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Virginia Tech makes big strides in campus sustainability

April 11, 2016

Stephanie Smith recycles a glass bottle in a BigBelly Solar trash can.
BigBelly Solar cans are used for recycling.

The university community has made giant strides in creating a more sustainable campus in the almost seven years since the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment.

The community will celebrate these efforts during Earth Week 2016. The Environmental Coalition hosts Earth Week each year with the support of Virginia Tech’s Office of Sustainability and more than 10 student and community groups.

The Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment, which was approved in 2009 and reaffirmed in 2013, commits the university to reaching a 50 percent recycling rate by 2020, improving energy efficiency where and whenever possible in campus buildings, to achieving a minimum LEED rating of silver for all new construction, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Recycling

Virginia Tech has increased its recycling rate from 36 percent in 2009 to 44 percent in 2015. Some of the initiatives that have helped in increasing this rate include:

  • The switch to compostable and reusable to-go containers in on-campus dining halls in 2015
  • The transition to single stream recycling, making it easier than ever for students, employees, and community members to recycle all paper, plastic bottles, metal cans, and glass items by placing them into a single recycling bin together
  • Designated recycling areas for football tailgaters near the following parking lots: Cassell Coliseum, Chicken Hill, Southgate Center, Stadium, and Track/Field House. The recycling areas will be located along the edge of the parking lots and will be identified by large flags and signs. Recycling bags will be provided.
  • The placement of recycling bins in every residence hall and in central locations in academic and administrative buildings.
  • The installation of nearly 100 BigBelly Solar compactors in 2012. The compactors were installed in key locations around campus. One side of the container is for recycling all plastic, metal, and glass items. The other side is for waste such as paper, food wrappers, food waste, and Styrofoam. Using renewable solar power, the containers compact the trash inside, creating space for more garbage. In addition, sensors alert campus maintenance staff when the bins are full and collection is needed.

Energy Efficiency

Other projects that are improving energy efficiency, conservation, and alternative transportation at Virginia Tech include:

  • The installation of water bottle refill stations in residence halls and academic buildings.
  • A bike parking corral near Pamplin Hall
  • A covered bike rack in front of the Graduate Life Center that houses the bikes used in the graduate school’s bike share program.
  • Funding for the Ytoss program
  • Electric hand dryers for the bathrooms in the Surge Building
  • Upgrades to streetlamps along Washington Street, West Campus Drive, and Stanger Street.
  • The addition of four bicycle fix-it stations that have the tools necessary to perform basic maintenance on bicycles. The fix-it stations are located near the main entrances of the Graduate Life Center, Dietrick Hall, and Randolph Hall.

 

LEED

As part of the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment, Virginia Tech is working to make sure all new construction and major renovation projects have received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

LEED buildings use less energy and water, improve indoor air quality, and use locally manufactured products and material.

The following Virginia Tech buildings have been LEED certified:

  • Henderson Hall renovation/Theatre 101, Gold, 2010
  • Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences, Gold, 2011 
  • Football Locker Room Addition, Silver, 2011
  • Visitors Center and Undergraduate Admissions, Certified, 2012
  • Lavery Hall, Silver, 2013
  • Veterinary Medicine Instruction Addition, Silver, 2013
  • Ambler Johnston Hall, Gold, 2013
  • Chiller Plant, 2013
  • Center for the Arts, 2014
  • Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building I, 2014
  • Indoor Athletic Training Facility, 2015
  • Goodwin Hall, Gold, 2015

The 73,000-square-foot Classroom Building, now under construction near the corner of Perry Street and West Campus Drive, is being constructed to LEED certification standards

Planning efforts are underway for the creation of a Multi-Modal Transit Facility which is expected to earn the platinum LEED certification.

Rankings

In recognition of these efforts, Virginia Tech has been recognized by several national organizations.

  • In 2014 Virginia Tech received a Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in High Education for sustainability tracking, assessment and rating system (STARS) submission.
  • The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green College has featured Virginia Tech for five consecutive years (2011-2016).
  • The university has received six Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards.
  • The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized the university as a “Tree Campus USA” every year since the program was created in 2008.

For more information, visit the Office of Sustainability website or contact Denny Cochrane at 540-231-5184.

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