Susty Tour: The MAAC’s Solar Array

Susty Tour: The MAAC’s Solar Array

I posted previously about RecycleMania has Begun! in an effort to win a nation-wide recycling contest. Being a student on the Sustainability Advisory Committee, several other students and I had to present at the Emerging Leaders on Campus conference, our presentation being about Leaving & Sustaining a Legacy on Mount Union’s Campus. Through serving on this … Read more

I posted previously about RecycleMania has Begun! in an effort to win a nation-wide recycling contest. Being a student on the Sustainability Advisory Committee, several other students and I had to present at the Emerging Leaders on Campus conference, our presentation being about Leaving & Sustaining a Legacy on Mount Union’s Campus. Through serving on this committee I have found out about many of the initiatives on campus, moving us in a green direction.

I plan to do several posts highlighting sustainability at Mount Union, the “Susty Tour” if you will. For instance, the huge solar array on the roof of the MAAC.

A total of 230 feet of the Peterson Field House roof is covered by the solar panels, which are manufactured by Uni-Solar in Detroit and are being installed by Commercial Siding and Maintenance of Painesville. However, passers-by may not even recognize the new roof as being covered in solar panels. Each panel measures 18 feet long and 15.5 inches wide. A panel is less than an eighth of an inch thick and is fastened to the metal roof with an adhesive.

Each of the panels will produce 136 watts. Overall, they will make up a 54-kilowatt system and will produce enough energy to power seven average-sized houses for one year, according to Jason Watts of Sheffield Metals, which is the supplier of the roofing materials and solar panels.

This solar array is currently generating enough electricity to power several average size homes, and is the largest single solar array in the state of Ohio. The solar panel system is also generating most of the energy that powers the fitness center, which includes 16 flat panel televisions, 16 treadmills and 14 ellipticals. The panels will also produce energy from dawn to dusk and are still over 80% efficient with as much as 2 inches of snow covering them. A great feature for snowy Ohio!

Here is an Installation Summary and some technical details provided by AASHE (the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education):

  • Installed in 2010 at University of Mount Union in Alliance, OH
  • Estimated Annual Utility Savings: 5400
  • Capacity: 58 kilowatts
  • Annual Production: 63,000 kWh
  • Installation Type: Roof top mount
  • PV Panel Type (8) Uni-Solar PVL-136 136-watt thin-film amorphous silicon PV laminate (6.3% peak efficiency)
  • Inverter Type (8) Sunny Boy 7000US inverters.

Additional Notes:
The project is part of the $17.5 million renovation to the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex (MAAC). It was made possible through an anonymous investor and grants which are available due to the initiative to have 25% of the state’s power be generated through renewable energy sources by 2025.

Thanks to AASHE and Mount Union for the resources.

Let’s get Wasted! (Reducing our Waste, That is)

Let’s get Wasted! (Reducing our Waste, That is)

I recently came across an organization called We Hate to Waste, a community of people who hate to see things go to waste: food, energy, water — you name it. It was founded by “Junky Jacquie” Ottman, an expert and author on green marketing and “eco-innovation.”  After 25 years working with industry and government, she decided … Read more

I recently came across an organization called We Hate to Waste, a community of people who hate to see things go to waste: food, energy, water — you name it. It was founded by “Junky Jacquie” Ottman, an expert and author on green marketing and “eco-innovation.”  After 25 years working with industry and government, she decided to make a difference in a new way: by empowering a community of like-minded Waste Watchers — the conservers, the repurposers, the mindful and the resourceful — to ignite a cultural change that can help reduce waste.

The organization developed its own creative ways of reducing waste in our everyday lives, and arranged them in seven different categories. Start getting wasted – check out its list of tips.

Leaving and Sustaining a Legacy on Mount Union’s Campus

Leaving and Sustaining a Legacy on Mount Union’s Campus

The Conference This past weekend several other sustainability student leaders and I were fortunate enough to present at the Student Leadership Conference, highlighting the importance of getting involved with sustainability on campus. The idea was to give all this valuable information, many of the concepts being ‘behind the scenes’ that students aren’t aware about (ie: … Read more

The Conference

This past weekend several other sustainability student leaders and I were fortunate enough to present at the Student Leadership Conference, highlighting the importance of getting involved with sustainability on campus. The idea was to give all this valuable information, many of the concepts being ‘behind the scenes’ that students aren’t aware about (ie: our greenhouse gas emissions, geothermal heating units, solar arrays), to the student leaders in hope of promoting more initiatives with student groups on campus.

Sustainability at Mount Union Video! Watch here: Work that Lasts: Leaving & Sustaining a Legacy on Mount Union’s Campus

View/Download the presentation in full by clicking HERE!

What We’ve Done

“Assist in the decision making process of socially, financially and environmentally sound opportunities in order to create a sustainable, efficient and healthy atmosphere for students, faculty and staff.” Here are just a few things that our group has most recently achieved…

  • Attended the AASHE 2011 Conference in Pittsburgh, where we met Bill McKibben, founder of aspiring non-profit 350.org.
  • Developed the Eco-Rep manual and program that offers paid positions to student Eco-Reps in almost all residence halls.
  • Coordinated Mount Union’s first ever Game Day Challenge diverting 48% of waste from landfill at a home football game.
  • And much, much more!

Becoming a Signatory Instiution

President Giese committed Mount Union to sustainability by signing the President’s Climate Commitment in 2007.

We are committed to Carbon Neutrality by 2046, including both the operations of our campus and our curriculum.

We submitted a Climate Action Plan as part of Campus Sustainability Plan in May of 2010.

Carbon Reduction Goals relative to 2008

  • 25% by 2015 (3.9% by 2010)
  • 50% by 2025
  • 80% by 2035
  • Neutrality by 2046

How’s our Campus Looking?

RecycleMania Has Begun!

RecycleMania Has Begun!

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. During this … Read more

The past several years Mount Union has participated in a month-long, nationwide recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition started on February 4 and runs through March 30, with the involvement of 523 schools, more than 4.4 million students and nearly 1 million faculty and staff participating in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

During this whole month, all the competing schools will recycling and compost roughly 94.4 million pounds and have Greenhouse Gas Reduction of 148,897 (MTCO2E). Last year Mount Union finished 206 place while achieving a recycling rate of 20.18%. You can download the full 2012 Competition Final Results here. We want your help to help improve this rate and climb to the leader board! Please help remember to recycle at all possible times and spread the word.

Download a Mount Union RecycleMania flyer to help promote the competition!

National recognition is provided to the winning school in each category on the RecycleMania website and in a national press release. Winning schools receive an award made out of recyclable materials, and win the right to host that category’s special traveling trophy for the coming year. Here are some overall goals of the competition:

  1. Motivate students and staff to increase recycling efforts and reduce waste generation.
  2. Generate attention and support for campus recycling programs.
  3. Encourage colleges to measure and benchmark recycling activity in their effort to improve their programs over time.
  4. Have a fair and friendly competition.

Schools compete in 11 categories to see which can recycle the most paper, cardboard, cans and bottles and food waste on a per capita basis; which can produce the least amount of waste; and which recycles the largest percentage of their overall waste stream. In one of two new categories – Game Day: Basketball – schools are challenged to increase their recycling and reduce waste generation at a single home basketball game. A second new category targeting film plastics will call attention to the recyclability of items such as dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap and shopping bags. Mount Union just competes in the general categories.

Happy recycling, and follow our Facebook page!

November 15th – America Recycles Day

November 15th – America Recycles Day

Thursday, November 15 marks the celebratory day of recycling, where the goal is to better educate all Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. America Recycles Day is celebrated with local events, pledge contests and prize drawings that drive home the point that we will all do more and be better about recycling in the … Read more


Thursday, November 15 marks the celebratory day of recycling, where the goal is to better educate all Americans about the environmental and economic benefits of recycling. America Recycles Day is celebrated with local events, pledge contests and prize drawings that drive home the point that we will all do more and be better about recycling in the coming year. The national recycling rate has increased every year since 1980, and is currently 34%…lets help improve that on campus! The Sustainability Committee will be hosting several events and games, so be on the lookout! Prizes will be awarded.

Find an event near you. (Enter your zip code under Attend an Event to find a local celebration.) Or, check out a list of events near Alliance.

Take the pledge to recycle more this year. (and be entered into a drawing for fabulous prizes).

I recently went to a conference and heard the organization 5 Gyres speak. Its vision is to witness plastic pollution decline in the environment until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans. The video is of a research team that went to investigate the Great Lakes, and they found the same results in the ocean – tons of plastic infested waters.

Take a look around you- most of what we eat, drink or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic, a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we then throw away. This throwaway mentality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a generation ago, we packaged our products in reusable or recyclable materials (glass, metals and paper) and designed products that would last. Today, our landfills and beaches are awash in plastic packaging and expendable products that have no value at the end of their short lifecycle.

The short-term convenience of using and throwing away plastic products carries a very inconvenient long-term truth. These plastic water bottles, cups, utensils, electronics, toys and gadgets we dispose of daily are rarely recycled in a closed loop. We currently recover only 5% of the plastics we produce. What happens to the rest of it? Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods and much of it remains “unaccounted for,” lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea.

Just think…there are 350 million-square-kilometers of ocean, and 73 million pounds of plastic. Take a look at this “plastic soup,” and maybe you will avoid using single stream plastic, or just recycle a little bit more.

2nd Annual Food Waste Audit [Results]

2nd Annual Food Waste Audit [Results]

On October 24 in the campus cafeteria the Sustainable Management Advisory Committee hosted its 2nd Annual Food Waste Audit. It is crazy that Americas’ per capita food waste has increased by 50% since 1974 and the average American throws away 20 pounds of food each month or about two-thirds of a pound per person per day! We were on … Read more

On October 24 in the campus cafeteria the Sustainable Management Advisory Committee hosted its 2nd Annual Food Waste Audit. It is crazy that Americas’ per capita food waste has increased by 50% since 1974 and the average American throws away 20 pounds of food each month or about two-thirds of a pound per person per day! We were on par with our results from the first year and hope that the event created a buzz on campus, and people will be more conscious of their waste.

519 pounds of net organic waste in one day!

Note: The 519 pounds is minus the bucket weight of what the waste was measured in. In total, there was 562 pounds of organic waste including bucket weight. Find out more about sustainability on campus here: http://www.mountunion.edu/sustainability.

Just as a refresher…a waste audit is a rather simple and a formal, structured process used to quantify the amount and types of waste being generated by an organization, in this case Mount Union’s student body. Information from audits will help identify current waste practices and how they can be improved. Being waste-wise can mean a more efficient and effective organization, reduced waste management costs and better use of limited natural resources.

Depending on the situation, there can be many objectives of an audit. Mainly it is to determine composition and quantities of waste being generated, to measure effectiveness of existing waste management systems, to identify opportunities for improving waste management systems and strategies and to collect baseline data for measuring the effectiveness of waste minimization strategies. For our event, it is more to create an awareness and try to change the mindset of a wasteful student body.

Don’t be wasteful. A lot of waste can be composted too. Find out how to build a compost bin here, and check out 75 things you can compost but thought you couldn’tincluding: toilet paper rolls, sticky notes, tea bags, coffee grounds, pizza crust and moldy cheese, among others.

Patagonia #Becauseilove Campaign

Patagonia #Becauseilove Campaign

Throughout college I have been very fond of the company Patagonia not only because it has amazing products, but I greatly admire its business model. It established the The Footprint Chronicles® which examines Patagonia’s life and habits as a company. The goal is to use transparency about its supply chain to help reduce its adverse social and environmental impacts – and … Read more


Throughout college I have been very fond of the company Patagonia not only because it has amazing products, but I greatly admire its business model. It established the The Footprint Chronicles® which examines Patagonia’s life and habits as a company. The goal is to use transparency about its supply chain to help reduce its adverse social and environmental impacts – and on an industrial scale. Patagonia has been in business long enough to know that when we can reduce or eliminate a harm, other businesses will be eager to follow suit. It believes that a triple bottom line incorporating people/planet/profits will ultimately make the company most successful. It doesn’t necessarily focus on just improving the world we live in, but it’s a better business option, more efficient and cost effective. Patagonia also has great books by founder Yvon Chouinard that I anticipate reading. Grab a copy of Let My People Go Surfing and/or The Responsible Company if you can. Also, if you want to read more about triple bottom line business, read this post about how Corporate Sustainability is Redefining the Future of Business.

Patagonia has extended its business model to an extent that is unimaginable. Last Black Friday the company spearheaded a Don’t Buy Campaign on one of its most popular jackets. Because it wanted to be in business for a good long time — and leave a world inhabitable for our kids — it wanted to do the opposite of every other business today. Patagonia asked consumers to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else. In the end, from a business perspective, I am almost certain the marketing campaign did exactly what the company wanted it to do, drove sales. (Note: Making the R2 jacket requires “135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product.”)

Another great campaign that is going on around this time of year and centered around the #Election2012 is Vote the Environment. Regardless of where you stand politically, this should be a pressing or at the least interesting issue to be handled by the presidential candidates. How will we reduce our deficit, while remaining energy independent and utilizing future technologies? Education, jobs, renewable energies, and much more have a lot to do with this.

From Patagonia’s website, Jack Johnson’s essay explains that, “Not only are we a product of our environment, we are an integral part of it. This statement seems obvious enough, but in our modern culture human beings often feel separate from nature. We see this when we vote: the environment has become only the 10th most important issue on a list after war, healthcare, education and other concerns. As the foundation for all of life and all human endeavors, the environment should be our first and most important consideration…When you vote to improve water and air quality, you are voting to improve human health. When you vote to provide incentives to use renewable energy, you are helping to create jobs and energy independence, in turn making an investment in peace.”

I am very grateful to have some Vote the Environment materials that I will be giving to the Sustainable Management Advisory Committee, but please let me know if you would like postcards or stickers! Tweet @zmsuhar with the hashtag #becauseilove if you want any or shoot me an email!

To follow the campaign even further, Patagonia has gained a lead on social media and on its website. Hashtags are trending, and Facebook posts are consumed with the “Vote the Environment” logos. You can even tweet, register to vote, get benefit tracks, gear and more right on Patagonia’s website (http://www.patagonia.com/us/vote-the-environment/)! Below you can find even more ways to interact…and I look forward to seeing some tweets about Patagonia and #becauseilove.

  • Twitter: Tweet the “#becauseilove” hashtag to share your favorite place, environmental cause or tag a photo to the tweet. Tweets with this tag will be shown on our web site, the Wilco and HeadCount websites and projected on stage at Wilco concerts this summer.
  • Get the Wilco Benefit Track: Download a live, exclusive version of Wilco’s “Whole Love,” the title track from the band’s latest Grammy-nominated album. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of the song benefit HeadCount.
  • Watch/Share the Video: What kind of world do you want to live in? Created by Patagonia and Free Range studio.
  • Register to Vote: Register to vote online at HeadCount.org or visit the HeadCount booth at Wilco tour sites this summer.
  • Know the Voting Records of Your Representatives: Check out League of Conservation Voters to know the environmental scorecard of the candidates.
  • Get a Benefit T-Shirt: Purchase a Wilco or Patagonia Vote the Environment t-shirt and Patagonia will donate $5 from the sale of each t-shirt to HeadCount.

I am curious to hear, excluding political opinions, what are the things “you love” in regards to Patagonia’s campaign? Also, what are your thoughts on its business model?

2nd Annual Food Waste Audit

2nd Annual Food Waste Audit

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Who? The Sustainable Management Advisory Committee

What? 2nd Annual Food Waste Audit

When? All day | October 24th

Where? Campus Cafeteria

Why? To be more waste wise!

A year ago, I was studying abroad in Spain, but was able to keep up on some exciting things going on within the Sustainable Management Advisory Committee on campus. The biggest thing we had been working on was an Eco-Rep program, which is now a full-time paid position in most dormitories.

Another event that happened was a Food Waste Audit in the cafeteria to put on display how much organic waste we throw away as students. We have tried different events to raise awareness like “no tray” or “trayless” days, but it seems annoying to our student population more than anything. So, we decided something that was easy for us to put on and easy for students to do – handing your tray to someone instead of putting it on the conveyor belt is pretty simple. The idea is to create an eye opening scene, encouraging students to not be wasteful and take only what they can eat. Before we take a look into what an audit actually is, let’s look at a few eye-opening facts:

  1. Between 1/4 and 1/2 of the more than 590 billion pounds of food produced each year in the United States is squandered during the farm-to-table supply chain. Using this range, food writer and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom estimates that every day America wastes enough food to fill the Rose Bowl – the 90,000-seat football stadium in Pasadena, California – and sometimes it’s as much as two stadiums full.
  2. Americas’ per capita food waste has increased by 50% since 1974.
  3. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 discarded food represented the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills and incinerators.
  4. Approximately $100 to $160 billion is spent each year on producing food that is ultimately wasted. (This estimate comes from Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland.)
  5. A large portion of food waste occurs in households. The average American throws away 20 pounds of food each month or about two-thirds of a pound per person per day.
  6. Given the water- and energy-intensive nature of growing, processing, packaging, warehousing, transporting and preparing food, it follows that wasted food means wasted energy, water and agricultural resources. Approximately 2.5% of the U.S. energy budget is “thrown away” annually as food waste. This is equivalent to the energy contained in hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. In addition, 25% of all freshwater consumed annually in the US is associated with discarded food – about as much as the volume of Lake Erie.

A waste audit is a rather simple and a formal, structured process used to quantify the amount and types of waste being generated by an organization, in this case Mount Union’s student body. Information from audits will help identify current waste practices and how they can be improved. Being waste-wise can mean a more efficient and effective organization, reduced waste management costs and better use of limited natural resources.

Depending on the situation, there can be many objectives of an audit. Mainly it is to determine composition and quantities of waste being generated, to measure effectiveness of existing waste management systems, to identify opportunities for improving waste management systems and strategies and to collect baseline data for measuring the effectiveness of waste minimization strategies. For our event, it is more to create an awareness and try to change the mindset of a wasteful student body.

Don’t be wasteful. A lot of waste can be composted too. Find out how to build a compost bin here, and check out 75 things you can compost but thought you couldn’t, including: toilet paper rolls, sticky notes, tea bags, coffee grounds, pizza crust and moldy cheese, among others.

I’m Home…And Back to the Roots

I’m Home…And Back to the Roots

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I just got back to the states, and still have many posts I would like to share about my experience abroad … don’t worry. Over the rest of summer and once school starts up, I plan to compose some posts about surviving in a different country, tips to avoid being pick-pocketed, traveling advice and maybe some inspirational photos. Right when I got home I felt a little relieved, but the truth is I still wanted to be in Spain. The Euro 2012 soccer games were still going on, Olympics starting up and coverage over Spain in the states was booming. I wanted to turn right around and go back! Over a few weeks, hours upon hours of editing photos, and seeing old friends, it was nice to finally be back in my roots.

My summer has been jammed with working, volunteering, concerts and adventuring through the beautiful state of Wisconsin. I also received a gift from my oldest brother and joined the Back to the Roots community. Back to the Roots was founded at UC Berkeley in 2009 two months away from graduation when two students came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh, local food, they experimented in a fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. With that one bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and a grant they decided to forget the corporate route, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers.

They offer a grow a Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home (see video). Part of my job in the community is to upload photos of my mushrooms, provide them with feedback, and sit in on webinars with the founders. When I post a picture with your kit fully grown on their facebook page they will donate a kit and sustainability curriculum to an elementary classroom of my choice to support youth sustainability education! They’ve reached over 10,000 kids with this campaign. I can’t wait to bring my kit to school with me and it does feel nice to be back in the states!

Bottle School Blitzing

Bottle School Blitzing

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Ever since my freshman year at Mount Union, I have been fortunate to be a part of Raider Relief, an awesome student organization here on campus. We have an underlying mission statement: Student-driven humanitarianism, helping those in need with passion, love and good deeds. Basically our group recognizes the needs of people less fortunate than ourselves and acts upon those needs in a fashion that is timely, sympathetic and rewarding. Some of our past philanthropic projects have been Soles for Souls, Hugs for Haiti, Help to Others, March Makeover and most recently a Walk 2 Remember.

Not only do we strive to impact Mount Union’s local community of Alliance, Ohio, but we extend help to people all over the world by partnering with other charitable organizations. By teaming up with other charities we have declared our organization as a non-profitable group, where 100% of all of our earnings are donated to those in need.

This year our project is a Bottle School Blitz – a 10-day community and campus-wide fund-raising effort. The project will benefit Hug it Forward, a not-for-profit organization with an innovative approach to improving the educational infrastructure of developing nations. Hug It Forward focuses on building schools in Guatemala out of plastics bottles and non-biodegradable trash. The area of Guatemala has around a 25% illiteracy rate and many places don’t even have schools for children to learn in. These places are recognizable from the non-profit’s executive director, who used to do Peace Corps work in the area, and is able to recognize communities in dire need.

The Bottle School Blitz project consists of two phases. The first of which (the community blitz) will take place on Saturday, November 19. Teams of student volunteers will staff tables set up outside of more than a dozen high-traffic retail locations throughout Alliance, asking shoppers for donations to support the project’s cause. The second phase will be campus based. Empty plastic beverage bottles will be issued to hundreds of students before they head home for Thanksgiving break. Each student will be challenged to fill his or her bottle with spare change from home and return to campus with a coin-filled bottle.

The last, and ongoing phase, is an online donation site for those who cannot help with the community or campus initiative. If you would like to donate or share the donation site with anyone, please click this link! I sure hope that everyone reading this can help our project in any way possible. Share it with friends, family and online … a little help by a lot of people can go a long way. Help be the change we want to see in the world!