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New guide helps faculty, staff 'work green'

by Richard Veilleux - September 29, 2008

Kill the screensaver, turn off your power strip before you go home, grab a bicycle to get around campus, and turn that air conditioning unit down or off. Those are just four of the dozens of ideas in a new guide to help UConn faculty and staff ‘work green.’

University of Connecticut Sustainable Office Guidelines: A Guide to Working Green at the University of Connecticut, was produced during the summer by Alissa Becker, a student sustainability coordinator, and staff in the Office of Environmental Policy.

The booklet of tips and ideas, complete with photos and charts, is available online (printing the 30 pages would violate at least one of the guidelines) at www.ecohusky.uconn.edu.

“A number of the tips are reminders about familiar things like recycling and reusable coffee mugs, but others, such as reducing a printer’s default page margins or starting a departmental bike sharing program, take the concept of working green a step further,” says Richard Miller, director of the Office of Environmental Policy.

“Many UConn staff and faculty are concerned about the environment and have asked us what they can do to make a difference.”

Noting that the University has more than 4,000 employees, Millers says, “If every one of us adopted just a few of these ideas, UConn could save thousands of gallons of water a day or thousands of kilowatt hours of energy a year, which translates into tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided.”

Since UConn President Michael J. Hogan signed the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment in March, saving energy and reducing our carbon footprint have become more important.

That’s because, by signing the document, UConn committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The University is currently calculating its 2007 emissions inventory, but estimates the Storrs campus emits about 120,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Besides the online guide, Miller says his staff are available to visit individual departments to discuss the sustainable office guidelines, and are recruiting departmental eco-representatives to help schedule these meetings and promote environmentally responsible behaviors.

The program involves meeting with staff from the environmental policy office to fill out a ‘sustainability scorecard’ for the office and developing a simple action plan for improving the score.

The sustainability coordinator would then work with the eco-representative to co-host a breakfast or lunch meeting – catered with sustainable fare – for staff in the office to review the guidelines and the plan.

Environmental policy staff will later revisit the department to see whether the score has changed. Participating offices will be recognized on the Office of Environmental Policy web site.

The online site’s main sections include tips on reducing, reusing, and recycling; energy use; meetings and events; purchasing; transportation; and water conservation. Each includes several subsections.

One of the subsections under reducing paper use suggests working on drafts electronically, rather than printing the material, proof-reading, then printing it again. The section also suggests that employees set their default printer to double-sided, and set printer margins wider.

The section on energy use, which includes everything from coffee makers to computers, has a chart showing that using “sleep software” on computers (which is already installed on most UConn computers) can decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per computer per year from 1,093 pounds to 199 pounds, and save approximately $75 annually per computer.

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