In every hallway, study room, break room, and office, one of more than 1000 recycling bins can be found across WVU’s campus.
Traci Knabenshue, Office of Sustainability director, said WVU is doing a great job so far, even though the goal has not been reached yet. She said sustainability efforts in all major areas can be seen, from energy, waste, dining, transportation and ground.
“We do need to do a better job of telling the story of our sustainability efforts,” Knabenshue said. “If zero carbon footprint is the destination, then WVU and any other major research university with a health sciences campus has a long way to go.”
Knabenshue said the recycling program at West Virginia University is single-streamed, meaning recycling all goes together and all landfill goes into two separate bins.
The recycling is collected by campus service workers and taken to dumpsters outside. WVU trucks then collect the dumpsters and take them to the local transfer station in southern Pennsylvania. She said at the local transfer station, recycling from around greater Morgantown is mixed together and taken to a materials recover facility to be mechanically sorted and bailed.
Recycling is not the only sustainability-focused project WVU is working toward. The University has made improvements over the years, one way being through performance contracting, which is a way to raise funds through future savings energy-efficient methods will provide. This has allowed the University to make energy-efficiency upgrades to campus buildings, improvements to temperature control systems, lighting, and water usage in more than 75 buildings.
Knabenshue said performance contracting allowed WVU to reduce greenhouse gases by more than 360 million pounds, and saved the University more than $19 million in energy costs.
The University is also working to build sustainability in new buildings and renovations. Knabenshue said this includes anything from use of natural light for interior spaces and paints that emit less harmful chemicals to landscaping that absorbs water from storm events. She said the University’s surplus property management program, which acts as storage for the University, has kept more than 300 tons of goods out of landfills in just the last three years.
WVU is planning on becoming a bike-friendly university, making Morgantown the only bike friendly place in West Virginia. To do this, the University put bike markings on the Evansdale roadways.
Knabenshue said other projects include diversifying tree species on campus, phasing in disposable plates, bowls and utensils, continuing to complete the solar panel installation on top of the WVU Law School, and participating in Recyclemania.
“Our students are more conscious and better informed than ever about our environmental impact,” Knabenshue said. “There’s also some really important research that our faculty conduct things like rare earth mineral extraction and what climate change will do to West Virginia’s own water supply.”