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Green Revolving Fund Helps Students, Staff Launch Sustainable Projects

03/22/14 by Juanita Teschner

Establishing a sustainable garden. Installing motion sensing light switches. Creating a gutter system on the campus greenhouse to collect rainwater for watering greenhouse plants. Composting the food waste from the dining hall.

These projects, submitted by Catawba College students and staff members, have all received funds from the college’s Green Revolving Fund (GRF), a method of funding sustainable projects that takes the savings from lower utility bills and other resource reduction programs and uses it to reinvest in more projects that reduce the college’s ecological footprint. 

Catawba is one of 42 institutions, mainly colleges and universities, in the United States and Canada that are employing this method of funding.  The college created the GRF in the fall of 2012 and has committed to raising $400,000 over four years to provide the principal for the fund. A total of $100,000 has already been raised.

Sustainable Garden Promotes Healthy Diet

Student leaders Jonathan Buffkin and Sloan Kessler wanted to promote sustainability and a healthy diet as well as “address hunger and food injustices in our community” through the sustainable garden they established with GRF funds. 

Buffkin is an exercise science major from Chadbourn, and Kessler is a sustainable business and community development major from Onalaska, Wis. 

The students planted lettuce, beets, radishes, spinach, onions, sugar snap peas and potatoes in 10 4-foot-by-8-foot raised beds on college property across Innes Street from the Robertson College-Community Center. They have also created five additional beds that faculty and staff can adopt.

Cathy Holladay, director of operations for the Center for the Environment, is excited about her plot. “I haven’t been able to have my own garden in the past few years, and I have missed it terribly,” she says. “Maybe it will even get me out from behind the desk at lunchtime.”

Bill Godley, a Catawba alumnus and owner of Godley’s Garden Center, donated the soil for the beds. In addition, Chartwells dining service provided compost from the cafeteria’s food waste. 

Quick Copy, owned and operated by John Grubb, donated a large sign for the project, which reads: “Sustainable Garden at Catawba, sponsored by the Green Revolving Fund, Catawba Class of 2013 and Catawba Class of 2014.”

 “We plan to send the produce to one of the ministries in town,” Buffkin says. 

Motion-Sensor Lights Save Energy

Catawba senior David Crescenzo, a sustainable business and community development major from Jamestown, proposed that motion sensor activated lights be installed in Ketner Hall, specifically the academic library and conference room on the first floor, all classrooms on the second floor and the main business office, two computer labs and the side classroom on the third floor.

“Even though the day-to-day losses are not massive,” Crescenzo said, “if we want our lighting to be as close to 100 percent efficient as possible, lights need to be turned off when not used.”

Even if only one hour of electricity is saved each day, the project would pay for itself in less than three years, he said. “I believe that this is a very simple and cost-effective way for the college to approach greater levels of efficiency, and it can be employed in many of the other academic buildings on campus if it proves effective.”

Greenhouse Gutter System Collects Rainwater

Students Danielle Bunten of Southport and Chris Bolick of Asheville used their GRF grant to create a sustainable watering system in the greenhouse beside the Shuford Science Building. Bolick installed gutters on the greenhouse to collect rainwater that they can use to water the plants.

Bolick, a junior biology major, donated one 220-liter barrel to catch the rainwater. A second one will bring the capacity to 115 gallons.

The students plan to feed the water inside the greenhouse and, with Dr. Jay Bolin’s help, restore an irrigation system to water the plants. “It’s so exciting,” says Bunten, a senior majoring in political science. “We’re trying to be more green, and we hope it will attract future students who will want to work in the greenhouse.”

 “I think projects like this are important because they keep on giving,” Bolick says. “If properly maintained, this system will be a renewable source of water for the greenhouse long after Danielle and I have graduated. The amount of water saved over the life of the system will be massive.”

Composting Food Waste Saves Money, Reduces Greenhouse Gases

Chartwells, the college dining service, began composting all its food waste in the summer of 2013, thanks to an initial grant from the GRF. Gallins Family Farm of Mocksville provides the bins and picks up the food waste every week. Gallins and Chartwells work with the Catawba Facilities Department on the composting project, which helps the college save money from landfill costs and waste hauling fees. Part of the compost is used for the plants in the greenhouse and the sustainable garden.

Food waste makes up the largest part of all solid waste in landfills. In addition, when food in a landfill rots, it becomes a significant source of methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the climate change potential of carbon dioxide. More than 20 percent of all human-related methane in the United States comes from landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Composting food waste helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which Catawba trustees adopted in 2007. 

In the first eight months of the project, Gallins collected 62,680 pounds of food waste from Catawba. That reduction in landfill food waste is the equivalent of preventing carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of 5,667 gallons of gasoline or 117.5 barrels of oil, says David Najarian, supervisor of environmental services. He submitted the proposal to the GRF and works closely with Chartwells and Gallins on the project.

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