Faculty and staff members at the Urbana campus are pursuing a variety of eco-friendly initiatives aimed at protecting the environment and helping the campus pare its utility bills.
The Green Team, a committee comprising unit managers and eco-friendly volunteers at McKinley Health Center, has decided to match Chancellor Richard Herman's goal for the campus by striving to reduce the health center's energy usage by 10 percent within three years.
To do that, staff members are being encouraged to reduce their use of personal appliances (such as fans or coffeemakers in offices), which are plugged into a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor that measures their energy consumption and then labeled. The subcommittee that is exploring personal appliance usage is considering establishing a personal use standard for energy consumption and conferring a green seal of approval to employees who meet it. Two other subcommittees are addressing recycling and education and marketing issues.
A large source of energy consumption is the more than 300 desktop computers in the building, said Jan Phillips, assistant director of health information and systems at McKinley. For the past year, 40 exam rooms have been equipped with energy-conserving thin clients, paperback-book-sized computers that consume just five or 11 watts of power versus the 61 watts that standard desktop computers consume.
To conserve water, in March plumbers replaced the 1.5-gallon-per-minute aerators in 16 hand-washing sinks with aerators that dispense only one-third as much, and a water-conserving toilet, urinal and sink also were installed in one restroom on a trial basis in April, said Glen Filkin, building service supervisor.
The College of Veterinary Medicine has a similar group of volunteer environmentalists known as the Orange, Blue and Green Committee, which formed about two years ago at the suggestion of Mark Mitchell, section head of small animal medicine.
One of the committee's early projects involved behavior modification for able-bodied students who chose to ignore the signage and enter the vestibule of the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building through the automatic doors rather than the manual doors, which let in less outside air and help regulate the building's temperature. Committee members stationed themselves in the vestibule and gave snacks to people who entered the building through the correct door.
"This past winter, we didn't do that, and we had a new crop of 120 first-year students," and the problem recurred, said Joe Kunkel, director of facilities at the Basic Sciences Building and chair of the committee. "Next year, we're going to set up a table and do some positive reinforcement. It gets people's attention."
With a $22,000 grant from the Student Sustainability Committee - and the help of volunteers from the local Grand Prairie Friends conservation organization, the Illinois Natural History Survey and the broader community - the committee planted a 10,000-square-foot native prairie garden at the Basic Sciences Building. The garden reduces mowing, fosters a natural habitat for native insects and animals, and serves as an educational tool. Kunkel said the rest of the lawns will be "no mow" zones.
"It can look nice without all this mowing and maintenance, and that's our goal," Kunkel said.
Mitchell and Dianna Black, a staff pharmacist, coordinated a recycling program for non-biologically contaminated medical plastics, such as syringe cases. The clinic produces about three to four large garbage bags of such waste a week, Mitchell said. Additionally, Black is exploring a safe-disposal program for waste pharmaceuticals.
To conserve energy, the Large Animal Clinic plans to close one of its four wards for the majority of the summer. In each ward, enough outside air is taken in, cooled, circulated and expelled to replace all the air in an average-sized home once every minute, Kunkel said.
However, certain animals - such as those owned by clients and animals used for research and teaching purposes - can't be stabled together, so coordinating the closure can be complicated.
"It was estimated that if we can do this, we have the potential to save $50,000 in energy costs, so it's significant," Kunkel said. "We're going to tweak it as we go along, but everybody's focused on 'if you're not using it, turn it off.' "