Carnegie Mellon goes ‘greener’ in practices

Whether Carnegie Mellon students find themselves buying cage-free eggs from Entropy+, throwing their glass bottles into the recycling bin in the University Center’s Green Room, or falling asleep every night under the roof of New House, the first green dormitory in the country, it’s clear that Carnegie Mellon’s green practices are deeply integrated into campus life.

“It’s collaboration between faculty, staff, and students. We’re doing a lot of good stuff and, as a whole, it’s a big initiative,” said Barbara Kviz, environmental coordinator of Facilities Management Services and co-chair of the Green Practices Committee.

This “good stuff” is drawing attention from many nationally recognized organizations. Carnegie Mellon was recently ranked the 10th “coolest” school by Sierra magazine in its November/December cover story for its efforts to thwart global warming and create a greener campus. In addition, the university received $22 million from the Heinz Endowments, $8.5 million of which will be earmarked for the university’s work in green chemistry, according to an Oct. 26 press release.

The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States, commended Carnegie Mellon for its green roofs on the Posner Center and Hamerschlag Hall, as well as the modular-raised floor system in the Collaborative Innovation Center, which allows double the normal amount of fresh air to circulate through the building.

The magazine also recognized Carnegie Mellon for its commitment to pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification for all buildings constructed after 2001. Certification measures water efficiency, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Currently, Carnegie Mellon requires a minimum level of silver for all its buildings. In 2003, New House was the first building on campus to receive the LEED silver certification.

“We were the first house to have recycling bins in every room,” said M. Shernell Smith, coordinator of Student Development and director of New House environmental programming. “It worked because we didn’t have a seminar on recycling, you’d just come home and it was in your face. It began a trend on campus, and now every dorm on campus has — or should have — a recycling bin.”

The university’s efforts have rubbed off on students.

“Being in New House and on this campus has made me think about things I never really took the time to think about before,” said Kaeo Helder, a first-year architecture student and New House resident.

But students should also look for ways to further improve environmental efforts on campus, Kviz said.

She encourages students to come to her if they see opportunities to save energy.

“If you see something that isn't right, contact me, let me know,” she said. “We’ll make the improvements. We can always do better.”

Carnegie Mellon has been doing better. The campus received a B– on the latest College Sustainability Report Card, the results of which were released Oct. 24. The report card is based on data compiled from independent researchers as well as through a campus sustainability policy survey. This is an improvement from the disappointing C+ the campus received in January. The university received As in Food and Recycling, Green Building, Transportation, and Investment Priorities and Bs in the Climate Change and Energy and Administration categories. However, the campus also received two Fs in Endowment Transparency and Shareholder Engagement.

The College Sustainability Report Card also recognized Carnegie Mellon as one of the top 25 campus sustainability leaders in the nation. Other schools on that list include MIT, the University of Florida, Harvard University, Oberlin College, Duke University, the University of Michigan, and Pennsylvania State University.

Of these, Harvard, Oberlin, Duke, and Penn State received higher rankings than Carnegie Mellon in Sierra magazine’s “10 That Get It” cover story.

While Carnegie Mellon's endowment is relatively small when compared with insitutions such as Harvard, the grant from the Heinz Endowments will allow the university green initiatives more funds to design projects that will be of the maximum benefit to the campus community.