ECU’s recycling initiatives are noteworthy not just for their size and scope, but for their success as well. ECU’s recycling department was recently awarded the 2009 Environmental Awareness Award by the City of Greenville for its efforts.
ECU’s history of environmental advocacy can be traced back to the 1930s and the founding of the Campus Beautification Committee. That committee is largely responsible for the picturesque appearance of main campus with its thoughtful integration of architecture and nature.
Many of the trees and shrubs that exist today are a result of a nursery and arboretum that once existed where the Sci Tech building is today. Now a new generation of ECU faculty, staff, and students is ensuring that the work of the Campus Beautification Committee remains unaffected by ongoing growth and development.
“Campus environmental advocacy has grown exponentially in the past few years, as evidenced by the creation of new campus committees and clubs dedicated to sustainability concerns,” said Jill Twark, Ph.D., University Environment Committee chair.
Today there are four groups on campus who actively lobby for environmental concerns on campus—the University Environment Committee, Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the Sustainability Committee, and the ECO-Pirates. They work to ensure that environmental concerns are considered when the university makes decisions that effect campus.
Griff Avin (left) and John Gill (right) of ECU Facilities Services are working to conserve every drop of water possible on ECU's campuses.
For instance, the University Environment Committee developed the Heritage Tree program as a way to document and preserve landmark trees for future generations. The program resulted in a resolution requiring all new construction projects on campus to include design options to protect heritage trees.
The University Environment Committee was founded by the Faculty Senate to speak for campus-wide environmental concerns and formulate policies that preserve and improve the general physical environment of the university. The committee also fosters communication between scholars who are currently teaching and researching environmental issues.
The office of Environmental Health and Safety works to implement energy conservation, sustainability, food and water quality, and faculty and student workplace safety initiatives, among other things. Their Web site serves as an excellent source of information about the university’s sustainability efforts.
The ECO-Pirates is a student-led environmental group dedicated to increasing student awareness of environmental concerns. Its members participate in activities throughout the year such as RecycleMania and Earth Day and is advised by faculty members Tim Kelley and Craig Becker.
“We are seeing a lot of interest in the ECO-Pirates from students. We have probably tripled in size since my freshman year. We get good responses at freshmen orientations and Barefoot on the Mall, and we’ve got 162 members on our Facebook page,” said Ali Connerly, ECO-Pirate president.
The Sustainability Committee comprises ECU Facilities Services staff from Main and Health Sciences Campuses, along with members from the office of Environmental Health and Safety, ITCS Business Services, and the Division of University Advancement. Its purpose is to explore ways to reduce energy and water use of all university facilities and to make recommendations to the university administration on best practices for sustainability.
Besides policy matters, ECU is a leading university for environmental academic pursuits. ECU is the only university in the United States to offer a master’s degree in sustainable tourism, and environmentally themed courses are offered in other departments ranging from literature to health.
The LEEDership University
Perhaps the most impressive policy change at ECU in recent years is also decidedly eco-friendly. At ECU, all new construction on campus must adhere to LEED building standards.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings that emphasizes innovation in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED buildings are rated certified, silver, gold, or platinum depending on their level of efficiency and sustainability.
Already, LEED certified building projects are in the works at ECU. The new Croatan and the dental school building will be constructed according to silver LEED standards and both should be finished in the 2010–2011 school year.