Student survey measures campus sustainability

The Sustainable Campus Committee recently concluded results from a joint survey with Campus Facilities on students’ knowledge and use of “green” projects. The results reveal that students campuswide are involved but are also still getting acquainted with green projects. These results have come in just before Earth Day April 20 and Tech’s “Earth Week” events hosted by the committee.

The survey, which was mass-emailed to students of all majors, included 17 questions on   topics ranging from use of recycling receptacles to the use of campus amenities like solar-powered charging stations and the bike sharing program. It was concluded March 17 and gives a more detailed gauging of student involvement on more recent projects, all of which are fully funded by an $8 “green fee” automatically added to student fees each school year.

Justin Douglass, a committee member and mechanical engineering major at Tech,

conducted the email survey himself in partnership with Campus Maintenance and Facilities.

“These results help us (the Maintenance department and the Sustainability Committee) pinpoint what students are using the most (ex. the water bottle refill stations), which areas students may need some more help understanding, and how we can make it easy for students to make small adjustments in their own lives to ultimately make the campus greener,” said Douglass.

“As I guessed, the water bottle stations were a big hit, one, because it is free compared to buying water bottles, and it makes it easy to be healthier,” said Douglass.

Sustainable Campus Committee chairwoman Carolyn Huppmann also weighed in on the purpose and vision for the survey with respect to current sustainable projects underway on campus.

“It was Justin’s idea, but we wanted to gauge students’ involvement and knowledge on     green projects on campus. He actually conducted it to see whether students are utilizing these      services and to see a bit of their involvement in recycling programs,” said Huppmann. “We also want to bridge the gap between students' ideas on sustainability and this department's resources.”

Among the results, it was found that while only 13.6 percent of those questioned felt they “have a good understanding of the environmental initiatives happening across campus,” and only 22.7 percent knew they have a voice in how their money is spent for funding, around 82.4 percent still report that they currently recycle materials while on campus.

A solid majority (71.8 percent) report using the solar-powered phone/laptop charging stations on campus, while 73.1 percent haven’t heard of or used the sustainable “Green Room” at the Fitness Center yet.

The survey comes amid newer projects like recycling plastic bottles campuswide for 3D printer use in the Maker’s Station in Jeannette-Volpe library, and settled projects like the Fitness Center’s “Green Room,” which harvests energy from exercise equipment for reuse in the building’s electrical system.

“Creating a more environmentally sustainable campus is a top priority for Tennessee Tech and its students. In 2005, the student body voted to pay an additional $8 fee to help pay for and implement green projects and programs,” says the Sustainable Campus Committee’s website; it also goes on to mention that since the fee’s implementation, campus has been able to fund motion sensors, more efficient lighting and the current fleet of electric transportation vehicles.

Above all else, Chairwoman Huppmann wanted students to know that these projects are not something one person must think up alone, but something that collectively allows them to be the best versions of themselves. She said that any and all ideas for proposal are welcomed from students so that these projects don’t “fall flat.”

“What we were trying to do is not make students feel bad about not being engaged with environmentally-friendly projects, but to make the questions quick and effective. Next Friday is Earth Day, and we want to amp them up and show what the results are about, ahead of Earth Day on April 20. It’s a part of next week’s ‘Earth Week’ activities on campus,” said Huppmann. “If there’s something they want to see happen with green projects on campus, and if they want to be proud of what they can accomplish with us, they have to be vocal about it. We want it to be self- fulfilling and serve a purpose.”

To kick off Earth Week, the committee planted trees Friday, April 15, will hand out water bottles Tuesday, April 19, host "Canvas bags" Thursday, April 21, then Friday, April 22, it's on to "Sprout Pencils." They will also be entering students into drawings for a free Sustainable Campus Committee T-shirt.