Columbia green initiative doing ‘crate’

By Amanda Murphy

At a constantly growing and evolving college, the process of moving offices can be costly, complicated and not exactly eco-friendly. The Columbia of 2011 has new and innovative ways to make this routine more environmentally responsible.

Replacing cardboard boxes with re-usable plastic crates is one example of the new ways the college is adjusting. Although the change might seem small, overall it will make a difference.

According to Sarah McGing, facilities coordinator for both Building Services and Facilities and Operations, Columbia doesn’t have large projects planned for the year but will continue to influence students through making small adjustments.

“We rolled it out at the beginning of the year,” McGing said. “We’ve been using them for a month, and so far everyone is excited.”

The crates are used when departments move to another location on campus. According to McGing, departments move frequently because the school renovates often. In the past, the Office of Facilities and Operations would order a bundle of 100 cardboard boxes per month.

“It’s a way to minimize waste on campus,” said John Wawrzaszek, recycling manager of Facilities and Operations.

The college was spending about $100 monthly on cardboard, according to McGing. Although the plastic crates were more expensive as a one-time purchase, Columbia will save in the future.

“This is saving storage space on campus, garbage space in dumpsters and money without purchasing the same cardboard boxes over and over,” McGing said.

Departments were not always aware of how much cardboard was being used, McGing said. The boxes were utilized as storage as well, and taking up much of Columbia’s basement and closet space. But according to McGing, the crates will make moving easier in other ways.

The crates will not only help make Columbia’s pockets fuller and the closets less cluttered, but they also help the college keep track of what it is moving.

“There is no risk of losing anything because they’re stackable,” McGing said. “It’s harder to lose one huge stack than it is to lose one box.”

Another step the college is taking to help reduce its carbon footprint is the recent purchase of a van that runs partially on biofuel. Columbia utilizes the van to help it move art, books and departments around the campus. McGing said the van cost as much as one that would use regular fuel. However, Columbia will save at the pump.

“E-85 gas is cheaper than regular gas, and it actually lasts longer than regular gas,” McGing said.

The previous van will also be recycled. According to McGing, the older vehicle was given to the Music Department, so faculty and students can travel to shows around the Chicagoland area.

Because the college does not have any large projects in the near future, Columbia is focusing on the smaller things, said Joseph Leamanczyk, project manager for Campus Environment.

According to Leamanczyk, the college is currently working on a sustainability plan. It will consist of guiding principles Columbia could use to continue to move forward and be more eco-friendly.

One of the projects uses a portion of the lot at 754 S. Wabash Ave., where Buddy Guy’s

Legends was located, as a place for students and staff to put their bikes.

“We’re working on a new bike parking lot

option to encourage the use of alternative transportation,” Leamanczyk said.

He also said the water coolers used by faculty and staff have been replaced with bottleless ones hooked up to the building’s plumbing, eliminating the plastic.

“I think this ground-level integration of sustainability is much more impactful … it gets the students thinking about how our carbon footprint—as an institution—is actually quite small,” Leamanczyk said.

One of the college’s main goals with pursuing sustainable energy is to have the influence it makes be carried with the students when they leave.

“I think of the people we’re educating [who] can influence industries they’re going into, so it’s where we can have a huge impact,” Leamanczyk said.Edward Kang / The Chronicle