PROVO Brigham Young University is adding to its list of programs that are designed to help the environment through conservation and sustainability.
While the efforts have always helped Earth, the business model of these many programs also helps the university itself.
Already in place are the long-standing paper and aluminum-can recycling receptacles found all over campus as well as the practice of turning biodegradable food waste into mulch, which is used throughout the campus grounds.
But a new twist on that effort was kicked off in a campuswide conference recently where employees ate with biodegradable plates, utensils and napkins.
"We can take the waste, and it goes right out to our compost pile," said Dean Wright, director of Dining Services at BYU. "They are able to sustain the heat and other service requirements used in our pulpers as part of our compost process, so now we are moving towards using them everywhere we can when we do outside catering."
BYU, one of the first schools in the state to hold a mass zero-waste meal, held three on campus recently. Along with other outside catering events, the Blue Line Deli which will open this fall in the Tanner Building will also use the biodegradable items for all its meals.
The items are ground up with the food waste and are placed in the compost piles. The compost piles cook at a temperature of 140 to 160 degrees for 90 days with the addition of water, nitrogen and oxygen in order to make the mulch.
"We custom blend our soils and do all our own landscaping," director of BYU grounds maintenance Roy Peterman said. "So by using the mulch we can reduce the consumption of water by 33 percent in sod areas. Then we reduce an additional 33 percent in shrub beds and flower beds."
Another new program starting this semester is the plastics recycling program. Bins will be placed throughout campus to collect certain grades of plastic, which will be recycled.
The other new addition to the campus green initiative is within the walls of the new Commons at the Cannon Center. The new cafeteria's appliances are all Energy Star-rated. The fryer was made in Scotland and cooks at about 40 degrees lower then a normal fryer, which means less power to cook French fries and the oil is being reprocessed into biodiesel fuels. The dishwasher uses 40 percent less water as well as less energy to heat the water, and it still cleans as well as other dishwashers on the market.
The other effort in the Cannon Center has been to control waste by allowing students to choose what they want to eat in adequate portions. In doing so the students are themselves trying to control waste.
"We have tried to measure our waste, and we know that the average student has about 3.5 ounces of waste for every meal," Wright said. "Our goal is to get that to 1.5 ounces of waste. So that is all part of our sustainability philosophy."
Wright says that while all these efforts do cost money, they also help the university in energy savings, which often offsets the initial costs, or in the fact that being good stewards attracts many of the 2,000-plus student employees that work for dining services. Wright says these efforts toward sustainability are also important if they can help promote academic research in any way.
Many universities have similar programs in place throughout the country, but some of them are pushed aside because of those initial costs. As the world starts to pay more and more attention to these efforts to leave a smaller footprint on the Earth, BYU will continue to stand out."What we are seeing here is not a flamboyant display of being environmentally friendly, but just doing the right thing at the right time," Peterman said. "Our administration has always been supportive of these efforts through the years."