Sustainability at Knox College
January: Sustainable Transitions
The new year has begun, and many offices on campus are starting afresh in new digs. As we transition to the new year, new offices, and new initiatives, the theme of this January newsletter is "Sustainable Transitions at Knox". Read on to learn about the many ways that Knox has reduced waste and improved operational efficiency through the transitional projects we have undertaken in recent months.
A Waste-Free Move to Alumni Hall
As soon as winter break began, eight offices, comprising 45 staff members, transitioned to the newly renovated Alumni Hall. Over the course of the month, a "moving cascade" ensued, in which over twenty more faculty and staff members progressively transitioned into vacated offices, and many of the newly opened spaces were re-appropriated for academic use.
In light of the waste reduction successes we began to demonstrate last year, and in keeping with the sustainability commitments characterizing the Alumni Hall renovation, President Amott challenged us to accomplish a waste-free move.
The process of emptying storage closets and basements of decades of accumulation was daunting, and anyone who has moved in the past knows the amount of waste generated during such an endeavor. But this provided the perfect opportunity to test our skills of collaboration and resourcefulness. Spoiler alert: we were successful! Knox transitioned the contents of seventy people's office spaces and five storage rooms across campus into new spaces without renting a dumpster, OR increasing our regular trash pickup schedule.
The Waste-Free Move entailed active collaboration between the moving offices, the Facilities Department, and the Office of Sustainability. In order of the sustainable waste management hierarcy (Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle), the paragraphs below tell the inspiring story of how the logistics were arranged.
In preparation for this move, casual labor and sustainability staff stockpiled boxes from the cafeteria, computer labs, and the C-store. As offices began packing up for the move, they were directed to staging zones where they could obtain the necessary boxes for their transition. As the cascading move progressed, over 1500 mid-sized boxes were diverted temporarily from the cardboard compactor. They were labeled with small, brightly colored tags for aid of sorting and transport, then collected, re-labeled and reused several times over.
Assuming a fraction of the used boxes would have been purchased specially for the move, Knox saved over $3,000 and reduced its external environmental footprint by 2,300 lbs of CO2e emissions, 17,700 gallons of water, and 2,250 lbs of raw tree fiber.
Each office preparing for the move was provided with a waste-free moving guide, which listed all the materials they could set aside for recovery and recycling. The unused office supplies from around the school were collected in the Office of Sustainability, to stock the new office supply share zone you read about in last month's newsletter. Campus-owned office furnishings were redistributed to other campus spaces through a hierarchical cascade defined by the President's Council. At the end of the cascade, unwanted furnishings that land back in the warehouse will be made available to the community through an auction-like event.
Other useful things like t-shirts and household items were taken to the Free Store. A van-load of bedding formerly used for admissions overnight events was donated to the Galesburg Rescue Mission and other local family aid organizations. In fact, even a box of obsolete ink stamps were repurposed - brought to the local daycare for the delight of the children.
In all, we conservatively estimate that the reuse efforts diverted one ton (2,000 lbs) of material from the landfill, not including the furnishings.
Each office preparing for the move received receptacles for mixed recyclables and office paper, as well as instructions for setting aside cardboard, books &bound materials, spent electronics, old media storage discs and tapes, and other recyclable materials for collection.
The waste-free moving guide was modified so that it will pertain to all future moves and office cleanouts, and can now be found here on the Knox website.
In all, we conservatively estimate that the recycling efforts diverted an additional two tons (4,000 lbs) of material from the landfill.
Julie Layer took great care in considering sustainability as she planned this year's homecoming weekend festivities. In addition to striving for a waste-free open house, she took the bold step of waving goodbye to balloons: In consideration of the serious global implications of helium extraction and latex balloon disposal, she invested in a beautiful set of purple and gold feather flags. Where balloons would have historically been used to create a festive atmosphere at the Alumni Hall Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, visitors were instead surrounded by attractive, colorful flags. These flags will be used by the Advancement Office for many events to come, without continuous extraction of nonrenewable resources or generation of solid waste.
The Dean's Office
The Dean's Office has transitioned to digital forms for annual faculty CV updates. Now, when faculty update their CVs each year, hundreds of pages of paper CV updates and duplicate copies will be avoided. If all faculty take advantage of this digital submission option, it will reduce our campus environmental footprint by 195 kWh of energy, 334 gallons of water, 100 lbs of CO2 emissions, and 1,430 lbs of virgin tree fiber. It will also save the school approximately $204.00 in paper and printing costs.
John Dooley noted that most students in the computer science department now use i-clickers (powered by AA batteries) in their classes. In hopes of encouraging the use of rechargeable batteries (which generate less solid waste and are easier to recycle than single-use alkaline batteries), he suggested the creation of a public battery charging station. The Office of Sustainability and IT Services partnered to make this great idea a reality, by hosting a battery charging station and rechargeable battery swap in the Founders learning commons in Seymour Union.