Despite setbacks, steady progress helps Clark grow greener.
Government officials recognized the college as a Clark County Green Business in March, signaling the campus passes environmental standards related to stormwater, waste and recycling, water and wastewater, toxics, energy and community.
“It’s a pretty awesome designation,” said Environmental Health and Safety Supervisor Rebecca Benson. “It means that in the county, we’re looked at as a leader of being green.”
Around 45 businesses share that recognition, according to the green business website.
Benson said eight years ago was the “first time we made a huge push and a huge
difference in sustainability here.” At that time, Clark only recycled oil and antifreeze in the Automotive and Diesel programs, which only affected about 150 people.
Today, the recycling program impacts the thousands of students who come to campus, Benson said.
In early 2007, students and faculty started a pilot project in Anna Pechanec Hall to see if recycling bins for paper, plastic and aluminum would be used correctly. The project was successful, and by fall of that year, 200 paper bins and 75 aluminum and plastic bins were placed around main campus.
Today Clark faculty and staff recycle glass, aluminum, plastic, paper, oil, antifreeze, metal, toner cartridges, ink-check cartridges, cell phones and rechargeable batteries. Benson hopes to find a way to incorporate plastic film recycling.
One of the most recent environmental sustainability developments is an effort to replace alkaline batteries with rechargeable ones. In addition, Benson is pushing to replace Expo white board markers with refillable ones, which can last thousands of hours. The Expo markers last about a week, Benson said.
But Clark has not been strong in all the aspects of environmental sustainability.
In August 2013, Clark started a compost program, which started with just one bin in the bookstore for employees. Today, there are 1-10 bins in 16 buildings.
However, all but one of the compost bins are kept in kitchens for staff, faculty and other employees, where the contamination rate in the bins hovers no higher than 2 percent. The only compost bin available to students is in the Gaiser Hall bakery/cafeteria, where the compost bins are filled with 98 percent trash.
The compost bin “has a huge sign. It tells people what to put in it,” Benson said. “If it’s food, it can go in. If not, it can’t.”
Benson has struggled to get students to compost for over two years without much success. “We’ve tried education, we’ve tried person-to-person communication, we’ve tried outreach. What’s going to work?”
She added that she is “more than happy to have people come up with solutions.”
Environmental Health professor Garett Hoyt agrees that Clark students and faculty can still greatly improve their environmental sustainability. He would like to see more paper-free classes, less use of paper towels, and more lights off when classrooms aren’t in use. Hoyt said he would like to have fruit trees and bushes on campus that students and faculty could eat.