University Relations responded to Dease's call by creating a sustainability working group. The group, which meets twice a month, formed on the heels of a half-day UR retreat on sustainability in January. Its goal is to take active steps in making its digs in Loras Hall a bit "greener."
Bob Douglas, coordinator of recycling and central receiving, led the retreat. Speakers included Dr. Camille George of St. Thomas' School of Engineering; Trent Rehberger, a student on UST's Green Team; and Dan Young Dixon, director of design at Opus Architects & Engineers Inc.
The eight UR staff members in the group already have made several small but positive changes in reducing the department's waste and energy consumption. The department:
- Replaced all nonoverhead lights with compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Replaced paper plates/bowls and plastic utensils with secondhand ceramic dishware and flatware.
- Switched its coffee to Juan Ana, a family-operated company in Guatemala.
- Switched to nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products.
- Created used battery and plastic bag collections, which staff members recycle.
- Programmed most printers to quicker ‘sleep'times.
- Reduced amount of junk mail by designating a junk mail box; student workers contact the senders and request removal from mailing lists.
- Eliminated plastic-bottled beverages from all meetings.
- The department now orders recycled paper from the Service Center, prints on both sides of paper and has assigned some printer trays for this use.
- Stores hot coffee in a thermal carafe, turning on its coffee maker only when brewing.
Brian Brown, director of publications, who helped organize the retreat, said, "sustainability and reducing waste are no longer thought of as issues only hippies and Green Party candidates are interested in – although we are grateful for their leadership in this area. We all have to do our part, and we hope our efforts will encourage other departments to join us. It doesn't take much to make a difference."