Sustainable Living at Marshall University

Marshall University is going green! Launched in September 2009, Marshall’s Sustainability Department is partnering with other campus offices — including Housing and Residence Life — and students to address important energy and environmental conservation issues that affect the Marshall community. Through input from students, faculty, and staff, the “Greening Marshall Committee” was created to discuss and implement various sustainability initiatives and proposals to meet the Huntington, WV-based University’s strategic plan around conservation, sustainability, and reducing Marshall’s overall carbon footprint. Marshall’s commitment to environmental sustainability and awareness is based on its philosophy that students, faculty, and staff have a responsibility to work toward providing and maintaining a better, cleaner environment for the next generation. That commitment and philosophy is now spreading across the campus into Housing and Residence Life!

Housing and Residence Life Joins the Initiative
The Department of Housing and Residence Life (HRL) embarked upon its first sustainability plan and efforts in Fall 2009. After several planning meetings involving students, staff, and faculty, the HRL staff developed several sustainability initiatives, with staff and students working towards a consciousness and daily efforts centered on sustainability within the Marshall community. Through these efforts, HRL is committed to working with the Marshall Sustainability Department to meet these objectives, as well as making Housing and Residence Life a campus leader in these efforts.

In order for the HRL to contribute to the University mission of sustainability and energy conservation, intentional and purposive efforts were made in all operational areas to reduce energy usage, utility consumption, increase recycling, and utilize green products. The aim is a complete reduction of our carbon footprint.

The HRL developed the following goals, themes, and initiatives in its Sustainability Plan:
  • Sustainable Leadership. Collaborate with students and staff toward energy utilization, recycling, conservation, and other sustainability initiatives; role model sustainability efforts in our daily efforts; benchmark against peer institutions’ other sustainability efforts and practices.
  • Sustainable Education/Literacy. Work with Marshall’s Sustainability Department to educate students to become active global citizens by incorporating sustainability themes into all aspects of residence hall programming and living.
  • Sustainable Purchasing. Purchase cleaning products and other products for the residence halls that are environmentally friendly and green, as well as new Hydration Stations.
  • Sustainable Food Service Operations. Implement recycling efforts; appropriately dispose of chemical products; minimize the amount of food wasted in the dining halls; go trayless in the dining halls.

Measuring Success
Our efforts over the past academic year were successful in a number of ways in making positive changes in the campus community and residence halls through:
  • Decreased overall energy usage in the residence halls resulting in savings of $190,000;
  • the creation of student “Eco Reps” to serve as leaders on sustainability on each floor; posted signage with energy tips throughout the residence halls;
  • the placement of collection boxes at each front desk for students to dispose of cell phones for recycling;
  • the incorporation of energy utilization/sustainability themes into programming models and student learning outcomes;
  • the purchase of Hydration Stations for student to refill their water bottles and eliminate the use of plastic bottles;
  • the participation of various floors in Earth Day celebrations and programs; creating a department program to complement “Energy Conservation Week”;
  • the implementation of a department-wide recycling campaign; going trayless in the dining halls; holding an end-of-the-year donation drive (donated items collected from students to be donated to Goodwill);
  • the creation of a Special Interest Floor, or LLC, based on sustainability and green living;
  • the installation of ENERGY STAR AC units in two of our residence halls;
  • the creation of signage in residence halls encouraging residents to turn lights off and lower/raise AC to energy-saving temperatures when leaving their rooms for the day;
  • partnering with the campus bookstore to offer environmentally friendly laundry detergent and other products;
  • creating reminders to students to turn off water when brushing their teeth to conserve water (the average American uses 40 gal. of water per day);
  • certifying two residence halls as ENERGY STAR status; creating a green and ENERGY STAR showroom; reducing thermostats in all department areas and residence halls to University-desired temperatures;
  • utilizing green and environmentally safe green cleaning products in all residence halls; purchasing low-flow showerheads and faucets for all residence halls to reduce water usage; and
  • turning off all department computers, copiers, and other electronics at the end of each work day and week to conserve energy.

Planning New Initiatives
The coming academic year promises to be even more productive for Housing and Residence Life in terms of its sustainability efforts. HRL is planning several new initiatives, such as:
  • Implementing a “Green Pledge” for students and department staff;
  • incorporating more sustainability awareness into “Week of Welcome” and Orientation;
  • creating building and floor competitions for students to reduce energy consumption;
  • planning a “lights out” half hour in residence halls during Fall and Spring semesters;
  • creating increased marketing strategies around water conservation; and
  • developing a “Go Cold Turkey” competition during Thanksgiving break in which all residents are encouraged to turn everything off before leaving for the break.

Housing and Residence Life is committed to becoming a campus leader in action, effort, and education through our sustainability practices by incorporating, role modeling, and promoting sustainability education, practices, and awareness in all aspects of residential living.

As well as becoming a leader, we are determined to complement current institutional strategies toward sustainability and environmental awareness. Through assessment and increased collaboration with students and the University, we will continue to look to new ways of reducing out environmental impact and carbon footprint and encourage residents living on campus to make reasonable and intentional efforts to conserve resources and live a sustainable lifestyle.

Marshall University, as well as Housing and Residence Life, has made great strides toward improved and purposive sustainability awareness and environmental stewardship. We will continue to work with students and staff in order to find ways to reduce our environmental impact, promoting sustainability efforts and practices, and reuse… renew… recycle… rethink!

John Yaun is director, Housing and Residence Life for Marshall University. He can be contacted at 304/696-6766 or

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