Thursday, April 26, 2012

Behind the scenes: Sustainability reduces pollution

By Alison Haywood, Copy Editor

It’s no secret that the Pacific Lutheran community values sustainability. We compost food waste, build sustainably and prefer refillable rather than disposable water bottles. But behind the scenes are less obvious efforts to be greener.

The sustainability department is actively engaged in a pollution prevention program that includes reducing and properly disposing of different types of waste. In addition to recycling paper, plastic and cardboard, the department also has contracts with different companies to properly dispose of hazardous waste.

“We manage hazardous waste in a way that we are protecting our people and the environment,” said Environmental Health and Safety Manager Joe Bell.

Bell defined hazardous waste as waste with any sort of physical or toxic characteristics, including items that are flammable, corrosive or oxidizers such as lubricants used by Facilities or antifreeze in the mechanic shop. Common household items such as fluorescent light bulbs, batteries and printer cartridges are considered universal waste and must also be recycled properly.

“Fluorescent light bulbs, people might not know, but you just don’t want to throw those in the trash because they contain just a minute amount of mercury,” Bell said.

Last year, Bell said, PLU reduced the number of fluorescent light bulbs used, which he attributed to people turning off the lights in their offices at night.

Various boxes are located around campus to dispose of empty print cartridges. PLU Sustainability contracts the boxes with Cartridge World, who empties them and takes the cartridges to its facility to be recycled.

Bell said Sustainability is also trying to prevent pollution by making smarter purchases. PLU has gradually been switching to less hazardous materials such as latex instead of oil-based paint, Green Seal certified cleaning products and fewer fertilizers and pesticides than before. He said the department also tries to purchase chemicals in smaller amounts, so there is less potential for the shelf life to expire and potentially less waste.

“We’re also managing our waste in a way that we’re not polluting the environment, and just managing it in a way so that it protects the planet,” Bell said.