Rockhurst University is one of the top learning institutions in the Midwest. But how do they rank in their sustainability efforts? In this interview, Katherine Frohoff, Director of Public Relations at Rockhurst University, discusses opportunities for students to become better recyclers.
1. What are 4 things that students can do right now to become better recyclers?
- Create a system for collecting personal recyclables and getting them in the bins.
- Use the bins correctly – don’t contaminate paper with food, for example.
- Keep sustainability in mind when organizing student events and work with university staff to ensure there are avenues for recycling.
- Think beyond the bin – look at personal consumption habits such as water usage, energy savings and purchasing habits
2. Is there an environmental club where students can become more involved in sustainability initiatives?
We have several avenues – the Green Club, which is all students, the Sustainability Committee, which also involves faculty and staff, and involvement through various channels such as Student Senate and working with our Sodexo food service partner.
3. What do you think Rockhurst University does best in the area of sustainability?
One of the things we do best is to collaborate across our internal constituencies to make positive changes. Just a few of the many areas that are involved in sustainability efforts are Physical Plant, Sodexo food service, Student Senate, Student Development, Faculty Senate and the Staff Advisory Council.
Recent Examples of Sustainability Efforts:
Physical Plant staff recently completed a project in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources to retrofit the entire campus with more energy efficient lighting that is activated by motion detectors. During summer and other breaks, an automated control system turns off lights and manages heating and cooling systems in accord with occupancy.
In 2011, we completed the Rockhurst University North Garage, a mixed-use facility that was awarded LEED Silver certification. We worked on the plans in partnership with our neighbors and included elements such as “green walls,” where ivy climbs the exterior.
In our residence halls, we have retrofitted toilets and showers with equipment that reduces gallons per minute usage. When mattresses are replaced, the old ones are donated to organizations that need them.
With approximately 900 students living on campus and a day population that’s larger with faculty and staff included, food service is another area where we can make an environmental impact. Students have led the way with requests to eliminate Styrofoam containers, begin composting food waste, and have initiated a “Leftovers With Love” program to take surplus cafeteria food to the St. James food kitchen, which serves meals to the community.
4. What is Rockhurst University doing better this year for the environment?
As water fountains wear out, they are being replaced with water bottle refill stations. One residence hall has been fully retrofitted with these and there are several additional stations on campus.
We recently added new recycling containers in our buildings for glass, aluminum and plastic. The glass will be emptied nightly into the Ripple Glass receptacle. We also recycle paper, through Abitibi Paper retriever, cardboard and brass keys. Rebates from the paper recycling are designated for the campus Green Club.
During the last academic year, our Student Development division promoted bus ridership by inviting the KCATA to bring a MAX bus onto campus for students to tour and have the opportunity to ask questions. Starting this fall, all full-time undergraduate and graduate students will be able to ride the bus for free by showing their student ID.
In March, we will begin construction on a new academic building that will add green space back to our footprint when it replaces a parking lot and it will be outfitted with LED lighting, automated controls and high-efficiency heating and cooling.
5. Does Rockhurst University use any solar, wind, or other alternatives sources of energy? If not, what is the plan for the future?
Considering the age of most of our buildings and the cost of alternative sources of energy, it’s not currently feasible for us.
6. How accurate do you feel that Michelle Goth’s statement is (*see Background notes below) on the nature of the student population affecting the glass recycling rates?
We were surprised to learn this because we often get calls that the container is overflowing. The cyclical nature of our academic year definitely has an impact. Not only are there very few students living on campus, there are fewer events. Even so, we noticed that we collect more glass than some smaller cities, so we believe we are making an impact.
7. What steps are you taking to promote glass recycling to the students of Rockhurst University.
Our new recycle bins in every building will keep glass recycling convenient and top of mind. We have an orientation each year for students who live in the neighborhood and they are encouraged to use the recycling bins at the Community Center, including Ripple Glass.
8. Do you think that a grassroots-style initiative will work or does Ripple Glass have to spend advertising dollars to promote recycling in and around your campus?
As with all communication efforts, using multiple channels is the best approach. You can never underestimate the power of grassroots initiatives, but to ensure the message is seen and heard by specific key audiences, advertising in targeted media will likely boost your results.
9. At a personal level, what is interesting to you in the field of sustainability?
The enthusiasm of college students for environmental issues is extremely inspiring. They have the interest, the knowledge, and the talent to get things done. A Jesuit education is all about social justice, community service and and critical thinking. Sustainability issues touch on all of these. We have truly amazing students and we all feel privileged to partner with them.
In an interview with Michelle Goth at Ripple Glass, I asked:
12. What container, that SHOULD be full (high population or other factors) is not very full? What can this area/city do to help the public become better glass recyclers?
Michelle: The container at Rockhurst University is one that has surprised us by not filling as quickly as anticipated. We think this is likely due to the transient nature of the student population. It’s a great location though, right off the Plaza! We recently advertised in the area, so hopefully that increases traffic.
Doing a little searching at the Ripple Glass website, I found that the Rockhurst University container is ranked 63rd out of 95, with 40.33 tons of glass recycled in 2012. That is some solid recycling from a group of 2000+ students and faculty. That makes me appreciate Katherine’s answer even more, “…we collect more glass than some smaller cities…”
Good job, Rockhurst!