Destruction of the environment and a lessening of natural resources are issues that have not only been in the news, but have also become political platforms in today’s society.
While this could seem like a global issue, K-State is also taking steps to contribute to the promotion and practice of environmental conservation. There are many different factors that can contribute to conservation of the environment on campus, including student involvement.
RecycleMania, the annual recycling contest, is currently underway at K-State. This competition promotes recycling on a variety of campuses across the country.
Last year, K-State recycled a total of 348,259 pounds of recycled material during the competition, according to the K-State RecycleMania website. However, recycling does not end with the competition. The K-State Recycling Center works all year to promote and encourage recycling.
Spiegel, program manager of recycling and refuse, said that in addition to regular recycled materials, the K-State Recycling Center recycles soil from the greenhouses on campus as well as from old computers, called E-Waste. While Spiegel has just begun a recycling program in the greek community, he said the center still hopes to continue growing, even in the area of RecycleMania.
“Next year, what we are going to try to do is get the residence halls more involved in it too, but it’s one step at a time and that’s how we try to just push the students to make it more competitive among internal students,” Spiegel said.
Even with the annual competition, however, Ryan Sharp, assistant professor in parks and conservation management, said an effort like recycling needs to become a habit, not just a one-time thing.
“Doing things once is not going to make a difference,” Sharp said.
To help build recycling habits during college, Sharp said one option is to begin conservation promotion by reaching out to new college students.
“That’s when they’re going to be the most impressionable, this whole new, big, giant world where they’re starting to develop their own habits and their own behaviors away from home,” Sharp said. “So if we can instill something like this, make them see the importance of it and carry it with them over the course of four or five years, chances are that they are going to take that with them and it will perpetuate itself over time.”
Although recycling may not be considered a pollution prevention method, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, Sharp said recycling is a “gateway conservation behavior.” This means that recycling could be a start to considering other aspects of conservation.
“Coal is the largest single fuel source for electricity generation in Kansas,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Coal produces the most carbon dioxide content per million British Thermal Units than does any other form of fossil fuel, according to the administration.
David Carter, pollution prevention specialist in the College of Engineering’s Engineering Extension, said K-State uses a Facility Conservation Improvement Program to determine ways that K-State can become more energy efficient. Following that program visit, the installment of any energy efficiency equipment is paid for with the money saved from the lessened energy use.
“You’ll notice a lot of new lighting on campus that has been paid for through that Facility Conservation Improvement Program, which is a really cool thing,” Carter said.
Carter said he promotes awareness of energy use to let students and citizens know that it can be reduced.
“The way that I teach is to simply become more aware of it,” Carter said. “We do so many things: leave a light on, leave our laptop plugged in when we know we aren’t going to be using it, all kinds of equipment that we leave plugged in and turned on that is using energy for no purpose.”
Some ways that campus monitors energy is through heating and cooling. Carter said that even an open window can affect that energy usage.
“If we mismanage the heat or the cooling that is provided from that, we are using that energy for nothing,” Carter said. “For instance, if you’re in a classroom and it’s very hot in the classroom and you decide to open a window to let in some cooler air, you’re just causing the entire system to work harder and you’re consuming much more energy.”
In fact, that is precisely why the Staley School of Leadership was built without windows that can open, Lori Kniffin, adviser of academic programs in the Staley School of Leadership, said.
“The windows don’t open and people really wanted to be able to open their windows, but it’s more sustainable if they’re closed and managed through an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system,” Kniffin said.
The windows are not the only part of the Staley School of Leadership that considers conservation in its structure. Kniffin said the building’s location was chosen, in part, based on conservation of the environment.
“It was a parking lot,” Kniffin said. “So instead of tearing up trees and grass and that sort of stuff, we chose a parking lot.”
There are more specific details that contribute to environmental conservation, including the type of grass near the building.
“We have natural, native Kansas grass so it has to be cut less often, which means we’re using less gas from the lawnmowers and it’s more natural to Kansas, no fertilizer or anything like that, which can protect the creek from runoff,” Kniffin said.
The school of leadership promotes conservation efforts among students as well. One of the ways they do this is by keeping as many recycling bins in the building as trash cans.
“We’ve committed that if there’s a trash can, there’s also recycling right next to it,” Kniffin said.
Kniffin said by having these conservation efforts, the school is exercising the leadership they try to teach.
“We teach ethical leadership, and I think that we think being good stewards of our environment is an ethical thing to do for us and future generations,” Kniffin said.
This kind of leadership is not limited to the school; students can also be contributors to conservation on campus.
One example of a student effort could be to begin or join an organization that promotes conservation in the area or on campus. Kniffin said students have a powerful opinion on campus if they choose to exercise it and make a difference.
“Students have a powerful voice,” Kniffin said. “If students think this is important and you get your organizations, your living communities to do that, you have to make it more visible and help educate people.”
Sharp also said that collaboration between students and the administration could be used as a tool to create change.
“The students can do a lot, but they can’t do a lot without the administration, and the same goes for the administration: They can’t do anything without the students, although they do seem to operate independently,” Sharp said. “But in terms of something like this, if they were to work more collaboratively, maybe there could be some sort of change that makes a difference for conservation-related stuff.”
If students are interested in how they can expand their own recycling efforts, or even begin them, Spiegel said students can explore a variety of resources offered by the Recycling Center.
“They can go to our recycling webpage we have on K-State and they can learn a little bit on that, or else they can call or email us and we can set up an interview or speak to different groups, which I work with different organizations through the week and in the evenings,” Spiegel said.
Additionally, Spiegel said involvement around campus is his best advertising technique.
“The best communication of all is word of mouth,” Spiegel said. “We can advertise as much as we want, but the more student involvement we get with groups and competitions, it would keep up a network among themselves.”
Sharp said conservation is important for several reasons, and there is no reason that people should not try to conserve.
“Why should we not?” Sharp said. “That’s the question people should be asking themselves. It’s not why should you because there is every reason in the world to do it.”
While there are efforts already happening on campus, Kniffin said there is still more that can be done.
“I think we have made some progress over the last couple years, but we still have a really, really long way to go,” Kniffin said.