Sustainably Speaking

MSU is not only Spartan green, it’s sustainably green

This month, many post-secondary students graduate from colleges across the U.S. As a Michigan State University alumna, I received an e-mail regarding the greening of MSU’s commencement ceremonies last week. I found out that MSU, East Lansing, Mich., is the first school in Michigan to green its graduation ceremonies, not just because it’s one of MSU’s colors — the university colors are green and white — but because it’s the right thing to do.

Some of the green steps taken are pretty much commonplace, to me, such as doing away with paper invitations, instead sending invitations via e-mail, and printing programs with soy-based ink on recycled paper. A more unique green aspect of the graduation was that all the caps and gowns were made out of recycled bottles and bottle caps. The most sustainable steps the university took were upgrading the HVAC systems in the two buildings the ceremonies were held in — Breslin Center and Wharton Center for Performing Arts. Breslin Center is now using demand ventilation, and at Wharton Center installing low-flow plumbing fixtures and incorporating natural light in the building were part of its upgrade.

However, MSU is taking much bigger steps to sustainability than what meets the eye, and it should get the word out about its sustainable initiatives. As an alumna and member of the media, I don’t hear much about sustainability on the main campus, which is surprising since many other universities promote their sustainable projects to the press. So, until now, I have been wondering why no e-mail has arrived in my in-box about sustainable projects at MSU. I knew there had to be some on the campus.

Once I received the e-mail about the green graduation ceremonies, I did some research and found out that MSU’s Chemistry Building, Federal Credit Union and the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station’s dairy barn received United States Green Building Council LEED certification. The Chemistry Building is LEED Silver, the Federal Credit Union is LEED Gold, and the dairy barn is LEED Silver.

MSU also recently created a team to review HVAC efficiency in each campus building. The team is creating a three-year plan, which includes prioritizing buildings for retro-commissioning, re-commissioning and commissioning to achieve an average energy savings of at least 5% per building. Plus, according to a new report by MSU’s Physical Plant, out of all Big Ten universities, MSU uses the least amount of electricity per square foot — 13.6 kW hours for 2009-2010. MSU’s T.B. Simon Power Plan uses co-generation to create steam for heating the campus and provides electricity as a by-product. The university is also creating a long range energy plan for the campus. Geothermal, wind generation, solar power and biomass fuels will be analyzed as potential energy sources.

As I suspected, there are a variety of green projects, including sustainable building projects, at MSU. Now I’m going to look forward to following the present sustainable initiatives MSU has in place and the university’s future sustainable projects and plans for the coming years.

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