Miami’s efforts to increase efficiency and reduce use of resources come from across all campuses. The suggestions to the ThisMakesCents Web site have focused on areas from reduced paper use to turning off lights, energy-efficient vending machines and changes in groundskeeping. Paying attention to how we use resources and how efficiently we perform tasks is the first step in increasing productivity and reducing resource use.
Moves have been made and measurable results can be reported. The university will report quarterly, if not more often, about our sustainability efforts, to keep the community updated as well as to encourage further endeavors.
Below are updates on efficiency steps taken regarding lighting, dining operations, energy and personnel efforts. They represent a sample of changes taking place. More direct replies to suggestions are now online at muohio.edu/ThisMakesCents.
Lighting: Many people have suggested using fewer lights or keeping them off in certain areas. PFD is able to report that many buildings have reduced-power light systems and/or reduced wattage lighting. This follows replacement of office and residential lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs last year in 2008. HDGS (housing, dining, guest services) is replacing vending machines on an as-needed basis with models with light timers that are 40-50 percent more energy-efficient.
Dining: Numerous suggestions concern food production. Dining services has changed operations to reduce packaging in several ways and to reduce the bulk of solid waste through use of garbage compactors and a pulper. The purchasing manager writes product specifications so that vendors are required to reduce packaging. HDGS (housing, dining, guest services) buys regularly from local food producers, says Jon Brubacher, manager of food purchasing and operations analyst. Napkins now contains 40 percent post-consumer materials and the # 6 and #7 plates have been replaced with plates made from bamboo and sugarcane, sustainable crops.
All clear plastic cups used for smoothies and fruit cups and similar items are now made from cornstarch. All of the other plastic containers, such as those used for salads that were mainly #5 and #6 have been replaced with ones that are #1 and #2, both of which are locally recyclable. With a HDGS sustainability committee, staff will track other environmental impacts. The unit is also researching the feasibility of composting.
Energy: There are several projects in progress to meet HB-251 requirements (http://www.hb251.com/info/index.php/Information/HB251-Overview). This state bill requires universities and colleges to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2014, using 2004 as a baseline. Among other actions, this summer PFD (the physical facilities department) is installing 75 insulation blankets on steam tunnels. With surface temperatures of 250-degrees on steam lines, much heat is lost, especially during winter. These specially fitted blankets placed around valves and expansion joints will reduce heat loss so well that Miami will recoup the purchase cost within nine months due to saved energy. (This does mean less warmth for those who enjoy the heat coming up through sidewalk grates in winter.)
Also, engineers in PFD are looking for inefficiencies and assessing previous system overrides in addition to marking utility equipment for upgrade or repair.
Further, six graduate students performed a comprehensive carbon footprint of Miami’s Oxford campus and the city of Oxford (It will be online later this summer). Among findings is that due to the steam plant burning more natural gas instead of coal, Miami is releasing less carbon dioxide:
2004 137,326 MTeCO2 (Metric tons of CO2)
This shows a 9 percent drop over five years. Miami used about 93 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2008. A kilowatt hour is a unit of measure equal to 1,000 watts of power expended for one hour. Electricity, most of which is purchased from Duke Energy’s coal-powered plants, is the largest contributor to our carbon footprint.
Samples of our electricity use include these:
The health services center used 16 kilowatt hours per square foot which totaled 504,581 kwh; King Library used 26 kwh/ft2 with a total of 4,574,896 kwh in fiscal year 2009; and Pearson Hall used 34 kwh/ft2 for a total of 5,633,361 kwh.
Time/personnel resources: Many people suggested four-day work-weeks, which overall are not practical nor money-saving for a campus. It was specifically asked why the university hired an outside consultant to perform the dependent benefits audit. Miami’s benefits committee made the recommendation, which was accepted by President Hodge, to do the audit.
The committee considered an in-house review, but found that it was not feasible. This process involves the timely collection, review and processing of documents for nearly 5,000 dependents with a goal of having it done prior to open enrollment. Such an undertaking would have required staff time well in excess of human resources’ normal staffing, which is also down six staff members (20 percent) due to retirements and layoffs.
Miami received proposals from several companies that perform this task on a contract basis. HCS was the clear choice of the committee, for its excellent record and low bid.
The return on the investment is very high. In fact, the consultant fee was recouped when 16 ineligible dependents were identified and dropped from coverage. Miami has dropped far more than that already and the committee believes the return on investment could be 10 times the outlay.
Overall university effort: Many of the suggestions that continue to appear on the ThisMakesCents site are ideas that everyone can participate in, such as if you see an empty room with a light on, turn it off; take advantage of sunlight instead of electric lights when possible; use a shorter paper towel; turn thermostats down in winter and up in summer; double-side your printed documents and use the back of scrap paper for printing informal documents. In August, the LEAN (Leveraging Efficiencies and Aligning Needs) committee will speak to the residence advisers about energy conservation in order to have students thinking about it from the start of the year.