sustainable

sus·​tain·​able | \ sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl

1 : capable of being maintained at length without interruption or weakening

Climate Action

W&L has a goal for campus carbon neutrality by 2050, but we are racing to get there a whole lot sooner. This means innovating how we source, use, and dispose of resources here on campus, designing our buildings, landscape and operations for the best environmental impact, and collaborating on progress with communities across campus and throughout Rockbridge County. Explore our progress and plans on the tabs below and in the most recent update of W&L's Climate Action Plan. Looking for something you don't see, or have a question/suggestion? Reach out to OSEE@wlu.edu. We'd love to hear from you.

Energy

As the largest driver of W&L's campus emissions, energy has been a priority focus of W&L's climate action planning.

We started by cutting waste and have reduced energy use per square foot by 50% just by operating smarter.

For the energy we cannot cut, we're moving as fast as possible to renewable sources. W&L has three solar voltaic arrays and one solar thermal array on campus, directly powering our buildings.

In May 2022, we partnered with solar developer Sunenergy1 on the construction of a new 11 MW offsite facility that will generate solar electricity equal to 100% of our annual campus consumption and feed it into our regional electricity grid. With this project, we are proud to address our electricity emissions in a way that moves not just our campus but our market region forward.

What's next? Decarbonizing our central heat plant with a transition away from natural gas. A master utility plan in development now will outline the path to this next major achievement.

For a live look at campus solar production and electricity consumption, check out W&L's PowerTrip, our campus energy dashboard.

Live in the Village? Check your custom dashboard to track energy use in your apartment and see how you compare to you neighbors! Lost the link? Email OSEE@wlu.edu for a refresh.

Looking for quick tips on energy conservation? Take 3 minutes for the Energy 101 video.

How to Earn a Wellness Token by Completing an Energy Challenge

Waste

Waste is not a pretty picture, but good waste management is a beautiful thing. With a goal of cutting an additional 20% of emissions from waste by 2030, W&L's strategy focuses on landfill diversion through smart purchasing, intentional reuse, on-site composting and responsible recycling. 

In August of 2022 W&L ended all sales of bottled water in campus venues, projected to cut over 11,000 single-use plastic bottles from our campus waste stream. With bottle filling stations and compostable cups available across campus, and reusable bottles for sale at a range of price points at the University Store, we can cut the plastic without cutting convenience. 

All food waste and to-go wear from University Dining is composted at the campus Compost system, located next to the Campus Garden. Supported by an amazing student crew, W&L processes roughly 120,000 Lbs. of food waste a year, keeping it out of the landfill and sequestering an average of 17 tons carbon of carbon annually.

Anything we can't avoid buying in the first place, reuse, or compost, we look to recycle. Our paper, aluminum, cardboard and 1&2 plastics from campus are recycled by RDS in Roanoke VA, keeping roughly 60 tons of material out of the landfill every year.

E-Waste is collected from campus by Powerhouse Recycling, certified e-Stewards and R2, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 compliant, putting viable components back in circulation and keeping toxic elements out of the land fill.

Check out the side bar for practical tips on doing waste right on campus.

Meet the Compost Staff

  • Mike Tolley, Compost Operations Assistant
  • Compost Crew!

How To...

The Campus Garden

W&L's half-acre Campus Garden provides an average of 1500 pounds of hyper-local, organically grown produce to campus dining venues, the student food pantry, and, in partnership with W&L's Campus Kitchen, to food insecure communities throughout Rockbridge County, every season. The space also serves as a living lab for research and place-based course work, and an informal space for connecting with the basics of how we, and the soil we eat from, are nourished.

Campus Garden operations also include the university composting system, where food and compostable to-go servingware collected from Dining are managed to break down into rich compost material that is ultimately added back to the garden to nourish the soil. Supervised by our Campus Garden Manager, students are hands-on in planting, tending, and harvesting produce and in finishing the cycle through compost collection and application.

Campus Dining and the Garden share a mission to improve flavor, nutrition, and environmental impacts of food on campus through thoughtful sourcing and low waste operations, and to build a W&L community of informed, enthusiastic eaters and gardeners!

Check out the sidebar to connect with opportunities in the garden. Whether you are a faculty member looking for a curricular connection, a student looking to volunteer, or an over-screened and over-scheduled human needing a wander through the pollinator friendly plantings, the garden is ready to welcome you.

Meet the Garden Staff

  • Nicole Poulin, Campus Garden Manager
  • Campus Garden Interns

Garden Info

Buildings and Landscapes

W&L has committed to certifying all new construction and major renovations on campus at a minimum level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver by U.S. Green Building Council. Using smart design - including thoughtful siting, sustainably sourced building materials and high efficiency systems - "green" buildings not only have a low environmental impact, they have low operating costs and provide healthier, more productive environments for the students, faculty, and staff who use them.

Using Life-Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) in the capital planning process ensures we are making the best strategic decisions for long-term resource reduction. A commitment to aggressive Energy Use Intensity (EUI) standards for new buildings, and to implementing on-site renewables, energy recovery and rainwater capture where possible will help keep our carbon footprint going down as campus infrastructure evolves.    

Landscaping initiatives from rain gardens and green roofs to native, drought-tolerant plant selections and pollinator-friendly beds keep campus beautiful while maximizing environmental benefits.

Purchasing

Sustainable purchasing harnesses buying power to support healthy natural and social environments. When we buy only what we need, choose products that are made with minimal environmental harm, are produced through equitable and fairly compensated labor, and can be disposed of responsibly, we can protect precious resources and communities.

Following sustainable purchasing guidelines is also a great way to maximize cost and operational efficiencies. For example, when the university swaps out old lighting for LED bulbs, we slash energy use but also utility costs. Because LED bulbs last up to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs, the change also cuts staff time required for maintenance dramatically. And finally, there's a huge improvement in the lighting quality. Sustainable purchasing isn't a compromise for the institution, it is a benefit.

Check out the sidebar for details on how to navigate sustainable purchasing in your department or student organization.

Travel

Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. From commuting and business travel to transportation to athletic competitions and study abroad programs, W&L contributes to this statistic.

W&L's Blue Bike Program provides students and staff with free bike access for commuting and recreation, as well as bike repair services, and our campus No Idling policy reduces emissions from stationary vehicles. Airport shuttles run from campus during busy travel times to reduce individual trips to travel centers, and the Traveler system offers group transportation for the social circuit.

But as a rural campus with extremely limited public transportation options, emissions from commuting are a real challenge, and student and staff travel for research, work, sports and study-abroad is essential to University functions, but also high in carbon impact.

Building better travel emissions data will help us build better travel emissions solutions. Please help by filling out the Commuting Survey in the sidebar and following the tips on How to Record Travel Miles in Workday when filling out expense reports.

Watch this space for new initiatives and if you have suggestions, send them to OSEE@wlu.edu!

Greenhouse Gas Accounting

An original signatory on the American College and University President's Climate Commitment, W&L has been tracking and publicly reporting emissions data since 2010. Nearly 700 colleges and universities are now working together on this initiative, administered by SecondNature.org, sharing resources, best practices and emissions updates - good and bad - as we pursue our carbon neutrality goals.

W&L's carbon reduction strategies are outlined in our Climate Action Plan. We submit an annual greenhouse gas report through SIMAP, the official partner reporting tool of the Climate Commitment, detailing everything from how much natural gas we consume to the nitrogen content in our fertilizer. It gives us concrete, current data on where we are excelling and where we lag, driving focus and priority initiatives.

We have made huge strides in reducing emissions from energy consumption on campus - over a 40% reduction - and have seen great progress in waste reduction. In other categories, including University Travel and Food related emissions, we're still in the early stages, working on building data robust enough to benchmark.

All community members are welcome to access our SIMAP reports and help keep the university accountable on data collection and reporting. The public platform of SIMAP is new and historical data is still being transitioned. Because of this, some of W&L's benchmark numbers are not yet visible and net reduction to date is not currently listed. While the most recent report, with emissions per category is available, we thank you for your patience in accessing overall reduction numbers.