Like many other public universities around the country, Mystery U has been hit hard by the economic hard times. Most of this year, we heard ominous rumblings that (at some point) there would be a budget reversion, i.e., we’d have to send some portion of our budget back to the state coffers. But all was pretty much business as usual until a few weeks ago when the axe fell. Instantaneously our whole university budget and we were under strict orders to conserve the precious resources we still had…you know, things like copier paper. Because we have no money to buy any more.
I’ve been biting my tongue in budget discussions because I’ve been thinking and talking for a long time about how to make universities greener places. And I’d suggest that some of the things we can do to make things greener will also make our university more money-efficient. For example: At the beginning of the year, (when we still had money) I enlisted the IT guys in our department in a bid for a printer that prints double-sided. I argued that we would save money in the long run by lowering our paper costs and that we were sending the wrong message to our students by printing on only have of the available space. Unfortunately, my arguments were ignored and now we’re facing a paper shortage with a week to go before exams.
Below the fold, I’ll present a couple of ideas for making my university both leaner (budget-wise) and greener. I’d also like to hear your ideas and suggestions.
- Invest in duplexing printers. Maybe you don’t need to immediately replace all of the printers on campus, but allow all faculty access to at least one duplexing printers.
- Set the default printer settings to double-sided.
- Provide incentives for faculty to give quizzes, exams, and assignments via Blackboard or other web-based software.
- Don’t distribute flyers and glossy magazines to all faculty mailboxes. A few copies per department should suffice for those who are truly interested.
- Reconsider the irrigation and landscaping strategies. Though the economics of water are truly distorted, irrigation does cost some money, and it makes no sense to water turf during a rainstorm or at noon on a sunny day.
- In warm climates at least, paint rooftops white to reflect sunlight and reduce air conditioning costs.
- Set building thermostats a few degrees warmer in the summer, cooler in the winter, and less intensively on weekends and at night.
- Have night-time maintenance workers turn off hallway and other unneeded lights when they are finished working in an area.
- Deploy campus security officers on foot or bike where possible to save money on gas and to reduce CO2 emissions.
My list above is focused on things that shouldn’t cost a ridiculous amount of money to implement and could be done fairly quickly. If immediate savings were no object there are lots of projects I could envision, but with budget conditions like we’re facing, I think those bigger projects are unrealistic any time soon.
What other changes should our universities be making in order to save a few $ and a few tons of CO2 or other environmental assets?