aspect of the entire university.”

Individual Areas Making Progress

In the meantime, many units at Mason are contributing to the green movement.

The Global and Community Health Department within the College of Health and Human Services recycles all used paper and ink cartridges, installs energy efficient light bulbs when possible, turns off the lights in the rooms rather then let the sensor turn them off after people leave the office, turns off all appliances, printers, copiers, faxes, coffee makers and computers at the close of business and purchases recycled products and cleaning supplies for the office when possible.

plants in plastic
Native plants are bagged for removal and relocation.
Photos by Evan Cantwell

The beginning of what will soon be a native plant garden stands alongside Patriot Circle on the Fairfax Campus across from the Facilities Management building. The hope is to completely fill the garden with native plants and no grass, so it will require significantly less maintenance and no mowing.

Andrew Wingfield teaches Fostering Sustainability in the 21st Century, a New Century College class that looks at various aspects of contemporary American life such as food production, transportation and energy use to consider how our society can move to more sustainable practices. To support the sustainability cause at Mason, Wingfield’s class dug up the native plants that would have otherwise been destroyed as construction crews prepare to build the new Fine Arts Building on the Fairfax Campus.

“We removed the plants, roots and all, and put them in bags,” says Wingfield. “Our community partners at Earth Sangha have a native plant nursery in Springfield, and they have generously offered to give the plants a home in their nursery until we can locate a good transplanting site on campus.”

David Brazer, professor in the College of Education and Human Development, is committed to running several of his class sessions as electronic classes with the explicit purpose of reducing fuel consumption and pollution.

“Although my classes are small, I believe it is important to send a message to all of our students that, as global citizens, we should search for ways to use our cars less,” says Brazer.

His two courses will have a total of nine electronic sessions that will “save hundreds of gallons of fuel consumed and thousands of pounds of carbon emitted.”

The Creative Services unit is well on its way to saving energy, water, trees and waste. This summer, Cindy Stocks, production manager, started investigating ways her department could help the environment. She discovered the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international organization that promotes responsible stewardship of the world’s forests. The FSC monitors the entire paper manufacturing process by setting international standards for responsible forest management and certifies printers that are eco-friendly.

“At the end of the year, the FSC will send us an eco audit which shows us exactly how many trees and how much energy, water and waste we have saved by using certified paper,” explains Stocks.

This first printed material produced under FSC standards was the fall edition of the Mason Spirit alumni magazine. From this one project, Creative Services saved 47 trees, 33 million BTUs of energy, 5,269 pounds of carbon, 17,273 gallons of water and 2,858 pounds of solid waste.

Many environmentally concerned Mason faculty, staff and students have been suggesting the need for recycling bins in offices, classrooms and food courts. Mason would ideally like to recycle as much as possible; however, it is not always practical to have a recycling bin in a specific area.

“People tend to put in half-full containers, and this becomes a smell, bug and fruit fly problem,” explains Ronald Lim, manager of Recycling and Waste Management. “We cannot put a can and bottle recycler in every classroom because it would be too disruptive for my crew to come in and get them while class is going on. But there should be recycling bins in the hallways of every building.”

For more information about ways you can help Mason go green, visit the Environmental Task Force web site, or contact Lenna Storm.

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