With support from the entire student body, Tennessee Tech University is doing more and more to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint.
During the course of the year, thousands of dollars from a student sustainability fee and several governmental grant awards have been spent to implement and maintain a variety of environmentally sustainable projects across the campus.
“Improving the sustainability of our campus simply makes sense,” said James Leverette, chair of the campus sustainability committee and a mechanical engineering graduate student. “We are investing resources so that we can reduce our footprint, allowing us to reduce our energy usage and waste generation while saving money in the long run.”
Projects range from converting the university’s power supply from coal to natural gas and turning off air handling units when buildings are empty to buying patio furniture with solar-powered charging stations and more electric vehicles for campus use.
Many of the projects are paid for with a fee students voted to add to the cost of their education in 2005. A student-led committee comprised of other students, faculty and staff votes on projects and initiatives that are suggested by individuals on campus.
“As a student, it’s a great opportunity to learn how to get something done,” said Phil Oldham, TTU president. “You get a group like this going and all of a sudden, a lot of great things happen. We want to encourage that kind of grassroots feed of ideas and creativity.”
The committee has approved paying personnel to remove lights from areas on campus that are brighter than needed, installing solar panels, touchless bathroom facilities, and motion sensors to turn lights on and off; and instituting campus-wide recycling and bicycle sharing programs.
TTU buys renewable energy from the Tennessee Valley Authority and has installed water bottle refilling stations in several campus buildings. The university is working to raise students’ energy awareness with a room in the Fitness Center that uses exercise machines to produce electricity, and energy meters on residence halls to encourage students to try to reduce their consumption of electricity.
Many of the projects are implemented with cost savings in mind. Six of the projects funded so far this year are estimated to save the university more than $320,000 a year.
“I’ve become a big believer in the triple bottom line,” Oldham said. “This is more than just the environment. It’s people and it’s money. When we do these projects right, it helps the university in multiple ways.”