Sustainability at State: Recycling, bikes prioritized on campus

SDSU’s campus is becoming more sustainable all the time and several strides have been made in this academic year alone to focus on sustainability.

Campus Sustainability Specialist Jennifer McLaughlin has set many goals to improve SDSU’s sustainability and has seen marked improvement across several of her focus areas, especially recycling.

This academic year saw the implementation of recycling bins in all offices across campus in January. Additionally, outdoor recycling bins are being added throughout campus, and students can expect to see recycling bins in every residence hall room this fall. McLaughlin plans to launch an educational campaign about how to use these bins so students can learn to recycle effectively.

Her goal for single-stream recycling rates on campus was to reach 25 percent by the end of June 2018. Single-stream recycling is items placed in the common blue recycling bins around campus, so this does not include recycling things like toner, ink and scrap metal.

In November 2017, the waste audit McLaughlin conducted found the single-stream recycling rate was at 13.25 percent. By February, it jumped to 16.5 percent after offices began receiving their blue bins. As of April, SDSU’s single-stream recycling rate has reached 20 percent.

“It’s been really exciting to see the single stream increase,” McLaughlin said. “I’m hopeful we can reach that 25 percent by the end of this fiscal year [June]. I think between single stream and miscellaneous recycling on campus we can get there.”

The next waste audit will be conducted April 18 and give a better understanding of recycling rates and how effectively campus is recycling the correct materials and not throwing away things that could be recycled.

In the fall, McLaughlin said one of the most common non-recyclable items in bins are coffee cups. Though they are made of paper, the waxy substance on the inside makes them non-recyclable.

McLaughlin has also assisted in getting locations for toner and book recycling on campus. There are three locations for each of these. There’s a drop-off for both toner and books in the Rotunda Breezeway. For books, the other locations are in The Union and Larson Commons. For toner there are drop offs in AME 120 and Daktronics Engineering Hall 157.

Students have also been working to make SDSU more sustainable. Students’ Association 2017-18 Finance Chair Scott Simons spearheaded an effort to ban the use of Styrofoam products in food and dining on campus. SA passed a resolution showing their support of a ban of Styrofoam containers on campus two weeks ago.

Simons worked with Aramark to discontinue the use of Styrofoam to-go containers in the Market and at Panda Express. He said they also tried to get rid of the Styrofoam cups at Chick-fil-A, however, the company is contractually obligated to use those cups.

While Styrofoam is an effective and affordable insulator and conductor, Simons said its use in food and dining contributes to a large portion of waste in landfills and felt it was one way to help reduce environmental impact.

“It’s super important to improve the space you’re in to leave it better for next generations,” Simons said. “This is a simple thing everyone can do to help the environment. Sustainability can seem like a hassle but this is one easy step.”

The Student Sustainability Council has focused on educating campus on living sustainably this year through workshops and presentations on what can and can’t be recycled, according to junior dietetics major and SSC’s vice president Anna Barr.

This spring, the council has focused on coordinating the first ever “Big Event,” a one-day community-wide volunteer event. Volunteers will help a wide variety of organizations and businesses in the community, including things like planting a garden at Dakota Prairie.

In the future, Barr hopes to get plastic bag returns at the C-Store, and as a larger project, SSC has looked into composting. Though it’s a big project and will take time, Barr said it’s achievable.

Simons plans to continue reducing the use of Styrofoam on campus and SA President Allyson Monson expects there will be more environmentally-conscious action taken by SA in the future.

“Bike share programs are a common theme seen around the table with this new body as big goals,” Monson said. “I think there are so many senators who are passionate about this and want to be more sustainable.”

New Year’s Eve flood in Student Union causes thousands in damage, displaces staff

The Student Union sustained thousands in damages after a frozen pipe burst and flooded the administration offices in the 150 suite behind Information Exchange over Winter Break.

The cost of damage is still being assessed. Ballpark figures have suggested between $35,000 and $50,000, but could be more, said Keith Skogstad, associate director of The Union. Insurance will cover up to $50,000 and remaining costs would come out of pocket for the university.

While campus was quiet and empty on the morning of New Year’s Eve, water had begun trickling from a sprinkler head in Assistant Director of Event Services Mark Venhuizen’s office until, finally, the frozen pipe burst. Because water was dispensing from the fire emergency pipe, it triggered the fire alarm, alerting University Police at 9:37 a.m.

Within minutes, the water flooded so deep in Venhuizen’s office that Skogstad, who’d arrived on the scene, couldn’t open the door, according to Venhuizen in a video he shared. The waterline left visible on file drawers measured 12 inches, Skogstad said.

Skogstad rushed to shut off the main water supply, but in the short time from UPD responding to the alarm and Skogstad arriving, the water had wreaked havoc on the offices.

“Most of Mark’s office is totaled,” said Jenn Novotny, senior director for The Union. “We are still waiting to find out if our office furniture can be fully restored.”

According to Director of Campus Maintenance Jim Weiss, crews had already evacuated furniture from the 16-room office suite and begun damage control by 10 a.m. Not only had the water flooded through the offices, it flowed onto Main Street, encroaching on the Market. It also seeped through to the lower level, causing damage in storage spaces and a maintenance room below.

Staff and local crews worked until about 4 p.m. that day cleaning up and salvaging what they could. The water was powerful, damaging and found its way into unexpected places.

“Mark’s desk was over here (across the room from the burst pipe), and his pencil drawer, which was closed, was full of water,” Skogstad said.

The cause is still unknown and difficult to trace exactly, but investigations suggest it may have been a result of exhaust fans being left on, allowing cold air to enter and freeze the pipe. Skogstad said this is inconclusive, though.

The wall between Venhuizen and Novotny’s office was the only structure with significant damage and may need to come down. Venhuizen’s office took the worst of it as it was a pipe in that room which cracked. The rest of the suite primarily suffered surface-level water damage. Some decorations, documents, furniture and equipment were lost and carpet will need to be replaced as well as new baseboards.

Since the flooding, employees previously housed in the office suite have been temporarily displaced, working in other locations or mobile until repairs are completed. For Novotny, who has been in her office for 13 years, this has been a bit of an adjustment.

“When I work with students I don’t imagine it’s so hard to be mobile because I see them do it all the time. I have a little to learn in the area of flexibility, but I’m surviving it,” Novotny laughed.

University Police aided in preventing a similar incident in the Einstein’s-Weary Wil’s vestibule only one day after the 150 office incident. According to Weiss and Skogstad, a line froze in that area as well, causing another leaky sprinkler head. A UPD officer making rounds through the building noticed it, though, and the main water line was shut off while a plumber made repairs, avoiding another incident.

“The floor and a couple ceiling tiles got wet but thankfully it was nothing major,” Weiss said.

Due to the record stretch of cold weather, Weiss said he heard reports of incidents similar to the office flood occurring throughout the state in the same weekend.

“It’s not as common to happen in an interior space like Mark’s office, but it does happen; and we’ve had other, minor, water-related issues in a few other campus facilities, too. It just happens this time of year,” Weiss said. “I guess that was our going away present for 2017.”