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CSUCI Shows that it's Easy to be Green

Deborah Wylie holds up a much larger recycle bin alongside a smaller trash can

A famous frog once immortalized the words, “it’s not easy being green.” That, however, has not been the case at California State University Channel Islands, where being green is becoming second nature.

From waterless urinals to the paper this publication—and specifically the pages this story—is printed on, CSUCI promotes using products that are sustainable, the importance of reducing solid waste, and the overarching practice of adaptive reuse of buildings on the University’s campus.

The responsibility of sustainability and “being green” rests on everyone’s shoulders—turning off the lights when they’re not needed, or choosing the blue recycle bin when pitching the crunched up wad of bright, white computer paper. The responsibility for CSUCI’s green campus falls into the hands of its daily users, but helping set up best-practices for being green on campus has been taken on by the area of Operations, Planning & Construction (OPC) at CSUCI.

Holding up a blue recycling can, Deborah Wylie, associate vice president of OPC, points at the little black can hanging on the side of the blue can. The proportional difference of the containers’ sizes is striking.

“Visually this sends a message of how much stuff that people throw away should be recycled,” Wylie explained. “The only things that should go in the black garbage bin are food, landscape, bathroom, oil, chemical, Styrofoam, and liquid wastes. The majority of the stuff we throw away in our offices or classrooms should be recycled.”

The recycle can with its smaller hanging companion garbage bin are part of a pilot program that OPC has initiated. About 50 of the combination cans were purchased, and in the upcoming months their effectiveness will be evaluated. Recently, the University was applauded by the California Integrated Waste Management Board for meeting its 50 percent waste diversion goal for 2006, which included construction waste. These new recycle and trash combination bins might help maintain the everyday solid waste diversion goal above 50 percent in 2007 and beyond.

Recycling at CSUCI goes beyond aiming for the blue bin when throwing away the fourth draft of a term paper or pile of old memos. It’s widely known and sometimes taken for granted that most of the buildings on this campus are “recycled” or adaptive reuse projects. Two of the newest examples of adaptive reuse—the technical term for recycling a building—are Santa Cruz Village and the campus dining commons.

The previous look of what is now the dining area for CSUCI
The new dining area at islands cafe

“In your grandmother’s days when something like an appliance broke, they would fix it, they wouldn’t throw it out. Adaptive reuse is a lot like that. You take what you already have and fix it to fit new needs and demands rather than tearing it all down, hauling it away, and starting over with new materials,” Wylie said.

The newly opened dining commons previously was used as a ballet studio. The student bedrooms and courtyards that make up Santa Cruz Village, the new residence hall on campus, were remodeled using an existing structure.

“It’s not cheaper than new construction, but it’s more sensible and responsible,” Wylie said.

The new parking lot at CSUCI

Something else that is environmentally responsible powers up every night at Santa Cruz Village, and blinks to life as evening falls on the new parking lot behind The Hub: new exterior lights.  

“Most exterior lights last about 10,000 hours, the new lights that are in the student parking lot and that soon will be in the South Quad will be good for 100,000 hours,” Wylie explained. “The new lights are very low wattage, but they give off the same amount of light. Our energy bills will be lower and the new lights cut down on how often the bulbs need to be replaced, which is sustainable and produces less waste.”

All of these new lights—the ones that are on the outside pillars of Santa Cruz Village, the lights that will go in the South Quad, and the lights that shine down in the new parking lot—have another thing in common: they are dark night sky compliant. In layman’s terms, that means the entire campus won’t be lit up like the Fourth of July every night. Instead the light shines directly down and fans out to illuminate the sidewalks and roadways people are using, not the sky. 

There are dozens of other sustainable practices CSUCI is using to live the mission of being a green campus, but there is one item of note that on a day-to-day basis the men on campus see and the female population isn’t privy to experiencing.

Just about a year ago, every urinal on campus sent about 40,000 gallons of water down the drain. There are around 50 urinals on campus, which means nearly 2 million gallons of potable drinking water was being flushed each year. All that has changed with the introduction of waterless urinals, Wylie explained.

The urinals that used 40,000 gallons a year have all been replaced with urinals that do not need water supplied to them. Instead of flushing after each use, there is a small filter in the drain that only needs to be flushed with a few ounces of water once a month. The filter saves water and keeps the urinals sanitary.

An outside view of the new dining area at csuci
Santa cruz village back in its development stage

“We aren’t really trying to save money with the waterless urinals, when it’s all said in done we may only be saving a few thousand dollars a year on our water bill,” Wylie said. “What we are trying to save is potable water because water is a natural resource that’s in finite supply.”

 

 

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