The Sustainable Campus (Trends and Innovations)
- By Leila Jackson
- March 1st, 2016
Long before it was a buzzword on the national scene, sustainability was a part of everyday life at Appalachian State University. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, a setting rich in scenic views and biodiversity, Appalachian State has long attracted students and faculty with strong ties to the environment and an interest in conserving the natural world.
As evidence of a culture of sustainability, Appalachian’s Sustainable Development and Appropriate Technology programs are two of the oldest in the country. Today, 55 percent of incoming students indicate that Appalachian State’s sustainability reputation influenced their decision to attend the school.
This commitment doesn’t stop with the students and faculty; the Office of Sustainability, formed in 2009, reports directly to Chancellor Sheri Evert’s office, and Ged Moody, founding director of the office, has moved into a new role as special assistant to the chancellor for Sustainability.
Replacing him as university sustainability director is Lee F. Ball Jr., Ph.D., a long-time faculty member and sustainability champion at Appalachian State. Sustainability also figures prominently into the university’s Strategic Plan, which declares, “Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as engaged global citizens who understand their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all.”
The school’s Sustainability Council, founded in 2010, is the largest representative group on campus and is comprised of over 70 faculty, staff and student members. Its 12 subcommittees are charged with setting and executing the vision for sustainability within the community and beyond.
Appalachian is known as a leader on the national stage as well, and currently has one of the highest AASHE STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) scores in the country. In October, the school was a recipient of Second Nature and the USGBC’s Climate Leadership Award, which recognized Appalachian’s commitment to climate action. In addition, Chancellor Everts recently visited the White House for the Day of Climate Action and signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge. She also recently signed the newly revamped Second Nature Climate Commitment.
Multiple ongoing campus initiatives underscore the value the Appalachian State community assigns to sustainability. The Carbon Neutral Commuter program is a way students, staff and faculty can engage in sustainable practices. By adding a small surcharge to their yearly parking pass fee, they buy carbon offsets, which pay for projects such as methane capture at a local landfill, to help counter the environmental costs of their daily commute.
Game Day Success
One of the most ambitious and visible recent projects is the Zero Waste Stadium initiative at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Mountaineer football program is rich in tradition and success, bringing thousands of fans to Boone on game days, and with these crowds come a lot of waste, much of it reclaimable. Launched in 2014, the Zero Waste Stadium initiative strives to divert this waste from the landfill through thoughtful purchasing, recycling and composting efforts. The program is an extension of the Recycle at The Rock tailgate recycling program that has been in place and well known on campus since 2008. There are five Zero Waste Zones with composting and recycling bins throughout the stadium, and the Office of Sustainability lends a street team of student interns to assist and educate fans.
During its inaugural year in 2014, Appalachian netted a 74 percent waste diversion and took three out of five Golds in the EPA Game Day Challenge within the Sun Belt Conference’s participating schools. Tweaks to the program this past season, such as reducing the number of Zero Waste stations in the stadium and making them easier to find, helped raise the season diversion rate to 78 percent, with an 85 percent one-game rate versus rival Georgia Southern University.
In 2015, the program expanded into the athletics center’s suite levels on game days, which included the chancellor’s suite. Initiatives in this area included using china and glassware, linen napkins, composting of food waste and offering local/sustainable food choices when possible.
So what does the future hold for sustainability at Appalachian State? The university has recently initiated a green office certification program, a sustainability student internship for every residence hall, an expansion in composting and plans to install 4 MW of solar energy on campus. According to Dr. Ball, “Sustainability at Appalachian State is part of our DNA, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Leila Jackson is a communications specialist for the Office of University Sustainability at Appalachian State University. Learn more about Appalachian State's sustainability efforts at http://sustain.appstate.edu.