Columbia Housing is making strides towards its commitment to environmental sustainability. Here are some of the green initiatives and partnerships we have accomplished so far:
- Woodbridge Green Renovations
- Check Out
- Paper Waste Reduction
- Lighting Project
- Energy Reduction
- Dual-Flush Toilets
- The College Sustainability Report Card
3 apartments on the 7th floor of Woodbridge underwent a major renovation - in the greenest possible way! Not only were these apartments remodeled, including renovations to the kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and living rooms, but they also serve as environmentally-friendly models for future renovation projects. Some of these energy-saving improvements include:
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) furniture
- Energy Star refrigerators, gas stoves, and light fixtures
- Low or zero Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint and caulking
- Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) Environmental Stewardship Program certified cabinets
- Shower heads that flow at 2 gallons per minute
- Dual-flush toilets
- Sinks that flow at 1.5 gallons per minute
- Occupancy sensor lighting
- Recycling centers
- Vetrazzo counters
- Crossville EcoCycle tiles
- Bonded Logic insulation
- National Gyspum drywall
- FSC certified plywood, interior doors, and oak flooring
- Ving locks
- Metal fire-rated entrance doors
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: All our residence halls recycle paper, bottles, and cans through the Columbia recycling program. In addition, we have partnered with Green Forest, Inc. a New York-based environmental consulting firm to monitor our efforts and provide suggestions for improvement.
Update 2007: Our Eco-Reps have begun a campaign to raise student awareness of importance of recycling. This effort has included postering in the residence halls, and hosting information sessions during Earth Week.
NEXT STEPS: With our audits from Green Forest, we have established baseline goals for recycling, especially at peak times of the year like Check Out. Our next steps will be to improve upon these goals by increasing awareness, participation, and education.
During the Spring 2008 season, Columbia Housing partnered with the Institution Recycling Network (IRN), an organization that assists universities in repurposing furnishings that are still in good condition. As Columbia Housing began the second half of its renovation process in Ruggles, 5 trailers were filled with beds, dressers, desks, and chairs, which were donated and used throughout the city of Spanish Town, Jamaica.
Columbia Housing also participates in Give and Go Green, an event at the end of each year that coordinates student donations from Check Out with local charities, such as the Salvation Army, City Harvest, and Per Scholas, among many others.
Scenes from this donation process.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: In 2005 we helped create a recycling event, Dump and Run, during Check Out in the residence halls for unwanted items like books, food, clothing, and furniture. Our partnership with EarthCo Green Campus & Community Initiative, a Columbia/Barnard student action group that works to make our university more sustainable, makes this event possible. We provide logistical support like dumpsters and collection points, and the students handle publicity and coordinate the donation effort. Books are donated to the nearby George Bruce Library. Food is donated to City Harvest. Clothing, furniture, and other items are donated to the Bronx Salvation Army.
We also work with Green Forest and Northeast Lamp Recycling to comply with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on hazardous waste disposal, including light bulbs, batteries, computers, televisions, microwaves, and refrigerators.
Update 2006: Building upon the success our first event – we looked to improve by increasing participation and improving operations. In partnership with GEO (Group for Environmental Opportunities) we created a new campaign: Give + Go Green. The results were amazing! We collected over 500 lbs of food for City Harvest and filled an entire Salvation Army truck.
In the Fall of 2007, Housing made a conscious effort to reduce the amount of paper used by our department. By replacing our copiers and printers and printing pages more conservatively, Housing was able to reduce our environmental footprint by 70% of what it was the year before. Keep up the good work!
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: We work with Energy Star, a government-backed program helping businesses protect the environment through superior energy efficiency, to develop an energy strategy. All new equipment is manufactured to use the latest energy saving technology and environmentally safe coolants. We also perform regular preventive maintenance, including cleaning all filters to help the units run more coolly and efficiently. Currently, all refrigerators in East Campus, River, Woodbridge, and Hogan, and some in Ruggles are Energy Star-compliant. The dishwashers in East Campus, Ruggles, River, and Hogan are also all Energy Star-rated.
NEXT STEPS: We will look to systematically audit our equipment to replace inefficient, older equipment with new Energy Star-efficient appliances wherever possible.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: All on-campus laundry facilities have Maytag Front Load Washers. This unit has one of the highest energy efficiency ratings due to its lower water usage. Older traditional top load washers used approximately 34 gallons of water. Our washers use an average of 14 gallons – saving 20 gallons per cycle, which also means less waste water. In 2004, Columbia did 159,520 wash cycles: a total savings of 3,190,600 gallons! Also keep in mind that the Front Load Washer has a 2.9 cubic foot load capacity versus the Top Load Washers that have a 2.5 cubic foot capacity, so not only are you consuming less water but also cleaning more clothes per load.
NEXT STEPS: These are the best machines we have found for now, but we are always looking for the most energy-efficient appliances. We are also working with our vendor to find environmentally friendly detergent.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: We have partnered with Adden Furniture, a company committed to the manufacture of environmentally responsible products. Their primary contribution is in the life cycle of their products: their furniture is designed to endure challenging living, learning, and healing environments for 25 to 50 years. In addition, they use North American hardwood to construct their furniture. 94 percent of North American hardwood is privately-owned, managed, and continually replenished. They do not use any rainforest materials. Any company we use to furnish our rooms and facilities must conform to re-forestation regulations.
NEXT STEPS: In an effort to make living spaces cleaner and more allergen-free, we are looking to replace old carpeting with flooring that is more environmentally friendly and easier to keep clean.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: In 2003, the UHC (University Housing Council) and the CCSC (Columbia College Student Council) brought us a resolution to improve the lighting in the residence halls. We vowed to replace the current halogen floor lamps with overhead fixtures that, in addition to providing better light, would also be more energy efficient. So far we have replaced the lighting in Schapiro and Hogan.
NEXT STEPS: We will continue to replace the overhead fixtures in residence halls. As this project will take time, we are instituting a Lightbulb Exchange Program. We are working with ESC (Engineering Student Council) and CCSC to replace inefficient incandescent bulbs with integrated compact fluorescent ones. We are looking into bringing this Program to the administrative offices at Columbia as well.
UPDATE March 2006: We introduced the Lightbulb Exchage to Watt and Woodbridge residence halls. Over a two day period, we distributed 600 new energy-efficient bulbs for use in desk lamps and torches. These new compact fluorescent bulbs last 15 times longer (12,000 hours) than traditional bulbs (750 hours) and burn at the same brightness using less energy. The new bulbs = 26 watts; the old incandescent bulbs = 100 watts. We picked a warm color bulb that is most conducive to studying and relaxing.
The most significant result of this exchange was the savings, in both energy and environmental impact. The 600 bulbs distributed will save over $38,000 in energy cost and 446,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the enivronment. We hope to continue this success in other residence halls next term and in the administrative offices over the summer.
UPDATE August 2006: Over the summer we updated several of the residence halls (Carman, McBain, and some brownstones) with timed "green" lights.
Wall Occupancy Sensors
Wall Switch occupancy sensors are installed in dorm rooms and dorm bathrooms as an energy conservation measure. The occupancy sensors have an opaque lens on the front cover and a pushbutton for manual on-off. The occupancy sensor can turn lights on and off based on occupancy. This saves energy since lights will not stay on once the room is vacant if you forget to turn the lights off when you leave. The lights can be manually turned on and off at any time by pushing the cover plate pushbutton. Once the lights are manually turned on, they will turn off automatically 30 minutes after no motion is detected in the room. When the lights are manually turned off, they will not be controlled by motion in the room until they are manually turned back on. (So when you go to sleep at night you should manually turn the light off or they might turn on when you roll over in bed).
Wall Timer Switches
Where the motion sensor location does not have a clear view of the students in the space, a digital timer is installed instead, as an energy conservation measure. Timer switches are manually turned on and will save energy by automatically turning the lights off after a preset time. Timer switches have a bright electroluminescent LCD display showing a digital readout of the time remaining before the lights will automatically turn off. The lights are always turned on manually by pushing the front cover button. The digital time switch automatically turns lights off after a preset time to save energy (3 hours in bedrooms and 1 hour in bathrooms). Lights can be turned off at any time before the time-out setting expires by pressing the on/off button. The preset time-out period can be restarted by turning the lights off and back on at any time.
UPDATE September 2006: In order to introduce our incoming First-Year students to our green initiatives, the Eco-Reps set up a table during Check In and distributed free energy-efficient light bulbs. Labeled with the message "This lightbulb is our gift to you, and it's also a gift to the environment. Please use this energy-efficient bulb in your desk lamp or torch light. This compact fluorescent bulb lasts 15 times longer (12,000 hours) than traditional bulbs (750 hours) and burns at the same brightness using less energy. The new bulbs = 15 watts; the old incandescent bulbs = 60 watts. Thanks for helping Columbia be green!"
The label also listed "5 Things (plus one) Students Can Do For The Environment:
1. Turn off your computer when you leave your room, or set it to sleep/hibernate.
2. Unplug cellphone/ipod chargers, TV's, microwaves, etc. when not in use; they suck up a lot of power!
3. Sort your trash -- put the recyclables in the right bin.
4. Turn out the lights when you leave your room.
5. Shorten your showers, and don't leave the water faucets running when shavin/brushing your teeth, etc.
+. JOIN A STUDENT GROUP! See the list of green umbrella member groups: http://cupgreen.pbwiki.com
UPDATE December 2006: Lightbulbs are available free of charge to any student. They just need to come by the Hospitality Desk in Hartley Hall to pick one up.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: We are committed to make energy/environmental changes during every renovation. The most recent example of this is in the McBain residence hall, where we installed automatic light timers in half of the all the rooms/suites. This will help reduce the amount of energy wasted dramatically.
NEXT STEPS: We will complete the installation in McBain this summer. During the spring term our next project will be to install timed lights in East Campus. We will work again with ESC and CCSC to get student input on this process. We are also looking to install low-flow toilets to reduce the amount of water use. As we make plans for summer renovation projects, we will look for similar opportunities to increase environmental sustainability across campus.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: While dual-flush toilets may not be the most glamorous topic, the significant water savings is worth noting. Dual-flush toilet handles can save a half-gallon of water per flush. The five New York boroughs depend on the Croton, NY watershed and the Catskill/Delaware watershed systems for all of their water needs. Every time we let water go to waste, we are diminishing these reservoir levels and increasing New York's vulnerability to drought. Half-gallons can really add up to significant savings.
Wondering how they work? You can tilt the handle UP for a reduced flush, when you are flushing only liquid and light paper waste. Or, you can tilt the handle DOWN for a full flush, when there is solid waste. Signs in the bathrooms will show the proper way to use the flush handles. The new handles are green, and are coated with antimicrobial coating to protect against germs.
NEXT STEPS: Over the summer we installed these new devices in Carman and plan to roll them out to other residence halls.
EFFORT & PARTNERSHIP: The Eco-Reps Program is a joint initiative developed by the students of GEO and H&D administrators to encourage green living in the residence halls.
Eco-Reps operate in a similar manner to the RA program -- students apply to become an Eco-Rep and agree to a set of responsibilities and commit to work a set number of hours per week towards them. Housing compensates the Eco-Reps on an hourly basis. The responsibilities are still in development, but will include things like monitoring recycling, encouraging energy-saving practices, and creating educational events for the halls.
As a pilot, a small group of Eco-Reps have each adopted a floor in the LLC and are in the process of creating a “Be Green Challenge”. This challenge will reward residents for making an effort towards green living. Points will be awarded for things like stocking kitchens with environmentally friendly soap or buying 100% recycled paper. The floor with the most points at the end of the year will win a great prize.
2009: Columbia ranked as one of the top Overall College Sustainability Leaders with an "A-," our best score to date. Columbia Housing received an "A" for meeting LEED Silver standards, working to create a green residence hall in Woodbridge Hall, and partnering with the Eco-Reps program.
2008: Columbia received an overall score of a "B+," with Housing receiving an "A" for the implementation of Give and Go Green, our recycling efforts, and our integration of fair trade, local, and organic products on campus.
2007: Columbia's Report Card had an overall grade of a "B," with Housing receiving an "A" for our use of local, fair trade, and organic products on campus, our partnership with the student group LOAF (Local Organic Agriculture Friends), and our donations to City Harvest each week from the leftover food in John Jay Dining Hall.