Toledo-area campuses growing greener as environmental movement gains awareness

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  • Going green is an increasing theme at college and university campuses in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

    Sometimes it s a student-led movement, and at other campuses it s part of energy-saving and cost-cutting measures by the administration.

    At Bluffton University, students put together a Go Green Marching Toward Environmental Awareness campaign in the spring that inspired an environmental awareness theme for the current school year.

    It s more than recycling your plastic bottles. It s cutting down on waste, conserving energy, and everything that goes along with that, said Scott DeArmond, 22, a Bluffton business senior and president of the student senate.

    We re getting people to realize their actions have an effect on the global community, not just here at Bluffton or wherever they re from, Mr. DeArmond said.

    The university was planning to implement a civic-engagement theme that would unite the university, and the student-led awareness campaign in March made choosing the first topic Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World an easy choice, said Cynthia Bandish, associate professor of English and theme coordinator.

    College-aged students are thinking about their futures and their place in the world, making it a good time to instill habits such as recycling and environmental awareness, college officials said.

    And it seems to be working. More than 54 tons of material were recycled at the University of Toledo last year, and about 63 tons at Owens Community College.

    Behind the scenes

    While students focus on starting recycling efforts where they don t exist, such as at Bluffton and Adrian College, administrators say they are making less visible but just as significant environmental improvements, such as increasing insulation and replacing windows and lighting to be more energy-efficient.

    At Adrian, for example, a renovation of Pellowe Hall has included all those measures plus a thermobalancing system that will take heat from a side of the building that s warmed by sunlight and move it to a cooler, shaded part of the building without having to kick on the furnace.

    We used to have air conditioners on one side of the building and electric heaters on the other side, college spokesman Brad Whitehouse said.

    Ron Kubicki sorts recyclables at the University of Toledo,
where a number of energy-saving initiatives are under way.
    Ron Kubicki sorts recyclables at the University of Toledo, where a number of energy-saving initiatives are under way.

    Bluffton and the University of Toledo have unique cooling systems in some buildings in which ice is created at night when there is less strain on the power grid, and then during the day air is blown over that ice for air conditioning to cool the building.

    A new building at Lourdes College in Sylvania includes a different type of geothermal system in which underground wells pipe water into the building.

    That water, which is naturally cooled by the Earth, is either heated by electric heaters to a comfortable temperature or the system calls for more water to cool down the building.

    It is arguably easier to create green buildings during construction than tweak existing buildings.

    At UT, three building projects are under way that will have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver status because of how much attention was paid to being green, said Chuck Lehnert, associate vice president for facilities and construction.

    A building that will be connected to the business college will include a roof garden with foliage and an area for outdoor classes that will also collect rainwater to be used in the campus sprinkler system, Mr. Lehnert said.

    Powered by nature

    Renovations to the Memorial Field House and Savage Hall basketball arena are also using environmentally friendly technologies such as intelligent rooms that can sense if the room is in use and turn off lights or air conditioning if nobody is there. Sensors are also in place that detect light and heat coming through the windows and adjust the system accordingly, Mr. Lehnert said.

    UT is investigating a heating system that would run off biodiesel fuel instead of natural gas for the northern part of the engineering complex. The southern section already uses alternative solar energy through photovoltaic arrays set up at the corner of Dorr Street and Westwood Avenue.

    We re pushing the envelope a little bit, Mr. Lehnert said. It will be mind-boggling where we will be in a few years.

    Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio, is studying whether similar methods of gathering sunlight for energy could work there or if installing a windmill on campus could help fuel the school.

    A weather station was installed June 20 on top of the water tower that wirelessly feeds meteorological information to the college that will be available on the school s Web site after a redesign is complete, said John Krochmalny, industrial training specialist at the college.

    Environmental impact

    That information, along with an energy audit done by the students, will allow the college to make informed decisions about alternative energy.

    Energy audits are a common theme among area colleges investigating how much energy they use, where they can make adjustments, and what type of impact those changes will have on the environment and their budgets.

    At Bowling Green State University, students are routinely part of the process of looking at ways to go green.

    Students studying environmental policy or environmental science are required to take a hands-on class in which they work on a real project about environmental impact, said Enrique Gomezdelcampo, assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environment and Society.

    His classes have researched running campus lawn mowers on used cooking oil and methods to create a sustainable parking lot. They are working with the Bowling Green parks department to find ways it can reduce energy costs at its community center, Mr. Gomezdelcampo said.

    It s very realistic, he said. I don t want to come up with a project out of my head. I want them to work on a real project someone is going to make a decision on based on their research.

    Practice what we preach

    At the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima, students can study to be alternate-fuel technicians and get firsthand training in making biodiesel and ethanol fuels at the small processing plants on campus, said Andy O Neal, dean of the college of technologies.

    And the university has used that knowledge to transform its company vehicles into energy-efficient types that run on compressed natural gas, propane, hybrid electric, biodiesel, and ethanol about two or three of each, Mr. O Neal said.

    We practice what we preach, he said. Anything that we purchase now for a company fleet, we try to make sure we use alternate fuels.

    Owens also has bought two hybrids and two alternative-fuel vehicles in 2005, which equates to half of the college s safety and security vehicles.

    Even simple measures have the ability to have an impact, such as Mercy College of Northwest Ohio s initiative to cut by half the amount of paper used by the college.

    The goal is to go from 1.5 million pieces of paper last year to 750,000 this year by putting more course documents on the college s Web site and printing on the front and backs of paper, college spokesman Denise Hudgens said.

    Everyone has to do what they can, she said.

    Contact Meghan Gilbert at:mgilbert@theblade.comor 419-724-6134.